What does Alan Floyd, Beyoncé’s tour director knows about African Music and Umoja?
It has all started during a trip in Kenya, more specifically, Mombasa, where Alan Floyd, was invited to a goodwill trip organized by the local government last February 2020. Little did he know that it will spur a movement that is now expanding across 20+ countries in Africa and within the global African diaspora.
So, what has happened?
One of the many activities in his agenda in Mombasa included doing a tour of the local art scene with visits to music studios, theatres and other creative outlets across Mombasa.
Wherever he went, he was amazed and somewhat flabbergasted by the reception he got, akin to an unofficial visit by the forever home hero, former US President Barack Obama.
Whilst visiting Shirko Media, a music studio, he promised the gifted and multi-talented musician and owner, Shirko Salim to come back later to do some real music. Shirko Salim did not believe him but Alan came back and together they wrote and produced a song call Unity or Umoja in Swahili. The song had a unique sound to it, uniquely Kenyan with a hint of reggae and a bit of African American bounce to it.
Then around August 2020, Alan sent the song to some friends to taste the water and the feedback was unanimous, everyone liked it whether they were in Africa, America, Europe or South America.
From there came the idea of giving the song another purpose, offering it copyright free to musicians inspired by the message of African Unity embedded in the song and interested in creating their own covers. The song was also made available as a soundtrack for films, series or any type video content that aligned with the One Love for Africa spirit of the song.
What is the Umoja Initiative?
This is how the Umoja initiative has started. Helmed by Alan’s business partner, Afro-French and Afro- Swedish, Prudence Kolong, founder of Yanibes Consulting and in collaboration with his own company MaddSoul INC, the Umoja Initiative is now a full scale project based on a coalition of willing participants be it, musicians, filmmakers, entrepreneurs, dancers, actors and pretty much everyone who believe that, as
Alan put it, “there can’t be any movement without music”. And this movement is about providing an opportunity for musicians, newcomers or established, to express their love for Africa while strengthening their musical bonds across the pond and supporting an initiative that is designed to help accrue monetization streams for African musicians.
So far, 37 singers across the African continent and Europe have officially joined the Umoja train, including Fally Ipupa (Congo Kinshasa), Mr. Enigma (of Extra Musica of Congo Brazzaville), FDQ (Tanzania), Rexus (Sudan), Eneida Marta and Patche de Rima (Guinea Bissau), Muringui (Kenya), Aida Sock (Senegal), Mr.
Brown (South Africa) to name of few and more than 100 other musicians who are in the pipeline and want be part of the Umoja Initiative.
On the filmmaking side, the Umoja song was used as a soundtrack for the trailer of Afropolitaine, the first Afro-French web series, released on Youtube last October. Additionally, Umoja will be used in the upcoming African motorsports docu-series, Racing with Ludovic, the owner of the only African motorsport management team based in Monaco. A docu-series which Alan Floyd is also involved as a consulting producer.
Established African celebrities like Ms. Hilda Dokubo, the godmother of Nollywood, Nigeria, has decided to do a monologue based on the song. Ms. Claudia Lumor, Ghanaian Fashion & Media Mogul and UN Goodwill Ambassador, is the ambassador of the initiative in her home country. Mr. Roger Milla, Africa’s greatest football legend and philanthropists has used the song as an anthem for his end of the year charitable endeavors in Cameroon. In Kenya, bubbly start-up wizard and techpreneur Mike Otieno, CEO of WOWZI uses his company AI-powered Influencer marketing engine to help reach out to micro-influencers and drive the Umoja dance challenges. In Uganda, Patricia Kahill, owner of Kahill Insights and top of the line Ugandan female business entrepreneurs supports with the local outreach.
In the USA, Dyana Williams, CEO of Influencer Entertainment and founder of the Black Music Month has shown a great enthusiasm to the initiative. And Deborah Byrd, the most sought-after talent manager in Hollywood who has been behind the BET Awards for over two decades now, is part of team Umoja.
In Europe, the initiative is carried by multiple friends including DJ Cut Killer, the celebrated turn-table specialist, Skyrock radio host who discovered DJ Snake.
Women and Umoja
“I have been raised in household full of women, my day job boss is a woman and I believe in levelling the playing field to make sure that equal opportunities are awarded regardless of the gender and the Umoja Initiative is crafted around that sentiment”. This is what Alan has to say about women and Umoja. Ninety percent of the strategy team who actively runs the Umoja initiative are women.
African media can’t get enough of Alan and the Umoja initiative, in the span of less than 3 months, he’s been featured in key radio and TV programs across the continent from Capital FM Kenya with Fareed Kimani who put the song on rotation, to NTV Uganda Andrew Kyamagero who hosted Alan on his prime time show viewed both by millions of viewers in Uganda and in Kenya. In Ethiopia which Alan visited both for a concert for Beyonce but also for a spiritual journey, he was on with famed presenter Kaleab Hailu on #shiquela. In Sudan, Capital FM featured him in two of their leading shows, the Breakfast Club and You Know the Vibe with Cheese. Kenyan wondergirl, Noni Maingi, up and coming newscaster extraordinaire, half time satirist and host of her very own show, the Catalyst, has insisted on dedicating an entire episode to Umoja.
It seems that having an African-American guest of Alan’s stature discussing long term bonding with the continent’s creative scenes and exploring that through music, is a boon. There are more media appearances to come.
From a charitable point of view, Umoja Initiative will launch Umoja Dance for Children in partnership with a selection of local NGOs and led by dancing instructors who signed up with the Umoja initiative. Umoja Dance for Children is a campaign designed to bring joy to underprivileged children in slums and villages wherever Umoja collective members are located.
In the lofty tech corporate world, Slatch, the rising French translation messenger APP has approached Alan, as his message and initiative align with Slatch corporate and social objectives. The award-winning translation APP believes in building communities and enhancing friendship among people.
COVID 19, Social Justice and the UN Creative Economy
How does Umoja manage to inspire so many people across 4 continents, within 90 days in times clouded by a pandemic. Videoconferencing and the strength of Umoja message, Unity, are what drive the creative world interest. “It is divine timing that we started this initiative in August and its happens to coincides with the United Nations 2021 Sustainable Development Goal focus, the year of the Creative Economy” stated Alan when asked about the opportune timing of Umoja initiative.
Back to Alan and the future of the Umoja Initiative
Alan Floyd is the son of Eddie Floyd, one of the leading voices of the 60’s and 70’s era soul and rhythm and blues at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee, who sang one of the most memorable tune to date, Knock on the Wood. Alan is also the head of global touring operations for Beyonce and has worked with her for the past 21 years since her days in Destiny’s Child. He has also had the chance to work with a host of leading African-American musicians, including Yolanda Adams, Keith Sweat, TLC, Mary J. Blige to name a few.
He has visited at least 9 countries out of the 54 on the African continent. He sees himself as the brother from across the pond who just want to discover the culture, the people and more importantly, he wants to eat the local food. So, when not trading jabs about the best Jollof rice with Senegalese, Ghanaian and Nigerian, or organizing multi-years and multi-cities mega concerts and tours, Alan is a music producer and songwriter on his own. So where does the Umoja Initiative fit into this?
As of the writing of this press release, Alan will tell you that “I don’t have answers for this, all I know is that someone has to start somewhere in order for it to become something. And that something is the Umoja Initiative with over 100 musicians and influencers across the planet involved or interested in taking part in it. You are welcome to join the coalition of the willing”.