Canon: ‘African Frontiers of Innovation’ Series Explores the Sounds of the Future

Canon Central and North Africa ‘African Frontiers of Innovation’ Series Explores the Sounds of the Future

The LIVE Facebook and LinkedIn streaming allowed audiences a glimpse into the experiences of artists, producers and the African music industry at large

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 2, 2021/The world over experienced an abrupt end to live performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The spirit of African musicians were not deterred, instead, they innovated to keep music lovers entertained to the beat of their music. Expert panellists at the second session of Canon’s ( ground-breaking thought leadership series delved into the highs and lows of Africa’s musical innovations and what it spells for the future.

Headlined Sound of the Future: Making Music in Africa Today and moderated by award-winning Kenyan journalist Victoria Rubadiri, this second session featured Egyptian singer/ songwriter Malak El Husseiny and Natasha Stambuli, General Manager of Boomplay Tanzania.

The LIVE Facebook and LinkedIn streaming allowed audiences a glimpse into the experiences of artists, producers and the African music industry at large. The panel shared the effects of lockdown and increased digitalisation both on a personal and industry level, highlighting surprising breakthroughs and advancing actionable solutions to ongoing challenges – the most obvious of these being a loss of revenue in live music performances.

The industry has overcome deep-rooted challenges in terms of piracy, copyrights and monetising their output. Despite continuous setbacks, Africa’s musical artists have triumphed in securing global audiences, as the sound of their music is distinctive and undeniably compelling.

These critical issues, and more, were all explored at length in the monthly Canon Central and North Africa ‘African Frontiers of Innovation Series’. This interactive series delves into topical issues and advances innovative strategies and solutions for a world on the road to post-pandemic recovery.

Beyond the boundaries

“It’s amazing what can come out of survival mode – you find so many creative ways to create and promote your music,” expressed Malak El Husseiny, whose album release was halted last March due to the pandemic, yet is hopeful to imminently set this back in motion.

The challenges, adds the artist, have been endless: “But with that came a lot of opportunities as well; the geographical boundaries have completely disappeared and we found ourselves collaborating with others across the globe, which I would have never thought possible before Covid-19. In my case, for example: instead of just shooting a video as per normal, I now collaborate with 3D visual artists and bring these songs to life. We found a lot of opportunity in the challenges,” she revealed.

El Husseiny was also fortunate enough to generate brand endorsements and pointed out the various other initiatives by African artists to supplement their income streams, apart from releasing new music. These included developing brand merchandise and offering their songwriting and voiceover services on freelance job portals. Many artists also used their recording and rehearsal facilities as production studios, as well as leveraging streaming services and social media to release their work or even record live online performances.

The positive effects of these efforts will remain long after the pandemic is gone, and further aid African musicians in their efforts to gain a foothold on the global stage notes Natasha Stambuli. “Artists have now experienced the best of both worlds, offline and online, and they can utilize all their learnings to improve and improvise even further – and we music lovers can appreciate them even more because we now understand more of their struggles,” she says.

Challenges of the digital drawcard

Technology has long been leading the evolution in the music industry, facilitating and accelerating the development of streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer. African streaming operators such as Boomplay – which boasts 62 million subscribers across 10 key African market – are also on the increase.  Social media, too, has helped advance African musicians: in 2020, five of the top 10 artists in terms of Twitter growth were Nigerian musicians with millions of Boomplay streams.

“Nigerian artists have pushed the envelope in streaming because they understand how the streaming business works and how to get the most use out of an app – and this raises the issue of education in the music business,” noted Stambuli. “Artists also need help in terms of regulations to help protect copyright on their work and ensure they get royalties.”

This, adds Stambuli, is a learning curve all stakeholders are now grappling with, as lockdown has proven a ‘wake up call’ to artists, governments and the general public to understand that artists, as content creators, need strong foundational support. El Husseiny highlighted another institutional shortage: that of managers who understand the business. “I’ve been looking for a manager for a year now, but we don’t have enough managers that understand the music industry or the value of what we’re bringing to the table, and what they can do to get more out of deals, for example.”

The panellists concurred that further education into the policies and processes that constitute the music industry – along with protective regulations – will offset the mismatch between the value streaming platforms derive from the content available to them and the revenue that gets back to the creators – the music sector’s biggest current challenge.

Back to the future: unlocking Africa’s musical potential

According to a Bloomberg report (, Africa and the Middle East recorded a 16% uptick in recorded music revenues and crossed the $100 million thresholds in 2019 – indicating that Africa is, as Billboard ( claims, the next frontier in music.

“The African Frontiers of Innovation series are always insightful and thought-provoking. Such platforms stimulate dialogue and break barriers and boundaries to create global collaboration and learnings. This second session recognised the significant advances and impact African musicians are making, despite the various challenges they face,” noted Mai Youssef, Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director – Canon Middle East and Canon Central and North Africa.

“African musicians are upping the ante by not only positioning themselves as original artists but also creating a space of mutual learning and exchange of concepts with their global counterparts. Where else can one find such a diverse range of genres and sounds, all weaved into a continent of untapped potential,” adds Youssef.

Don’t miss the third episode in the series, on Wednesday, March 17, when an equally distinguished and diverse panel takes a deep dive into innovations, developments and challenges within the Printing industry on the continent.

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