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Shining a light on emerging artists and inspiring Ghanaian women in music benefits everyone

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By Phiona Okumu, Head of Music, Sub-Saharan Africa, Spotify

Not so long ago, any Ghanaian musician looking to turn professional had a limited number of options available to them. In fact, for most, the only real option was to play as many live events as possible and hope that they would eventually build up a large enough audience to earn some radio airtime.

While some artists have managed to break through and even build an international following, many talented artists simply haven’t. This was not helped by the fact that many radio stations played the same rotation of popular songs, which made it even more difficult for emerging artists to break through.

Fortunately, in recent years, this image has changed dramatically. Digital technologies, and streaming in particular, have opened up new avenues that allow artists to independently build their national and international profiles. A number of Ghanaian artists, including the likes of Gyakie, Amaraand Mollysuccessfully rode this wave to become established players in the music industry.

Launched in March 2021, EQUAL is part of Spotify’s commitment to driving equity for women in music globally. Spotify has since taken that promise a step further with the launch of the EQUAL Global Music program.

Even with these avenues in place, however, it is still essential to shine the spotlight on emerging artists from Ghana. It is also particularly important that we do this for women in the country in the field of music.

Helping Artists Stand Out

This is something we at Spotify are keenly aware of. As important as our platform is to helping artists around the world gain more control over their financial destinies, we know that simply providing the platform isn’t always enough. There are, after all, more than 82 million songs on Spotify. Without a little help to stand out, it would always be difficult for even the most talented artist to build a national and international following.

This is why we are committed to spotlighting some of Africa’s most talented emerging artists, including those from Ghana. Our RADAR Africa and EQUAL Africa initiatives are particularly important in this regard.

Launched in March 2021, EQUAL is part of Spotify’s commitment to driving equity for women in music globally. Spotify has since taken that promise one step further with the launch of the EQUAL Global Music program. Gyakie from Ghana was the first African singer to join the program. Two other Ghanaians in Amaarae and Moliy have also been announced as EQUAL artists.

R&B, Soul and Afro-fusion singer Amaarae, meanwhile, has an equally cosmopolitan audience with Mexico City, Mexico; London, Great Britain; and Los Angeles, USA – the cities where she is most popular. She’s also collaborated with African R&B royalty in the form of Tiwa Savage and Billboard chart-topping singer Kali Uchis.

RADAR, meanwhile, was launched in March 2020 to give emerging artists the opportunity to have promotional support from established artists, both on and off the Spotify platform. This includes providing artists with the resources and access to comprehensive marketing opportunities that will propel them into the next phase of their careers. The RADAR Africa playlist highlights the music of new African artists and their latest releases. It serves as a content hub for must-have tracks and artists across a range of genres from the African continent and the African Diaspora.

Local and international growth

For the artists selected to participate in these programs, the benefits are obvious.

black sheriff was picked from Ghana to join other African megastars on RADAR. The program allows Black Sheriff to develop new audiences beyond the continent and provides support to propel him to the next stage of his career. As a result, his innovative vision of Highlife is listened to all over the world.

Moliy’s blend of afrobeats, reggae, soul, jazz and hip-hop, for example, has developed a significant international following. Indeed, the cities where she has the most listeners are Lagos, Nigeria; London, Great Britain; and Paris, France.

R&B, Soul and Afro-fusion singer Amaarae, meanwhile, has an equally cosmopolitan audience with Mexico City, Mexico; London, Great Britain; and Los Angeles, USA – the cities where she is most popular. She’s also collaborated with African R&B royalty in the form of Tiwa Savage and Billboard chart-topping singer Kali Uchis.

Afro-Fusion/Afrobeats artist Gyakie meanwhile has established a strong presence across the continent, with Lagos, Nigeria; Accra, Ghana; and Nairobi, Kenya, its major cities.

Ongoing support required

The international reception these emerging Ghanaian artists have received shows just how much appetite there is for the music they produce. There are, no doubt, many other artists of similar talent across the country. It is therefore essential that we continue to discover and support them.

At Spotify, we are committed to doing this now and we will remain committed to doing so in the future. It’s because we understand that helping the world discover Ghanaian artists and ensuring that women artists get the exposure they deserve doesn’t just benefit the artists themselves. It also benefits the wider Ghanaian music scene as others are lifted by the rising tide. Finally, it benefits us all by enriching the musical tapestry of our lives and giving us an entrance into one of Africa’s most culturally vibrant countries.