What does it really take to make an African hit song? Deep thoughts.. One thing about being a music journalist is that you don’t have to necessarily have made a hit music to write about music. However there are certain precedents that have been seen in the songs that have dominated African music landscape.
1. Get a Good Producer-
You need a good producer with a mastery of African percussion sounds and the latest trending tunes. A good producer gives you a feel of what the market is leaning towards and you modify your melody to it . A good producer would strike the right balance between your vocals and the melody as well as the beat and that gives your message in the song clarity. Listen to ‘Ojuelegba’ by Wizkid produced by Legendury Beats, the production complimented the vocals of the artist and the songs blows you away each time.
2. Be Creative & Prolific –
When I say Be Creative, I mean think out of the box in your song composition and writing. Subject matter can range from anything under the earth, your delivery and creativity is what would capture the listener. You also have to be prolific , write songs , record songs , do not relax, repeat same process , do more. You would be surprised at the volume you would produce and the more good songs you have, the more the chances of you getting a hit song. Every process of making a new song, you get better at your delivery and mastery of your own sound and that is another plus.
3. Catchy Words or Phrase-
Get a mastery of using catchy words or phrases. It maybe a popular street lingo or a common joke. Those words stick to the mind easily and when used in song composition tends to register with the listener faster and grows on them. When I say ‘O.B.O Baddest’, what comes to your mind? Davido right? When you hear the “Mega”, your mind goes to Aka . When you hear ‘Wasaafi’ you know you are about to hear Diamond Platnumz. Prime example is the word “Bobo”, common Nigerian slang that Olamide worked with on the monster hit ‘Shakiti Bobo’ .
4. Be Indigenous –
You are an African artist right? Why do you sound like Chris Brown? Don’t get me wrong you can chose to sound anyway you want but infuse your roots in your music, it’s a tried and tested formula. That is your heritage, that is what you got. Create with it , how many of Sarkodie’s lyrics do Non-Ghanaians understand? Not too much I presume but guess what they still love the music. Music is a universal language and indigenous lingo works wonders in caressing the ears to your music. Wizkid sings in his native Yoruba mixed with English, Olamide, Phyno, Sarkodie, Wakazi, Diamond Platnumz, P-Square,Flavour, all these stellar names have shone by being indigenous, tapping into their culture. Iyanya blew up when he tapped into his native Cross River culture and came up with the monster hit ‘Kukere’.
5. Create a Word/Slang –
Get out of the comfort zone, create a word unique to you . It does not really have to mean anything in particular but if it sounds catchy and it is simple, chances are that it might catch on a very good song. Remember that time you could not stop dancing to ‘Skelewu’, ‘Skelewu does not really have a fixed meaning but it is a catchy word and it stuck on a song that went viral. Another valid example is ‘Pana’. Probably one of the hottest songs out of Africa last year, the word ‘Pana’ was a good creation by the talented artist Tekno and all over Africa now ‘Pana’ has become a trend.
6 Invent or Modernize Dance Craze-
Africans love a good time, we love to dance and one sure way to spot a merry African is in the dance steps he exhibits. Take a look back at the various dance routines that have reigned like Makossa, Alanta, Azonto, Alkayida, etc. These dance movements helped a lot of songs become trending songs. It might be an entirely new creation of yours and it could be you taking a popular dance and making it your own by adding your touch. Watch MC Galaxy’s ‘Sekem’ video as well as Lil Kesh ft Olamide and Davido – ‘Shoki’. Watch Fuse ODG ft Tiffany Azonto too.
7. Promote Your Song-
A song does not become a hit on your computer file or just with a link in your bio. Research where people source music from in the African music market. Get your music on those platforms , find Dj’s , send your songs to them , if it is good material they would play it. Use your social media, get in the faces of your followers by promoting your content aggressively, If you don’t blow your own trumpet, no one will.
Above all you need talent before you can take any of the above listed steps. This might not be full proof but these tips from precedence have played a part in many hit songs.