Best believe, Juls is as resolute as he sounds. Only one of the pioneers of Afropop in diaspora, a prolific DJ and sound artist, Julian Nicco-Annan, comes through as authentic as the hits he produces. His cross-cultural music influences stem from a mixed heritage having grown up in East London and Ghana. His family was also very music- inclined. Julian holds a Bachelor's degree and Master's in Finance from the University of Surrey in England. He worked his way onto the music scene starting out by producing old school songs and eventually leaving a 9 to 5
job to produce music full-time. His first popular output was Feel Alright
with Show Dem Camp in 2012, before his worldwide fame in the following year. Juls is an in-house producer for BBnZ Live
and has produced songs for several African artists including Sarkodie, E.L, Stonebwoy, Mr. Eazi and a host of others across the globe. He is considered a pioneer in the African music industry having contributed hugely to what the new Afropop sound is today.
Unarguably, Africa is at the crux of a global revolution. Ghana Must Go on international runways, African-themed music by international artistes, a new taste for African cuisine and so on are among the endless list of things that show us that Afro-urbanism is a trend that has come to stay. Africans have over time crafted a unique cultural aesthetic that becomes more globally appealing by the day such that even our colloquialism and rurality hold an originality that many are craving to emulate. It is something to be proud of. We owe a lot of this visibility to the African music industry; seeing as the growth is parallel and across all aspects of popular culture, music is the very thread that weaves it all together. In recent times though, the trend is starting to pose some questions as regards cultural appropriation- should we celebrate that international artistes are dancing shaku shaku
and the gwara gwara
or do we sulk at the fact that they are only beginning to pay attention? Cultural appropriation in itself is a tricky thing and navigating what is respectful or not proves more and more to be a very thin line. All of this regardless, Juls seems more intent on keeping to what he knows and working hard at improving his already impressive craft; an attitude most Africans creatives should consider emulating. He says “I don’t think there is anything wrong with our content. Look at all the quality videos that our artistes are putting out. Boasting our culture and our identity. The western media isn’t used to this new narrative. As our music scene gets bigger, it's getting harder to ignore because African Pop music is what is hot right now. Look around you. Our influence is all over everything from film, to music to fashion. Also, I don’t think our aim or my aim anyways is to rub shoulders with “foreign counterparts”. It’s about spreading the culture and our music and getting heard. We haven’t had those resources and access to major funding that’s the only issue. And most African artistes are now getting educated on the business side of things so we don’t get cheated. It takes time. Illiteracy has been Africa’s major problem for developing as a continent. First solution is to take pride in our culture and educate ourselves first.”
We couldn’t agree more.
The UK Afropop scene is also a huge deal at the moment. Nigerian-British artistes are emerging everyday with the now-familiar UK-amplified Afropop. Quite a number of them are Nigerians but as Juls rightly points out, that flow is not exclusive to Nigerians. “I’m not Nigerian,
he reiterates. “I don’t think there is a Nigerian-British Afropop scene either. Nigerian music is the most popular African pop genre right now and it's brilliant. The likes of Wizkid, Burna Boy, Wande Coal & Davido are all killing it! But these artistes and others have also tapped into other influences from countries in Africa like Ghana, Ivory Coast, Congo & South Africa. Afro-pop isn’t just Nigeria please. Let’s make that clear. My circle is good music. I collaborate with anyone that I want to when the time comes. I've worked or had sessions with all those artistes mentioned. But that’s because that's what happened at that time. I’ve also worked with my fellow Ghanaians. I'm in the studio with an upcoming congolese artiste. My guitarist Sonzi is Congolese. I also grew up on reggae and Dancehall, which is also another heavy influence to my sound. So the position is Pan- Africa. That’s what I'm trying to represent. I’m trying to cross over and make records with artistes all over the continent. And then over the world. The Caribbean especially because reggae music is actually my first love and would like to merge afro with reggae, dancehall, etc. But my most obvious sound/style reflects pure African vibes and I'm extremely proud of this.”
This inadvertently removes focus from any particular country or African sub-genre. Africa is one and our music should reflect that.
14 June, 2019