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Celebrating Talent and Growth: Highlights from WAMAFest 2024 in Accra, Ghana

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The West Africa Music and Arts Festival (WAMAFest), took place from June 19-22, 2024 in Accra, Ghana.  The event inspired and connected artists with industry experts using panel discussions, networking and masterclasses.  It provided an exciting look at the business side of music and the arts. The event was a partnership of Warner Music Africa, Ghana Tourism Authority, the Beyond the Return Secretariat and CEEK VR with the final day in collaboration with YFM to present the Area Codes Jam concert. 

The conference took place at Labadi Beach Hotel and featured speakers who spoke about the latest trends and opportunities in the music and arts industries for Africa.  Attendees experienced engaging panel discussions covering topics like digital innovation, intellectual property rights, and the evolving global music markets. The entire event was streamed live on CEEK VR, a platform owned by Mary Spio, a Ghanaian entrepreneur passionate about putting her home country in the spotlight. 

Ghana’s Second Lady, Samira Bawumia, was there and gave a keynote address. She expressed her excitement about such an important event happening in Ghana, highlighting its significance for the local creative community. Other government officials in attendance included the Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture, Andrew Egyapa Mercer, the Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts & Culture, Mark Okraku Mantey, CEO of Ghana Tourism Authority, Akwasi Agyeman, Creative Arts Agency’s Frank Owusu Kwabena, and Director of the Beyond the Return Secretariat, Annabelle McKenzie. 

Warner Music Africa was a major partner in this event.  Speakers from the label included Bello, Vice President Global A&R, Julian Petty, EVP Head of Business & Legal Affairs and joining virtually was Lavern Thomas, Operations Lead Warner Music West AFrica & Chief of Staff Warner Music Africa.  Their insights shared were invaluable for artists in navigating their careers.  

Other featured speakers and panelists included Ampoule Ousmane Herbert, Creative Industry Promoter of Benin Showbiz Awards, Austin Palmer Director of Partnerships at CEEK VR, Efe Omorogbe, Talent Manager, Music Executive, Filmmaker and Creative Entrepreneur from Nigeria, Reggie Rockstone, Rapper & Entrepreneur, Singer, Efya, Daddy Bosco MUSIGA Director of Special Projects, Bobby Banson, Legal Practitioner and more.

During the opening remarks of the event Hip-Hop Professor and Marketing Strategist, Jasmine Young spoke about the importance of education and collaboration in the arts and emphasised WAMAFest’s role in providing a platform for emerging talents and building a vibrant creative economy in West Africa. She comes with decades of experience in the music industry having worked with major artists including Jay-Z, DMX and Slick Rick. She is currently the Director for Howard University’s Warner Music/Blavatnik Center for Music Business.

Participants also attended masterclasses led by industry experts who shared valuable tips on marketing and promoting their music and art. Edi Lawani, an entertainment and business entrepreneur from Nigeria, gave an eye-opening masterclass called ‘Beyond Afrobeats’. He explained how Afrobeats became a global sensation and offered practical advice on navigating the global industry in order to not be taken advantage of as an artist.

The panel discussion on ‘Where is the Money?’ gave insights to artists on how to make money from other streams of income in order to support their craft. We see many famous artists with their hands in a number of projects outside the music business.  Ghanaian artist, Trigmatic, shared his experience branching into the food business as another way to sustain his art and build a business outside of music.  

These sessions provided hands-on learning experiences, helping artists tackle the complexities of the music and arts business. The conference wrapped up with a networking session and lunch, giving attendees the chance to connect with industry leaders, share ideas, and explore potential collaborations. This interactive part of the conference really highlighted WAMAFest’s commitment to building a supportive and dynamic community for artists and professionals.

The final day of WAMAFest, included the Juneteenth Festival in partnership with the African American Association of Ghana to celebrate the date that commemorates when enslaved Africans were all free in the United States on June 19, 1865. This is when the news finally reached the state of Texas that the law had declared them free two years before the they received the news. The day began with a parade from the W.E.B. DuBois Centre that ended with festivities at the Accra Tourist Information Centre.

The nighttime event was the climax in partnership with YFM 107.9 Radio Station’s Area Codes Jam, featured a massive free concert at the Legon City Mall. The concert showcased performances from both up-and-coming and established artists, including Kidi, Kwaw Kese, and Efya. Special guests Afronitaa and Abigail, who recently placed third on Britain’s Got Talent, wowed the audience with their dance routine from the competition.

The headliner of the night was Black Sherif, one of Ghana’s biggest global artists. His surprise performance sent the crowd into a frenzy, with fans almost breaking through the barricade in front of the stage.

The first WAMAFest was a huge success, showing just how valuable it is to bring industry stakeholders together to spotlight West African talent while giving artists the tools to grow and understand the business side of music and art. This partnership between the Ghana Tourism Authority, Warner Music Africa, CEEN VR, YFM, and others has proven fruitful for building growth in the West African music industry.

Ivy Prosper

Digital Creator, Writer, Producer, Speaker