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African Singers Face Host of Challenges

MOST popular singers in Africa are struggling to make a living, partially due to Africa's economic recession. ``I must tell you one secret about most Nigerian singers,'' says Romeo Obika, who handles publicity for Christy Essien-Igbokwe, one of the country's top female performers. ``The `car' that they ride is fame, not money. They're broke. They don't even have good cars.'' Many are forced to take full- or part-time non-singing jobs, he says.

Piracy - the illegal copying and selling of songs - is the No. 1 problem African singers face today, says Mr. Obika. The practice cheats singers of royalties. But there is also a lack of songwriters, arrangers, and producers, and even studios, he says.

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Oddly, noise is also a problem. ``Songwriting or singing is a creative thing,'' explains Obika. ``It needs concentration and silence.'' But in Nigeria, he says, there is too much noise, and too many people barging in to talk to the artists.

In addition to high studio fees, few firms spend the time and money to shape and promote a singer's first works, says Ekerete Udoh, a Nigerian who is working on his first recording. That is because, with the presently poor economy, companies lack money to support more than a few singers a year, says Victor Nwogwugu, sales manager for Afrodisia Ltd., one of Nigeria's main studio and promotion firms.

The economic crunch also means much of the African public is less able to afford records and tapes.

Even when Africans can afford to buy music, they often buy Western, especially country-and-western music from the United States.

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