Afrobeat music has become Africa’s most significant cultural export, with its popularity spreading across the globe.
In many ways, it can be compared to the Korean (Hallyu) Wave, which has taken the world by storm in recent years. Afrobeat’s influence extends far beyond just music. It is poised to become a dominant force in various domains and wield considerable soft power.
Through its vibrant rhythms and beats, Afrobeat music enables people from all over the world to connect with their African origin. This is particularly important for those who have been disconnected from their ancestral homeland due to historical events such as slavery or migration.
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What is Afrobeat?
Afrobeat is a captivating and vibrant music genre hailing from Nigeria that blends the rich musical traditions of West Africa, including traditional Yoruba music and highlife, with influential American funk, jazz, and soul rhythms.
This unique fusion creates a mesmerizing soundscape characterized by intricate percussion, complex intersecting rhythms, and powerful chanted vocals.
It was pioneered by the late Fela Kuti. He is regarded widely as the “father of Afrobeat.” His various trips across America brought about a lot of foreign influence in the creation of the genre. This influence includes jazz and contemporary music of the period.
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A Brief History of Afrobeat Music
Afrobeat music is regarded as a fusion of jazz and funk from Nigeria. It started in the early twentieth century but it was made official in the late 1960s by the late Fela Kuti and his drummer, Tony Allen. They both experimented with a lot of contemporary music of the period.
In 1969, Kuti and his band called “Nigeria 70” went on a trip to the U.S. While there, he was introduced to the Black Panthers, a black supremacist group. He was also exposed to the writings of a lot of activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, and most notably Malcolm X.
Upon return from the trip, he changed the name of the band to “Africa 70.” He went on to sing many songs on the political climate of Nigeria. It gave him a lot of enemies but he didn’t let that stop him.
After his death, his son, Seun, changed the name of the band to “Egypt 80.” His sons, Seun and Femi Kuti, continued his legacy by continuing to sing songs following the pattern and style of their father.
Furthermore, Afrobeats is an umbrella term used to represent all the music coming from West Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana. Ít was created due to the amalgamation of a lot of different genres such as dancehall, hip hop, jazz, highlife, etc
A subtle contrast between the two sounds is that while Fela’s Afrobeat discussed and criticized contemporary politics, the regular Afrobeats typically avoided such topics, thereby making it less politically charged than that of Fela.
Afrobeat music is most identifiable by its signature driving drumbeat rhythms, whether electronic or instrumental. These beats harken to the stylings of a variety of traditional African drum beats across West Africa. The Afrobeat is not just a base for the melody but acts as a major character of the song.
Taking a lead role that is sometimes equal to or of greater importance than the lyrics and almost always more central than the other instrumentals. Afrobeat music shares a similar momentum and tempo to house music. Usually using the 4/4 time signature common in Western music, Afrobeat commonly features a 3–2 or 2–3 rhythm called a clave.
Another distinction within Afrobeats is the notably West African, specifically Nigerian or Ghanaian. Accent English, often blended with local slang, pidgin English, as well as local Nigerian or Ghanaian languages depending on the backgrounds of the performers.
Global Influences of Afrobeat Music on Different Industries
Afrobeats was built on the foundation laid out by early Afrobeat artists like Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, and Seun Kuti. Despite the confusion over the name, it is undeniable that Afrobeats has had a global influence in recent years.
It has influenced a lot of industries, most notably the fashion and music industries. From Nigeria to Europe and beyond, Afrobeats has continued to grow exponentially in popularity greater than we ever thought was possible.
Here are some global influences of Afrobeat music in different industries:
Afrobeats have had a significant influence on music, particularly in the genre of hip-hop. The pulsing, rhythmic patterns of afrobeat add a layer of complexity and depth to a song, providing a unique and recognizable sound. The use of Afrobeats has also helped to shape the sound of popular sub-genres of hip-hop, such as trap and drill music.
The popularity of Afrobeat music has been attributed to the rise of African artists such as Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy, who have been collaborating with international artists and incorporating Afrobeat into their music. This has led to the mainstream recognition of Afrobeat in countries such as the U.S. and the UK, where it has become a regular feature on popular radio stations and music festivals.
In addition, the influence of Afrobeat can be seen in the music of artists such as Drake, Beyonce, and Ed Sheeran, who have incorporated elements of Afrobeat into their music, further cementing its place in the global music scene.
African fashion is a mix of different colours, traditions, and ideas. From intricate Maasai jewellery to vibrant prints of West African fabric. The African textiles are not only attires but they carry the stories and even the history of the creators.
Fashion designers are jumping on the bandwagon and have started incorporating African textiles, prints, and accessories in their creations. These creations are surpassing borders that we didn’t even know existed in the first place. It’s also adding a lot of variety and diversity to what we have always known and seen on the global fashion scene
Dance in general has always been of great importance in African communities. I remember when we were little and we would dance for cultural day festivals in school. It shows that dance has a huge part in our tradition.
Its energetic and vibrant movements have found a way into the global scene from the “Shaku Shaku,” the “Gwara Gwara,” and to “Legwork.” African dances are influencing a lot of contemporary dance styles.
Afrobeats has affected the beauty industry, especially the makeup industry. We don’t need to travel to the ends of the earth to find makeup that helps our skin. For decades, companies have told us that they had products for black skin. But we always found that most of these products were for people who were not hyperpigmented.
Make-up brands like Fenty, Epara, and others are now creating makeup products, especially for black skin.
For years, African women across the world put chemicals in their hair to make it straighter than they were supposed to. With the outbreak of Afrobeat music, women are going back to their roots and are not afraid not to show their natural 4C hair.
Businesses, especially African businesses, are focused on creating hair products that cater to our natural hair and help growth. Research is being done to create products that will better help the “Natural hair community.”
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As more artists from different parts of the world continue to collaborate with African musicians, it is evident that Afrobeats will continue to break barriers and dominate the charts. In summary, the explosion of Afrobeat music is not just a passing trend but rather a cultural phenomenon that has come to stay and will continue to play a significant role in shaping the future of music.
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Edited by Priscilla Ajayi.