By Godwin Okondo
AFRICAN music has scored big as Josplay Inc. made history on Thursday, September 1, 2022 when it unveiled its first ever African Music Library (AML), an online archive holding every information pertaining to African music and artistes. African Music Library is created as a historical journey to chronicle not just all things musical in Africa, but as a place to create community, spark discussions, and learn by documenting all music made in Africa, artists’ metadata, instruments, books, and articles that reference music in Africa.
The unveiling which held virtually had a discussion focused on the documentation of African music, and how the newly launched African Music Library aims to solve the problem of insufficient and inaccurate data of artistes and songs in the African music ecosystem.
Kenyan music specialist, Derrick Mulla, said, “We lack proper data in Africa. There could be an artiste who has been in the industry for years whom blogs don’t really write about, and this makes it impossible to get more or accurate information about him, and this data is what we really lack in Africa. I worked with an artiste who has been in the industry for years, but I couldn’t write about him because there wasn’t enough data on him. These artistes might not also have enough information to share, because people haven’t tried to get any information from them. I think data collection is the biggest problem we have in Africa.”
Also, Kenyan DJ and culture journalist, Shishi Ward, said, “It’s good to see musicians and producers finding a means to connect to their roots. It’s very common today to see artistes sampling various genres and sounds from different places and having collaborations with foreign artistes. I think it’s more important to find out where these sounds come from, because a lot gets lost in translation. This is a good move to keep the chain connected, so people know where everything comes from, and with this, we are able to share our stories with the world.”
The Co-founder and CEO of Josplay Inc., Emmanuel Ogala, gave insight on what is possible with African Music Library website: “A music library is a repository of artefacts that go into making a particular music and any other information regarding that particular music. Our music library is centred around search. You can view an artistes discography and the information on every single track. We will also be attaching documentaries as we go ahead. The library is basically split into two — metadata and knowledge about how it was done.
“On the African Music Library, you are able to search for every detail you want — artistes, bands, genres, and so on. If you own a label, or you’re a researcher, we welcome you to work with us. There is a lot of more data you can get. We plan on building an API in future, so people can use this information to build their own libraries. We are going to be reaching out to build more collaborations to improve this, going forward.”
Assuring users of data quality and information, Quality Assurance Lead, Anu Onasanya said, “The library is not just a place to gather music and information; there’s quality assurance process in place ensuring that verified information are stored in the library and can be used by anyone. We have a structure divided into data gathering and data analysis. On data process, a research is being done on books, instruments, genres are being gathered. We also do an extensive research on the info we put out there by sourcing from labels, producers, genres, and they are segmented.
“After research and collation, we do our fact check to verify there is no false information in the library. We reach out to confirm the information we have collected from the people behind the songs before we put them out there. We do detailed analysis of African music genres. There has always been a lot of sound sampling of different genres in music. We have a team of producers and sound researchers who help us out in the process. We are also inviting more people to join us in promoting African music.”
Onasanya said collating data involves a lot of people, saying, “From the ideation of a track to it’s release, a lot of things go on and a lot of stakeholders are involved. What we do is to gather information on the participants and information of everyone involved in the process of making a song, and enter it into the library. When people need to be paid for their work, everyone is identified. Let’s work hard to make the African Music Library work now, and for the future.”
Ogala drew the event to a close by thanking everyone “for sharing your opinions and questions. You can find us on social media and send us your questions and we will get back to you. Africans make a lot of good music. Music is an emotional pill, and it continues to embody that solution. We want to match every African music to those it is meant for. Let’s join hands and make this a success.”
African Music library is @ www.africanmusiclibrary.org.