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#InConversationWith Namakau - Bridging the gap between Africa and the world through the Africa Rising Music Conference

"Africa Rising Music Conference is a music executive-focused music conference, which seeks to be a meeting point in Johannesburg South Africa, and advance the music industry with an international and local focus"

The Africa Rising Music Conference (ARMC) is a music executive-focused conference that celebrates diversity, and sustainability in the music industry. ARMC stands out for its commitment to inclusivity, with a lineup of music executives that embraces different identities and representations. This conference, set to take place on May 28th in South Africa, brings together participants from around Africa and the world offering them an opportunity to exchange and build bridges

For this week’s #InConversationWith, we speak to Namakau, Head of programming of the Africa Rising Music Conference, to learn more about how they are going about building bridges for African music with the rest of the world. Scroll down to learn about ARMC and more.

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Welcome Namakau, we’re excited to do this interview. Just to get this started, tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get to this moment in your career, professionally? 

Hi thank you so much for having me for this interview it is an honor to represent Africa Rising Music Conference. I am an artist and a music executive, the pipeline of me evolving into a music executive comes from my background as an independent artist. I also have a background in marketing and communications so being an award-winning copywriter means that I have gained the ability to be a mouthpiece for those who are multi-dimensional creators and thinkers who want to contribute to the evolution of the music industry.  I am an A&R  as well as programming lead and part  owner of Africa Rising Music Conference. 

Photo courtesy of Africa Rising Music Conference

Also, tell us a bit about the Africa Rising Music Conference. What’s the conference about, what’s your role in it and what can we look up for this edition?

Africa Rising Music Conference is a music executive-focused music conference, which seeks to be a meeting point in Johannesburg South Africa, and advance the music industry with an international and local focus. We seek to bridge the gap between Africa and the world through discourse, learning initiatives, workshops, and last but not least entertainment, this year I am leading the programming of the conference and shaping the conversations that intersect music business, politics, globalization as well as tech and innovation. The whole conference is an experience 

Now, we would like to pick your brains on how ARMC’s work intersects with the topic of music tourism. We’ve seen a cast of Musicians and professionals travel with you from Europe to Johannesburg and then to Eswatini to the Bushfire Festival, tell us a little about this trip and how the experience is for everyone. 

Us being a conference that focuses on different regions and territories around the world while positioning Johannesburg as a focal point and a point of entry for internationals and locals to engage means that by definition Africa Rising Music Conference  facilitates travel connection and education for  South Africa. The trip to Eswatini is very much a learning experience as well as a community-building experience for all participants so Africa Rising  Music Conference being a meeting point that facilitates travel to  Eswatini means that all those involved not only travel for the experience, but to experience different communities but also importing their own ideas and expertise surrounding their communities and bring them home.

Photo courtesy of Africa Rising Music Conference

For ARMC, why do you think this type of trip for professionals and musicians is important? Is there any defined strategy between ARMC and Bushfire Festival regarding driving music tourists to discover the music scene of Eswatini and Johannesburg?

I think as a collective what's more important to us is knowledge and skills transfer as being aware that each of our music economies are at different levels meaning that what we offer more than anything as a meeting point for people to trade ideas culturally, creatively and professionally. So, yes, apart from experiencing different music cultures It is also equally important that we center knowledge transfer and cultural transfer in this conversation.

We see a lot of collaborations of ARMC with export offices, and just work around the whole idea of Music Export, why do you think this is important, especially for African Musicians or professionals?

Okay, this is important for us to start the conversation for mobility and funding for African artists to travel, this kind of access means that we can bridge gaps where beneficiaries of African music are the right people, meaning the creators of African music. Us being able to work with export offices means that we are in a key position to insights into change and contribute to first-hand experiences that allow us as a continent to be represented correctly as well as contribute to the global music economy. 

Photo courtesy of Africa Rising Music Conference

A lot of tourism within Africa is based on Safari yet the continent is widely known for its music. Artists like Burna Boy, Tyla, and Diamond Platnumz are big international stars. What do you think needs to be done for Africa to start positioning music as a way to attract tourism? 

Well let's just say that the right institutions need to begin investing in music correctly I think instead of competing with international artists and booking international artists and rating international artists more than we rate our own artists we need to start creating a sustainable model that positions our artists as leaders which you can definitely see happening with the genre Amapiano! I think another thing to consider for music tourism, especially in South Africa is nighttime safety and our country is often a point of conversation as to why people are afraid to visit our country so from a level of legislation I think that's equally important to address how that affects the music economy because nighttime safety and safety in general is what I say can make the difference for us to attract more tourists 

We have seen you attend festivals and conferences in Riyadh, Zimbabwe, Germany, Eswatini, etc. Out of all of them, which one would you say is giving music tourists the best experience and allowing them to discover the local music scene beyond the main festival or conference? 

For me, I've had the best experiences in Riyadh in terms of my perceptions of music culture and culture in general only to be exposed to a completely different world is refreshing and fun. Germany is such a highlight as I also got to realise the challenges that we experience in Africa regarding transportation and mobility on a localised level where that access in Europe genuinely makes the difference. 

Please share a 1 or 2-day music itinerary for discovering Johannesburg as a music tourist. What are some of the music places, events, and sites that they should visit?


1. Start your day at Maboneng Precinct, and explore cultural spaces like Maboneng Patapata.

2. Head to Marabi Jazz Club for a morning jazz session, soaking in the vibrant atmosphere.


3. Make your way to Newtown, visit Nikki's Oasis for some authentic South African vibes.

4. Explore the South African Hip Hop Museum and learn about the rich history of hip hop culture in the country.


5. Attend Back to the City event in Newtown, experiencing the pulse of South African hip-hop culture.

6. Check out Rosebank for Baba Black Sheep's Weekly Touch-Up, featuring local acts and a diverse music scene.


7. Indulge in the arts at the Market Theatre or catch a musical at the Joburg Theatre for a memorable theatrical experience.


8. Immerse yourself in the rich music history of Sophiatown, soaking in the cultural significance of this iconic area.

9. Experience the vibrant energy of Zone 14, a space pulsating with Johannesburg's rhythm and spirit.

Late Night:

10. End your day with an outstanding event at Black Leboney in Pretoria, enjoying free performances and embracing the diversity of South African music.


- If you have a taste for alternative R&B, jazz, or Amapiano, explore venues like Sunday Roast, Soundset Sundays, or Deep Town Jozi.

- Consider visiting Kunye for a taste of deep house music.

This itinerary offers a diverse mix of music experiences, from jazz clubs to hip-hop museums, ensuring a day filled with the rhythm and soul of South Africa's music scene. Enjoy your musical journey through Johannesburg!

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