At MIDƐM+, Yemi Alade makes people forget about debates on AI – RFI Music





Yemi Alade at Midem24 on January 25, 2024.

© MIDƐM+24 / LINKA Production

As the godmother of the MIDƐM+ organized from January 24th to 27th in Cannes in the south of France, Nigerian singer Yemi Alade made her afrobeat songs ring out while artificial intelligence was a topic of discussion among music professionals.

On the stage of the Cannes Palais des festivals, a global landmark for cinema, the opening of the 2024 edition of the International Record Market and Music Publishing, now called MIDƐM+, was officially formalized by Yemi Alade, the star in her thirties from Nigerian afrobeats who was a few days earlier on the lawn of the Alassane Ouattara stadium in Abidjan for the start of the African Cup of Nations, and the sprightly septuagenarian Stewart Copeland, co-founder of the cult English rock group The Police. Two generations, two very different musical styles.

Beyond the diversity that enriches culture, the combination of these two artists instantly recalls the extent of the evolution that the music world has faced in less than twenty years, whether in terms of how it is produced, distributed, consumed… The entire ecosystem seems to have been affected, and the Midem (the original name of this event) has not escaped this upheaval: the oldest convention in the sector, which opened its doors in 1967 and once counted up to 10,000 participants, has never really found its footing since the music industry was hit head-on by the Internet revolution and its multiple effects, including the rise of streaming among a significant part of the world’s population.

After a “preview” edition last year, this long-standing meeting for professionals has therefore been profoundly reinvented, with the intention of matching its time, its challenges, its functioning, its practices. Specifically? No more stands, at a time when networking can take place through other channels. On the program, masterclasses intended to transmit knowledge (to an audience partly made up of students), “conversations” with industry players (the role of diasporas, for example, in cases like reggaeton or the hit song “Jerusalema“), and live performances: around twenty concerts and DJ sets in three days, with national talents such as Madame Monsieur or Kid Francescoli, as well as international stars like Soolking and De La Soul.

Artificial intelligence: “an extension of the imagination” for Jean-Michel Jarre

Because music is not immune to the questions that agitate society, a current theme has crossed speeches and entered conversations: artificial intelligence (AI). Is it a danger or an asset? Honorary sponsor of MIDƐM+, Jean-Michel Jarre welcomes it with benevolence at the age of 75.

The French composer, considered one of the pioneers of electronic music, sees it as a possible “extension of the imagination” that can be “an opportunity for artists and culture in general, reminding us that “technology is neutral, it depends on what we do with it. He believes that establishing rules is “urgent as questions about the use of AI will inevitably arise – particularly concerning copyright.

“For now, it’s the Wild West, admits the musician who shares his knowledge on the online learning platform Fnamm (Digital Training in the Music Industry). More catastrophically, Stewart Copeland warns: “We’re all doomed, the former partner of Sting in The Police declares without mincing his words, but with a deadpan tone, anticipating that “AI will become less and less detectable over time, even if the contribution of humans seems irreplaceable, including through the mistakes that may be made and other stumbling blocks that can affect creative works. At stake: the heritage of tomorrow, made up of today’s creations.

Yemi Alade’s performance

If artistic identity, in its singularity, can act as a bulwark against the attacks of AI, which is quick to merge songs to create new ones and sow confusion, then Yemi Alade benefits from an effective protection: a formula that allowed the Nigerian Francophile (she has already collaborated with Dadju, Tayc, Vegedream, Admiral T) to make her repertoire known in the West, as evidenced by her 2023 tour of European festivals, after initially conquering her native continent, even singing in Swahili to establish her success in East Africa.

During her performance on January 25th at MIDƐM+, accompanied by her group African Train, the queen of afrobeats, who had previously performed in Cannes in 2018, transcends the boundaries of genres: here with a version of Lady she pays homage to the king of afrobeat (without an “s”), her compatriot Fela; there she flirts with reggae or lets her guitarist venture towards Congo…

In her attitude, gestures, and even her voice in certain passages, it is impossible not to notice the influence of “her mother in music, Angélique Kidjo. Far from seeking to reproduce the sounds recorded in the studio identically, unlike many artists who use live performances to resort to the artifices of dedicated software, she rearranges her repertoire to adapt to her musicians. “I don’t want to lie to myself, she said a few hours earlier, explaining her choices. The expression of a sincerity that she applies on stage.

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