Diamond Platnumz and Africa's most popular YouTube stars

19 June 2020 | Art and Entertainment

BBC NEWS



A bare-chested Diamond Platnumz was surprised by his record producers last week when they rocked up at his house with a cake iced with YouTube's logo to mark a milestone for the Tanzanian pop star.

As he was filmed getting dressed, the 30-year-old was proudly told by his team that he was the first sub-Saharan African singer to get one billion views on his YouTube channel.

Over the last 10 years, the award-winning musician has popularised “bongo flava” - a uniquely Tanzanian offering: Romantic melodies with an urban beat influenced by traditional taarab music from the East African coast.

“Diamond Platnumz is very hard working and has great showmanship,” said DJ Edu, who hosts the weekly pan-African music show This Is Africa for the BBC World Service.

And with more than 43% of Tanzania's 55 million people having access to the internet, mainly via smartphones, there is a huge Swahili-speaking audience ready to lap up his love songs.

Other Tanzanian musicians like Harmonize are also huge on YouTube.



Real significance

So how big is a billion views on YouTube?

It's difficult to assess the real significance of the figure, given that Diamond Platnumz has more followers on Instagram than he does subscribers on YouTube - 9.7 million compared to 3.7 million.

DJ Edu said Instagram is more of an influencer of lifestyle and new platforms such as TikTok, which allows a 30-second copyright free use of songs, are a great way of getting younger fans.

“Some songs are becoming viral through TikTok, like Diamond Platnumz' new one called Quarantine,” he said. This can drive people to YouTube, where money can be made through adverts.



Direct access to audience

More importantly for musicians in Africa, over the last decade, YouTube has allowed them direct access to an audience, rather than relying on TV stations.

How does he compare with other African stars?

Diamond Platnumz still languishes behind some North African stars, who have huge followings in the Middle East.

And then there are African artists based elsewhere such as Malian-born singer Aya Nakamura, who trumps the bejewelled Tanzanian musician with more than 1.7 billion YouTube views.

Senegalese-American rapper Akon smashes them both with 3.5 billion views.

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