What To Read: Joey Akan is appreciating Afrobeats

This week, we interviewed Joey Akan, who writes Afrobeats Intelligence, a publication that examines and celebrates the African music industry.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What made you decide to dedicate a publication to African music, and what are you hoping readers get out of it?

Music has been a core part of my life, and it has guided my career choices. After working with conventional media houses and startups, I decided to create a space to reflect that. I have also worked in the music industry, and covered music for over eight years. Afrobeats Intelligence is pretty much me using all of that experience to serve my industry and audience.

How would you describe Nigeria’s music industry, for the uninitiated?

The Nigerian music industry is a place of opportunities. There’s always a deal by the corner, and success (or failure) isn’t too far away. It’s pacey, hypercompetitive, and releases a world of music every week. Powered across all levels by professionals and creatives with diverse stories and sounds, it continues to be a light on the continent, and the pride of Africa.

Joey writes that Tiwa Savage, pictured performing in Lagos, Nigeria, is “the queen of hearts, ears and eyes.” (Photo by Andrew Esiebo/Getty Images for Global Citizen)

Your interviews with musicians are remarkably immersive. Why do you think people open up to you?

People trust that I am going to see their humanity. They trust that I will connect that humanity to their art and process. They believe that I will do right by their story, handle their narrative with due consideration, and represent it in the most truthful way. It is this trust and respect that enables them to open up to me. I also know my music, my industry, and how it all comes together. When people know you can connect with them at their level, they want to have a conversation. 

This summer, you wrote about how Wizkid became the first Nigerian pop artist to crack the Billboard Hot 100. What did that achievement represent to you?

It’s a dream to see that happen in my time in this space. Connecting local creativity to global opportunities has been a collective desire in Lagos. Getting to the Billboard Hot 100 and picking up a platinum plaque are just steps in a long journey. This is just day one. We just got here—let’s make it our home.

What African artist doesn’t get the recognition they deserve?

Tomi Thomas. He’s an explosive singer and lyricist who creates at the intersection of so many themes. Check out “Heartless Romantic” for a dose of his magic. 

Who's another Substack writer you'd recommend?

David Hundeyin. He’s an investigative journalist from Nigeria, and he runs West Africa Weekly. I love his tenacity to educate and take on complex work. 

Subscribe to Joey’s publication, Afrobeats Intelligence, and find him on Twitter.