Africa: Why Africa Deserves Its Grammy Equivalent – Congolese Music Star, Mohombi

Following the global appreciation of Afrobeats, Mohombi, who won Grammys in 2016 and 2018, recently visited Nigeria to record a new album and collaborate with indigenous artistes.

Mohombi Moupondo is a Congolese-Swedish musician, singer, composer, dancer, and a two-time Grammy award winner.

Mohombi’s won his first grammy for Best Latin Album in 2016 for his participation in Pitbull’s album DALE.

In 2018, Mohombi won a Grammy as a songwriter on reggaeton artist J. Balvin’s album (Vibras). He was also a co-producer and songwriter for Jennifer Lopez’s song ‘Dinero’ with Cardi B and DJ Khaled, which won an MTV Video Music Award.

Following the global appreciation of Afrobeats and Nigerian music, the singer, who won Grammys in 2016 and 2018, was recently in the country to record a new album with over 20 songs whilst collaborating with indigenous music makers.

To achieve his goal of exploring Afrobeats, Mohombi, featured in Mr P’s (Peter Okoye) 2021 single, ‘Just Like That’, camped at the Ogidi studios in Lekki, Lagos, for ten days.

In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES, he shared his thoughts on the Nigerian music scene and why he thinks Africa is ripe for its own Grammy equivalent.

Meeting Talents

Mohombi, who was part of the Swedish hip-hop group Avalon with his brother Djo Moupondo, spoke enthusiastically about the abundance of talents in Nigeria.

Describing the fun part of his experience since he got to Nigeria, Mohombi, a one-time Billboard music award winner, said meeting new talents was great.

Having worked with world-class musicians and producers worldwide, Mohombi said he was blown away by the new talents he met daily in Nigeria as he stepped out of his comfort zone.

He said, “Every two days, we have a new producer and new songwriters that came in like Miss Kay, a young talented songwriter who is just incredible, and I met her yesterday at a session. I said, Oh, we weren’t together but in other studios. Who are you? What is going on here? Can you come with us? Let’s continue working. So we came out here last night and kept working.

“I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg. Right now, we are witnessing world-class in Nigeria and Africa in general. My absolute biggest impression is the ratio of talent.”

“Is it because you guys have, you know, over 200 million people living in the same country? Maybe. But there is so much talent.

“I’ve met some incredibly talented young kids, so seeing it is reassuring.”

Apart from meeting new talents, he claimed that transferring his experience to a younger generation is one of the most exciting things about recording an album in Nigeria.

Creative Independence for Africa

During the conversation, Mohombi pointed out it was high time African musicians took advantage of the global attention its music and creative industry recently received.

As an African artiste, Mohombi said witnessing the giant strides in this era’s music industry was exciting and fulfilling. He, however, advised African artistes and creatives to find the missing elements required to take the industry a step higher.

“African musicians have an opportunity to create an industry that will be sustainable for a long time. That is the most exciting part; suppose you look at the African music scene from a macro perspective. There are still a lot of missing elements, which are still very artisanal. So, we need to start thinking about who will be the next top music managers, the next top music lawyers, the next tour managers or the sound engineers of the future.”

“It’s high time Africa had its own Grammy Award because that’s how powerful we are. We have that capacity, not even to mention the talents. It is time for African ownership; we must own our stuff, things, culture, creativity, and talents. We can create our platforms where we not only upload our works but also create an exchange with the world,” He added.

Ogidi Experience

Mohombi acknowledged that African creatives should be proud of existing infrastructure and accorded the Ogidi Studios founders their accolades for birthing a platform for creative expression.

“But if you don’t have the tools or the infrastructure to express what you have inside of you, you know, you increase your chances of only being heard in your neighbourhood and immediate community.

“However, with infrastructures like Ogidi Studios, we can record a finished product and put it on the market for the world to enjoy,” He added.

Mohombi also revealed that similar infrastructure existed in other African nations.

“The infrastructures we have in Cape Verde are arts and music groups, and we have a floating studio in the bay of the island of Sao Vicente. Also, we have another big place where we do camps.”

This time, they decided to move their camps elsewhere since they had talked about it for years.

It was a worthy decision, as the experience has been remarkable.

According to him, the treatment has been splendid, “We are being treated like kings, and so we are very grateful,” he said.

Simplicity equals longevity

Mohombi said like Tems and Wizkid; he bagged Grammys for featuring on other people’s songs, one with American rapper Pitbull and the other with Latino Star J Balvin as a producer and songwriter.

Still, on musical proficiency, he acknowledged that there is a songwriting formula that births a hit song.

“I think it’s just about the momentum and, you know, keep on grinding, and if you do 1000 songs throughout your career, there’s a likelihood that at least one of them will be a hit. If you analyse all the biggest hits, whether Afrobeats or rock and roll, there is a common denominator: how the structured song makes people want to listen to it repeatedly.”

“My mentor, Swedish producer Max Martin said songwriting is straightforward as everybody can write a song. He noted that the most challenging part is writing a single piece of music as its simplicity will make it addictive, especially when played repeatedly. Although other elements exist to produce great songs, I have chosen simplicity as a passport to career longevity.

Hardcore musician, new project

During the interview, Mohombi said he practised as a musician before returning to Kinshasa, Congo, to be a businessman. In 2022, he returned to his first love, music.

He noted, “I worked from home, writing music for different artistes and friends worldwide before I discovered I wanted to make a new album.

Speaking on his new album, he stated that it is super packed because of the mindset behind it, as everyone treats it as a new stride.

“The mindset we have is more than just, you know, Mohombi trying to record his new album. It’s so much beyond that because we did that with other artistes and other projects; it’s about finding what makes sense for everybody in the bigger picture.”

Stating the difference between this new project, Mohombi, who has three studio albums to his credit, MoveMeant (2011), Universe (2014) and Rumba 2.0 (2020), spoke about the direction of his yet-to-be-released body of music.

“I am not afraid of adding pop, reggae, Congolese rumba and other music genres to the album. I’ve visited all the world’s continents severally in the last 20 years, releasing my music and performing at concerts. So, ill say, this new album sees an African boy that is coming home to the motherland.”


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