African Time

Can we put an end to “African Time” in Afrobeats?

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African Time


Can we put an end to “African Time” in Afrobeats? With African music having a major moment around the world due to the rise of the genre we know to be Afrobeats, African artists are steadily graduating from performing in intimate venues and clubs to arenas such as the O2 Arena in London, Barclays Center In New York, and the SSE Arena in Wembley (London).

As the stages get bigger, so does the diversity of enthusiastic music lovers who come in droves to celebrate our top-rated musicians. Despite how brightly our stars are shining, there is a dark cloud that looms over the African music industry when it comes to live performances, “African Time”.

It almost seems impossible that anyone would not be familiar with the term as it is something that is associated with not just black people across the continent of African but black people around the world, as it has always been known by various regional terms including “black people time” and “coloured people time” depending on the part of the world you reside in.

When discussing “African Time” we tend to think of weddings and social gatherings and comically tell our friends and family to make sure we tell invited guests to arrive earlier than scheduled to make sure they arrive on time. As funny as it all may seem in our personal lives, it is equally as frustrating when we are faced with this disregard for timekeeping when it comes to professionalism.

For as long as there have been music concerts and performances by African artists there has been the issue of shows starting later than scheduled and therefore leaving promoters facing fines by venues or losing percentages and deposits.

It’s very common practice to see promoters pleading with venue staff to allow the performers more time, even to the extent of performers getting upset when microphones are switched off or turned down or even venue lights switched on as a way to send the message that their time is up.

Most recently, there was talk about Davido’s O2 Arena concert not starting on time and how disappointing and dreadful it is for an artist of his calibre to not be taking the stage on time in a venue as prestigious as the O2 Arena. Now, we can’t say that Davido or his team are completely to blame.

What we see happening is a domino effect that starts with the everyday person.

When you’re planning a party and you have a minimal amount of guests arriving on time, knowing that the majority of people are practising “African Time”, you decide to keep the guests who have arrived on time waiting so you can make an entrance and have a larger amount of people seeing you hold a successful party so that “people” won’t say that your party was empty, what do you expect of others?

Unfortunately, a majority of us are guilty of practising “African Time” due to our own mental conditioning. However, how do we break out of this stereotype to be able to exhibit the same amount of professionalism as our western counterparts in the music industry.
An argument that is widely used is, the same people that attend African events late are the same people that will be on time to see Beyonce or Drake in these same arenas. These same fans wouldn’t dare arrive late for fear of missing any part of the show.

But could it be possible for an artist of African’s superstar status to start a show regardless of whether their sold-out show was in full attendance at showtime? Really think about it, we’re sure Beyonce or Chris Brown isn’t worried about whether the Arena is filled to capacity once they hit the stage because the show must go on.

Granted, they probably don’t think about it in the same way we do since it’s the job of the opening act(s) to warm up the crowd and entertain while fans flock in.

However, the principal will always remain the same no matter who is performing or who is attending, the show must always go on and if you miss out then you miss out.

We must give credit where it is due though because there are African artists who stick to their allotted time and their fans are always out on time. The likes of Yemi Alade and Asa don’t worry themselves with these issues.

It will take a great level of sacrifice from whoever the popular African artist is that wants to make the difference in this industry to banish “African Time”. On the flip side of this coin, consumers and fans of the music have to also do better. We have a terrible culture of publicizing what we dictate to be a failure on social media. Even if an artist gets on stage with without full attendance of the audience, a select few “fans” will take to social media with videos and pictures to announce to the world that the show was a “flop”. In order to see a change, it would literally take going on stage even with empty seats, as laughable as it may seem for an Afrobeats concert of any kind, we believe it’s possible. Who will be the first to take the bullet for the team?