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Kim reappears in public, ending absence amid health rumors

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance in 20 days as he celebrated the completion of a fertilizer factory near Pyongyang, state media said Saturday, ending an absence that had triggered global rumors that he may be seriously ill. 
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim attended the ceremony Friday in Sunchon with other senior officials, including his sister Kim Yo Jong, who many analysts predict would take over if her brother is suddenly unable to rule. 
State media showed videos and photos of Kim wearing a black Mao suit and constantly smiling, walking around facilities, applauding, cutting a huge red ribbon with a scissor handed by his sister, and smoking inside and outside of buildings while talking with other officials. 
Seemingly thousands of workers, many of them masked, stood in lines at the massive complex, roaring in celebration and releasing balloons into the air. A sign installed on a stage where Kim sat with other senior officials read: “Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory; Completion Ceremony; May 1, 2020.”
There were no clear signs that Kim was in discomfort. He was shown moving without a walking stick, like the one he used in 2014 when he was recovering from a presumed ankle surgery. However, he was also seen riding a green electric cart, which appeared similar to a vehicle he used in 2014. 
It was Kim’s first public appearance since April 11, when he presided over a ruling Workers’ Party meeting to discuss the coronavirus and reappoint his sister as an alternate member of the powerful decision-making Political Bureau of the party’s Central Committee. That move confirmed her substantial role in the government. 
Speculation about his health swirled after he missed the April 15 birthday celebration for his late grandfather Kim Il Sung, the country’s most important holiday, for the first time since taking power in 2011. 
The possibility of high-level instability raised troubling questions about the future of the secretive, nuclear-armed state that has been steadily building an arsenal meant to threaten the U.S. mainland while diplomacy between Kim and President Donald Trump has stalled. 
Some experts say South Korea, as well as its regional neighbors and ally Washington, must begin preparing for the possible chaos that could come if Kim is sidelined by health problems or even dies. Worst-case scenarios include North Korean refugees flooding South Korea or China or military hard-liners letting loose nuclear weapons.
“The world is largely unprepared for instability in North Korea,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “Washington, Seoul and Tokyo need tighter coordination on contingency plans while international organizations need more resources and less controversy over the role of China.” 
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, confirmed Kim’s visit to the fertilizer factory and said it was part of his efforts to emphasize economic development. The ministry called for discretion on information related to North Korea, saying that the “groundless” rumors of past weeks have caused “unnecessary confusion and cost” for South Korea’s society and financial markets.
South Korea’s government, which has a mixed record of tracking Pyongyang’s ruling elite, repeatedly downplayed speculation that Kim, believed to be 36, was in poor health following surgery. 
The office of President Moon Jae-in said it detected no unusual signs in North Korea or any emergency reaction by its ruling party, military and cabinet. Seoul said it believed Kim was still managing state affairs but staying at an unspecified location outside Pyongyang. 
The KCNA said workers at the fertilizer factory broke into “thunderous cheers” for Kim, who it said is guiding the nation in a struggle to build a self-reliant economy in the face of “head wind” by “hostile forces.”
The report didn’t mention any direct comment toward Washington or Seoul. 
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump declined to comment about Kim’s reappearance but said he would “have something to say about it at the appropriate time.”
State media reported Kim was carrying out routine activities outside public view, such as sending greetings to the leaders of Syria, Cuba and South Africa and expressing gratitude to workers building tourist facilities in the coastal town of Wonsan, where some speculated he was staying. 
It wasn’t immediately clear what caused Kim’s absence in past weeks. In 2014, Kim vanished from the public eye for nearly six weeks and then reappeared with a cane. South Korea’s spy agency said he had a cyst removed from his ankle.
Analysts say his health could become an increasing factor in years ahead: he’s overweight, smokes and drinks, and has a family history of heart issues. 
If he’s suddenly unable to rule, some analysts said his sister would be installed as leader to continue Pyongyang’s heredity dynasty that began after World War II.
But others question whether core members of North Korea’s elite, mostly men in their 60s or 70s, would find it hard to accept a young and untested female leader who lacks military credentials. Some predict a collective leadership or violent power struggles. 
Following an unusually provocative run in missile and nuclear tests in 2017, Kim used the Winter Olympics in South Korea to initiate negotiations with Washington and Seoul in 2018. That led to a surprising series of summits, including three between Kim and Trump. 
But negotiations have faltered in past months over disagreements in exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament steps, which raised doubts about whether Kim would ever fully deal away an arsenal he likely sees as his strongest guarantee of survival. 
Kim entered 2020 vowing to build up his nuclear stockpile and defeat sanctions through economic “self-reliance.” Some experts say the North’s self-imposed lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis could potentially hamper his ability to mobilize people for labor.


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2021 memorable moments

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2021 like its predecessor (2020) was an eventful year through and through, from the advent of the streaming platform, Spotify, to the breath-taking world tours of two of Africa’s finest, Burna Boy and Wizkid, thanks to limiting the hardcore COVID-19 restrictions worldwide, to “Essence” and “Love Nwantiti” takeover and many more. This is a recap of some notable moments of 2021 in the Nigerian music industry. 

Spotify in Nigeria:

 Spotify, one of the most used digital streaming platforms (DSPs) since its invention in 2006 in Sweden, finally made its grand entry into the Nigerian space on 23 February 2021 but streaming commenced in early March. Apart from its appealing UI/UX design, it edges over its competitors like Apple Music and Audiomack in all or some of the below stated reasons: 
Spotify provides real-time information on the number of streams of songs and the average monthly listeners of the artists.
The built-in podcast feature also gives it an edge over its various competitions. Apart from the available podcasts which can be found on other podcast streaming platforms, Spotify also provides exclusives, available only in the app, financially supporting the hosts of these exclusively owned podcasts. 
The Spotify annual Wrappedgives a more detailed insight into what each listener has been up to year-round, not only his/her most listened songs, albums, artistes and hours spent listening to music, it goes further to dive into genre breakdown of each listener and provides a listener-to-the-world-listenership, a primetime comparison in percentage as to where the listener stands in streaming their favourite artiste(s) and song(s), etc.
In less than 3 months, Spotify was able to amass thousands of streams and subscribers in the country, even having those who used other services switching to theirs in the blink of an eye. What a nice investment, a profitable one at that.

Essence Global Acceptance:

Wizkid and Temshad a surreal year in 2021. Not that Wizkid’s stance on the music scene was not acclaimed pre-2021 but thanks to the commercial success of track 11 off of 2020 released “Made In Lagos” album, it helped elevate his status and introduced the already blooming talent, Tems, to the world’s music stage.
Yes, the foresight of Wizkid to have tweeted that he and Tems created magic months before the song’s release should have given fans a clue into what he had planned for the mid-tempo pop song but no one could have predicted it magically transforming into the wonderful track that it is today; fast forward to June 2021, Essence became the world’s favourite song, even being tipped as the ‘Song of the Summer’. 
Not only is the “You don’t need no other body” chorus well-known and publicly hollered at festivals, shows, concerts, parties, clubs, and so forth but we need no other body to tell us how grand the track is, breaking records almost every other day. The remix with Pop superstar, Justin Bieber, assisted it to become the first song by an African act to debut on the Billboard Hot 200 top 10, peaking at No. 9.
The certifications of Essence is mind-blowing: Gold in Canada and New Zealand, Silver in the United Kingdom, and Platinum in the USA (to name a few), in essence, becoming the Nigerian song African originated song to go Platinum in the States, selling 1 million copies; Essence nomination for the newly carved “Best Global Music Performance”for the 2022 Grammy Awards is a nice icing to the delectable hotcake the song is.

Fireboy DML’s Peru Record-breaking Year: 

When R&B star, Fireboy DML, said on the Afro-fusion track—Peru: “Wo ni won wa mi”, translated to “I’m being sought after” or “They are looking for me” in English, he was not lying. Immediately Peru dropped, it almost immediately became a fan favourite due to its easy-to-learn lyrics and enigmatic third verse which drew a lot of comparison to Wande Coal’s vocal texture.
Peru provided Fireboy DML with his first-ever No. 1 on the 
Nigerian Apple Music Top 100 and iTunes, it peaked at No. 1 on the UK Afrobeats Chart, eventually breaking the record as the song to have spent the most weeks at the summit of the chart, 4 weeks in total; the remix with global music icon, Ed Sheeran was released on Christmas Eve and immediately rose to the peak position on the UK Apple Music Top 100, becoming the first-ever Nigerian song to achieve such feat.
To think of the fact that Peru would have remained in the hard drive, never to be released until Fireboy’s label honcho, Olamide, took matters into his hands and leaked the song is still mind-boggling to date. A record-breaking year for Peru and Fireboy DML at large!

Love Nwantiti Resurgence: 

2021 was undoubtedly one of the best years for Nigerian music traversing to an international audience. The mysterious humming buzzing “Ahh, ah-ah-ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah, ah-ah-ah” sound by CKay proves that distinctly. Allow me to explain.
Never in the history of the African music industry, probably the world’s, have a song released 2 years prior (2019), and its remix a year after (2020) trended as Love Nwantiti did, having the whole world at a chokehold. Thanks to TikTokand human’s inquisitive nature which transcended to the song being looked on Shazam, Love Nwantitiresurgence became a global phenom in the global music mainstream.
The streaming numbers are ridiculous! On Spotify alone, Love Nwantiti is the most streamed Afrobeat song, occupying the Top 2 spots via its original and DJ Yo! &AX’EL (remix) versions. The certifications CKayaccumulate because of Love Nwantiti’sgrandeur is too many to count but to state a few: 2X Platinum in Canada, Platinum in Portugal, Gold in the UK, Austria, Australia, and Spain. Not forgetting that each official music video shoot for the original and its many remixes crossed the 50M views mark on YouTube. 
What a comeback Love Nwantitihad in 2021, a beautiful sight to behold. A win for the “Afrobeat to the world” mantra and African music as a collective. 

Burna Boy’s World Tour

Arrogant, proud, egotistical, boastful, and many more qualifiers are available to describe the personality of Ogulu Damini—popularly known as Burna Boy. But one can’t deny that he makes great music. And in 2021, the African Giant went as far as expressing himself, his art, and his music on International stages. 
Burna Boy came packed. Each show came with its tale, its own definition. From stepping out of a spaceship to his irresistible performances on stage, his flow with the melodies and harmonies of the live band, to the transitioning from one hit song to another, Burna Boy brought it all. From the sold-out show in the O2 Arena in London to selling out a 20,000 capacity in Bercy, France, having the people of Stockholm sing word for word his song, Burna Boy made sure the world heard him, see him and know him. 

Amaarae x Moliy

Known for her otherworldly voice and her calm likewise soothing type of songs she makes, Amaarae has fast become one of the most promising female acts on the African continent. In 2021, The Ghanaian act went as far as breaking into the Billboard Hot 100 alongside countrywoman Moliy and Kali Uchis with the remix of her amazing song ‘Sad Gurlz Luv Money’. The song peaked at no.80 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first female Afrobeats act to debut a solo single on the chart. 

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Wizkid is Africa’s Apple Music Artist of the Year award recipient for 2021

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Wizkid (sobriquet Big Wiz or StarBoy) receives the honour as Apple Music Artist of the Year (Africa) for 2021. The annual award held by the premier streaming platform praises individual artites for having a stellar year on its music platform both through streams and culturally.

On Wizkid winning, an excerpt from Apple Music reads: ” In October 2020, he released “Made in Lagos,” his critically acclaimed and most commercially successful album, which included his hit song “Essence,” a track that gained 125 million plays on Apple Music and over 2.8 million Shazams. This past year, he’s been the most streamed African artist on the continent on Apple Music and ranked on the Daily Top 100 charts in 60 countries, in addition to his monthly plays on Apple Music growing by more than 250 percent outside of Africa.”

“Thank you to Apple Music for this award”, Wizkid said, continuing, “It’s a blessing to get to do what I do, and I’m proud to be representing for Africa.”, Ayodeji “Wizkid” Balogun says in thank you speech. The Apple Music Award, the third annual series will air on Apple Music and Apple TV starting Tuesday, December 7, 2021.

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