Music

Universal and Def Jam Expand Efforts in French-Speaking Africa

Universal Music Group is betting big on French-speaking Africa, announcing a new partnership on Wednesday with Wèrè Wèrè Music founder Binetou Sylla to lead Def Jam Africa’s efforts in the rapidly growing music market. Working with Universal Music France and Capitol France, Sylla and her team will focus on discovering and producing French-speaking artists in the region and steering them towards global success.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing market region, according to IFPI’s Global Music Report, with a 25% increase in sales last year that was largely driven by increased take up of paid subscription services. There are over two dozen French-speaking countries in Africa, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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“In partnering with Def Jam and Capitol, Wèrè Wèrè Music is uniquely positioned to deliver commercial and global success to unique African talent from across the continent,” said Sylla, who also leads the Paris-based Syllart Records, which was founded by her father Ibrahima Sylla in the late 1970s. “Def Jam, our driving force, is a powerful, unifying brand in the French-speaking and international ecosystem. Def Jam Africa is more than just a music label; it is the embodiment of a set of authentic values that make no compromise on artistic excellence.”

Sylla founded the Wèrè Wèrè Music label in 2023.

Def Jam Africa launched across French-speaking markets on the continent in 2020. UMG has also stepped up its presence in English-speaking African countries as well, most recently with the proposed acquisition of Nigerian record company Mavin Global, the iconic label founded by Don Jazzy that is home to RemaAyra StarrCrayon and Ladipoe, among others.

“Having launched and developed the Def Jam Africa brand in this region of the continent, I’m delighted to see it take on a new dimension through this partnership,” noted Franck Kacou, managing director of Universal Music Africa. “I know Binetou’s passion and expertise and combined with the skills of our Capitol and Universal Music France teams, this will only create more opportunities and success for the many talents from French-speaking Africa.”

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