HIVE Collaboration #04 : Cross-Pollination Increases the Longevity of Artists’ Careers by Enhancing the Scenes they Occupy

HIVE Collaboration #04 : Cross-Pollination Increases the Longevity of Artists’ Careers by Enhancing the Scenes they Occupy

By Mayuyuka

Contributed by Michelle Yuen

In the ever-changing landscape of the music industry, trends come and go, attention is often borrowed from audiences, and careers can fade in the blink of an eye. Longevity is thus often the ultimate testament of an artist's impact - even more so in the era of TikTok and viral music trends. The concept of cross-pollination - where artists exchange ideas and draw inspiration from one another while their creative ecosystems intermingle - has emerged as a catalyst for fostering enduring artistic legacies. This phenomenon transcends genres and disciplines, creating scenes where innovation, adaptation, and reinvention flourish. In the concluding topic in our series “Collaboration through the Lens of Emerging Music Scenes”, we delve into the opportunities that the cross-pollination of artists and their scenes contribute towards fostering longevity in their creative endeavours.

Previously, we highlighted how collaboration is an excellent lubricant for success but requires building strong ecosystems, an appreciation for localised markets, and placing storytelling at the centre of any artist’s approach to cut through fragmented markets and fandoms. An extension of this collaborative outlook is the employment of cross-pollination - a constant willingness to adapt to and respectfully embrace new perspectives. The ability to build a successful career requires not only talent and dedication but also innovation by tapping into the wellspring of ‘newness’. When new ideas emerge, it is always a great idea for artists to embrace them by incorporating them into their distinct approach. Collaborative efforts, whether with upcoming musicians, producers or other creative professionals, are pivotal in enhancing artists’ creative capacities, broadening their reach and enshrining their legacies. Expanding an artist’s repertoire through fresh styles and sounds can increase commercial opportunities and garner more fans from new and non-traditional markets.

Over recent years, Afrobeats collaborations - often remixes - have sought to capture fans from new markets by creating something unique for them to hold onto. CKay’s “Love Nwantiti”, Rema’s “Calm Down”, and Amaarae’s “Sad Girlz Luv Money” all interpreted this template in their own way, forming partnerships with established artists in specific international regions (ElGrandeToto, Selena Gomez & Kali Uchis) to amplify these songs to new audiences and lengthen the tracks’ life cycles to their benefit.

These breakout hits make for great examples of intentionality when collaborating but aren’t quite the best encapsulation of the five most central elements of cross-pollination: cross-genre, cross-generational, cross-regional and cross-cultural expressions that, ultimately, export localised sounds to global audiences. These are all features of Davido and Musa Keys’ “Unavailable”, so let's examine how this collaboration combined these factors to their overall benefit.

Cross Genre Collaboration enables the rise of subcultures

“Unavailable” fuses the ubiquitous Amapiano log drums with Afrobeats rhythms to perfection. It’s designed for the dance floor and, with its dance-challenge-ready choreography, has unsurprisingly succeeded across Instagram and TikTok. The song's danceability is complemented by built-in dance moves that fuel its use on social platforms, a trend that enabled the exponential growth of Amapiano through the pandemic.

The fusion of sounds makes for an enjoyable listen and introduces each artist to an audience outside their immediate market. A casual Amapiano fan, for instance, may be tempted further to explore Afrobeats through their introduction to “Unavailable”. Sharing cultures through music always enables reaching new audiences but also helps in the birth of new subcultures, which, in turn, contribute to the longevity of the original two genres. Gengeton in Kenya is an excellent example, where Reggaeton and Genge repurposed both genres into a new burgeoning scene.

Cross-Generational Artist collaborations can bring generational fans together

Davido - at the height of his career and a certified Afrobeats maven - partnered with Musa Keys, a rising Amapiano act with a distinct sound. This joining of creative effort encapsulates keeping an eye on burgeoning sounds and artists perfectly. This collaboration also gives each act access to a different demographic, rather than just based on the fan’s taste in music. Exploring such audiences can lead to marketing opportunities in new spaces and ensure relevance in different contexts. For established artists like Davido, this is also an opportunity to platform new and exciting talent to his loyal fans. This feature has also led many artists to start their own labels, enabling more grassroots support for rising artists. These labels also help established artists keep in touch with new scenes and trends across new generations of fans, which helps grow a larger fanbase while keeping their authenticity in place.

Cross Regional Collaboration enables fans to explore music and local cultures from different regions

While Amapiano originates in South Africa, it has become the soundtrack of festivals in Europe and North America. Afrobeats had a similar trajectory as it was birthed in West Africa and, through an enthusiastic diaspora, made its imprint global. Combining elements of two healthily growing genres from distinct African regions contributes to their appreciation in different contexts, such as receiving nominations like Song Of The Summer at the Bulletin Awards (US) - similar to how Rolling Stone (US) named Wizkid and Tems’ "Essence" the best song of 2021.

The music video for “Unavailable” gives an authentic representation of the culture that contributes to its sound. The Dammy Twitch-helmed video starts by showing actors dressed in traditional South African garb architecture found in the pastoral landscapes of the nation and displays art indigenous to the Ndebele tribe of the country. This authentic display and appreciation of culture is innovative in the artistic context and exposes new audiences to other aspects of Musa Keys’ environment. It situates both him and Amapiano within a rich context.

Embracing Localisation

While Davido has made use of the popular template of tapping an A-List international act by remixing “Unavailable” with popular American rapper and singer Latto, he deserves commendation for also choosing to work with an emerging African act in Musa Keys for the original track. Embracing an upcoming act from the continent, along with their distinct sound, and then exporting that sound to a global audience is a mutually beneficial strategy.

At its core, music is a form of self-expression and an ongoing process of growth and reinvention. Being open to ‘newness’ prevents artists from finding themselves in a creative rut, where their ideas stagnate and their work becomes predictable. Cross-pollination also ensures that this approach to their music is duplicated across other spheres of an artist’s career - be it fashion, marketing or touring. Creative collaboration not only keeps artists’ work fresh and interesting but also spreads their primary genre to the fans of the artists they are partnering with. The emergence of new musical concepts, creative arrangements and thematic approaches sustains foundational genres by diversifying them.

Both sustainability and longevity are the resulting benefits of artists embracing both sides. Whilst creating alone is empowering, collaboration is about understanding the dichotomy of creativity. Understanding the forces between genres, demographics, and localities is essential in building and maintaining a thriving career. This extends to navigating relations with more external factors: local and international scenes, upcoming and established stars, and keeping tabs on musical innovation in different spaces.

For Afrobeats and Amapiano to continue their healthy growth, artists must embrace cross-genre, cross-generational, cross-regional and cross-cultural collaborations - this will help sell both of them ‘to the world’. For other music cultures growing across emerging markets, taking these two genres (and “Unavailable”) as a case study could enable rapid growth and a rise of more scenes that can cut through the clutter. Since many local scenes come from a community, it is an opportunity for labels and other stakeholders to play their part in growing fanbases focused on identity, culture and storytelling more than ever.

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Srishti Das is a music industry professional focused on bringing more light from new music markets and cultures. You can reach me at to discuss collaborations, projects or to have a chat!