Over the past couple of years, Afrobeats has steadily grown and solidified its place as a worldwide appreciated sound. Fela Kuti, one of the genre’s founding fathers, created the term “Afrobeat.”
Fela, a Nigerian bandleader, and multi-talented instrumentalist contributed greatly towards pushing the genre beyond Africa’s borders. However, Afrobeats started in Ghana around the early 1920s. During that period, Ghanaian musicians fused foreign sounds like the calypso with Ghanaian rhythms like Fante.
With people of African descent scattered all over the world, it was easy for Afrobeat to spread and garner a dedicated fan base. Fela Kuti, Yinka Davies, Amakye Dede, Manu Dibango, Sonny Okosun, Sir Shina Peters, King Sunny Ade, and Lagbaja are some of the notable fathers of the Afrobeat Genre.
However, it is important to note that while Afrobeat and Afrobeats are similar, there is a difference. One could say Afrobeat is the father, while Afrobeats is the son. They share a lot of similarities in terms of sound, but they still have their differences. Afrobeat is more of a traditional African sound with socio-political undercurrents whereas Afrobeats is more dance-floor driven with little or no deep message.
Some critics have said that Afrobeats and Afrobeat are completely different. They have based this utter difference in the content of both. As stated before, Afrobeat is said to be more politically charged while Afrobeats is more of dance tunes. However, artistes in the Afrobeats genre are continuously blurring the lines. These musicians are fusing both sides of the genre into one without skipping a beat.
In the 21st century, we have seen so many stars rise from the path the Afrobeat fathers opened up.
Click on the name of the artist below to play one of their music videos
Popular among these stars are artistes like:
It’s worthy to note that every day, new Afrobeats artists rise up. These artists are infusing their own style into Afrobeats, creating songs that will get your feet dancing. They are breaking barriers with their music just like their older counterparts. Nonso Amadi, Teni,King Perry, Mayorkun, Ajebutter22, and Juls are some of the new kids on the Afrobeats block.
The 21st-century Afrobeats industry has and is still witnessing amazing collaborations between the Western world and Africa. More and more stars are fusing Afrobeats into their songs and sound.
It is not uncommon to find Afrobeats fused with jazz, pop, hip hop, EDM, or even rap. The hit song ‘One dance’ by Drake featuring Wizkid is a typical example of how much the genre has swept the world. Major Lazer is another artist whose collaborations with Afrobeats singers have been major hits.
A likely reason why Afrobeats have become widely accepted in most, if not all, parts of the world is its catchiness. The genre sounds like a fusion of RnB, blues, dance, instrumentals, and jazz. It is also why it works well with so many different sounds.
The widespread of Afrobeats has been greatly helped by social media. Platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter have helped push the genre through music videos, viral dances, and trends.
Social media has been a serious driving force in the growth of an audience filled with different races, nationalities, and ages. From America to Europe to the United Kingdom, you’re sure to find lovers and listeners of Afrobeats. At this point, it seems like the genre is a culture of its own. Its influence can be seen in fashion, art, and film. On runways, in clubs, and at events, Afrobeats can be seen and felt.
Social media influencers constantly incorporate songs from this genre into their online videos. When you log onto Instagram, you’re sure to find a good number of videos and ads using Afrobeats. New songs are usually announced through these platforms. What usually follows these songs are viral dance videos and even comedy skits. All of these push the popularity of Afrobeats to more and more people.
On YouTube, Afrobeats music videos are amongst some of the highest viewed videos. Addy Awofisayo, YouTube Content Partnerships Manager, and Sub-Saharan Africa expressed that “For years now, YouTube has played an essential role in the discovery and development of African sound, exporting African music to listeners worldwide, enabling collaborations within the global and regional music industry, and accelerating the transition to digital for fans on the continent.”
Another way the Afrobeats sound is pushed is through streaming services. Soundcloud, iTunes, Spotify, and Tidal are some of such services.
Apart from being a source of entertainment, Afrobeats can be politically and culturally charged. Some artists in the genre use their songs to speak up against police brutality, racism, sexism, capitalism, and corruption. They create songs that make you dance while delivering a message. Furthermore, Afrobeats are a way of reshaping the world’s perception of black people. It is a way of showcasing the beauty and talent of Africa and Africans.
The Afrobeats sound has been seen to have a way of unifying all people. Davido, while accepting his award for Best International Act at the BET 2018 awards, said “My continent has been so blessed to influence other cultures. Let’s collaborate with everybody.” This influence and collaboration show no sign of stopping anytime soon. Big record labels such as Sony Music and Universal have signed on many Afrobeats stars. The most recent artiste sign up being Tiwa Savage to Sony. With such big names backing Afrobeats, it is no surprise to see the genre’s presence being felt in Europe, America, and other continents.
Afrobeats artists such as Wizkid, Davido, and Burna boy have gone on tours, headlined, and sold-out concerts all around the world. In 2017, Wizkid sold out the Royal Albert Hall, making him the second African to sell out the hall. The first African was the singer, Sade.
Stars such as Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Drake, Childish Gambino, and Rihanna have released albums with Afrobeats-influenced songs in them. These were well received and are still listened to till this day.
More and more festivals are featuring Afrobeats artistes in their repertoire. Last year’s Coachella brought out an impressive amount of Afrobeats musicians in their 3-day line-up. Another music festival renowned around the world is One Africa Music Fest. The festival is held in different locations: New York, Houston, London, and Dubai. One Africa Music Fest features modern Afrobeat music and talent.
It’s safe to say Afrobeats is one genre that will definitely be around for a long time. The train of this sound is getting everyone on board, and it shows no sign of ever losing steam.
Extra for the fans of Afrobeats- simply click one of the bonus # to play a music video
Did you know the difference between Afrobeat and Afrobeats before reading this post? What is your favorite Afrobeat or Afrobeats artist?