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Derrick Ashong on creating “The Mic: Africa”, a music competition to highlight the African diaspora

Derrick N. Ashong is the founder and presenter of “The Mic: Africa”.

Courtesy of BEATA ALBERT PHOTOGRAPHY

Derrick N. Ashong, born in Accra, Ghana and raised in the United States, is the content creator and businessman behind AMP Global Technologies and the Take Back the Mic app, a platform that rewards consumers who discover trending content and share it with advertising . supported mobile data.

“Our team at AMP Global is committed to improving internet access and creativity for communities around the world,” said Ashong. During the global pandemic, he launched and hosted the first season of The Mic: Africa, a virtual hip-hop competition based on his two-time Emmy-nominated digital series The World Cup of Hip Hop.

The Mic: Africa is a cross-platform music competition in which viewers use the TBTM app available for Google and iOS devices to select 18 semi-finalists from six countries: Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Rwanda, Mauritius and Kenya.

These 18 semi-finalists appear before a global jury from across the diaspora over the course of five episodes, as well as celebrities such as musicians DJ Maseo from De La Soul, Doug E Fresh, Lady of Rage, Nigerian rapper MI Abaga and Indian rapper Raja Kumari and South Africa’s stand-up comic David Kau. Season one ended with Nigerian artist Fecko winning the grand prize and title.

For (bes) The Culture spoke with Ashong about launching a global platform during a pandemic and what he plans to do next to boost the creativity and voices of artists in the diaspora.

For (bes) the culture: Why did you choose music to unite the different countries on the African continent?

Derrick Ashong: People speak of music as a universal language. African music is undeniable in terms of the extent and strength of its global impact, but many people are unaware of the core African influences in music such as hip-hop, reggae, blues, salsa, samba, jjazz, and rock and roll. Ultimately, taste was born in Africa, and music is the tapestry that connects the continent and the diaspora as a cohesive whole – discovering, reflecting, and evolving each other’s voices as we continue to innovate and redefine the architecture of global pop culture . We believe that we will give the Africans at the beginning and in the Diaspora a common space in which we can discover ourselves and each other with new eyes and invite the whole world to join us there.

For (bes) the culture: How has the Take Back the Mic app increased the creativity of artists in the African diaspora?

Ashong: The Take Back the Mic app helps developers build movement around their content. Together with The Mic: Africa series, the app helps turn the continent’s most promising undiscovered artists into global stars. Since the TBTM app puts power in the hands of the audience, unexpected creators such as graffiti artists, dancers, and songwriters can also be brought to a bigger stage.

For (bes) the culture: How is this cross-platform music competition the first of its kind?

Ashong: The Mic: Africa is the first interactive TV format that was born on the African continent and is exported around the world. It provides an African cultural framework for audiences around the world.

Unlike traditional mainstream music competitions, the series is truly interactive as fans cast, curate, and dictate the outcome of the show from start to finish.

For (bes) the culture: How do you move forward during the pandemic?

Ashong: The pandemic has forced us to really expand our creativity and think differently about how to develop and start a new series. A “lucky coincidence” of the Covid era was our decision to hire filmmakers locally in each of the countries instead of having a crew fly everywhere. Probably our biggest downside was realizing that in the early days of the lockdown, global internet usage increased by 70%, while high-speed internet usage in Africa was unchanged at 7%. That’s because people here pay the highest prices in the world for mobile internet access.

So we’ve created a toolset within the app that allows users to earn mobile data based on their engagement and use that data anywhere on the internet. This “gateway to the internet” ability inspired a broader initiative called 70 x 25 to bring Africa to 70% high-speed internet usage by the end of 2025.

We have won our first telecommunications partners under this Moonshot coalition, including 9Mobile in Nigeria, Kenya Telkom and Liquid Telecom, and are working to expand the initiative with brand partners in a variety of sectors as well as between companies – government institutions like the UN, UNESCO and the UNHCR.

For (bes) the culture: What initiatives are you and your team planning for the future?

Ashong: We will definitely be doing more seasons of The Mic: Africa and are already in talks to expand the format to other regions. We’re also working with some really cool media partners in Hollywood and other global markets to develop new content traits that use our technology to foster high engagement between creatives and their fans. In the coming months, we’ll be rolling out a number of features that will allow affiliate brands to build direct relationships with fans on the platform and make it easier for creators, distributors, and content owners to build and grow movement around their content.

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