July 7, 2020

Nexdim Empire

Camer Entertainment House

Polemic: Is protectionism the way to go?

“Our radios only play foreign music.”  “Who is supposed to promote our own music” . These are extremely common statements made by well-meaning  Cameroonians and artists alike. For them, national media outlets both public and private are supposed to come to the rescue of our music. Two inferences can be made from these declarations: our music is suffering and it is kind of unpatriotic not to promote our music . It may be  true that  music from outside Cameroon receives the greatest amount of play on our airwaves but is that even a problem in itself. Okay, let’s assume it is. Is advocating and encouraging the progressive exclusion of foreign music the solution. If foreign music is omnipresent in our cultural sphere, isn’t that an indication of the weakness and paucity of our music as opposed to others. Isn’t this an indication of our artists’ inability to stay in touch with the public’s ever evanescent tastes. Let’s not forget, media organs have economic stakes in what they offer the public. And yes, let’s talk about the public. Are we no longer in a free market economy where the public/listeners/consumers determine what they want to consume. Advocating protectionism in the face of  dwindling demand for home-brewed music  is a head-in-the sand tactic. The solution to this “problem” is not reducing foreign music content and increasing  national music content. The best option, in my humble opinion, is for our artists to rise up to the challenge and compete with foreign music by producing music that the public wants. And if the State should do anything, it should provide schools to train our artists because, to the best of my knowledge, a good chunk of our artists inherit their savoir -faire from playing alongside their seniors. Very few learnt the art in formal settings yet they produce hits albeit erratically. Any call for the  protection of our music is a veiled confession to our weakness but we aren’t weak. Less I forget, the popularity of foreign music in our socio-cultural space isn’t a problem as such. It is another  tangible testament to our country’s position as a multicultural society. If other countries borrow a leave from us and start excluding foreign music (ours included) from their socio-cultural space won’t that hurt our diaspora-based artists like Richard Bona, Sally Nyolo just to name a few. Instead of advocating socio-cultural protectionism we should call on our authorities to arm our artists so they can produce competitive music. Let’s remember music as an art  form  has no frontiers. It is not a packet of biscuits that custom officers can impound. So let’s make sure ours is the best so that it’s quality and not protectionism  will enable it occupy all the spots on our billboards. Do we all agree?