|Cultural origins||1960s Ghana 1970s Nigeria|
Afrobeat is a West African music genre which involves the combining elements of West African musical styles such as highlife, fuji music with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion.
Afrobeat begun in [Ghana] in the early 1920s. During that time, Ghanaian musicians incorporated foreign influences like the foxtrot and calypso with Ghanaian rhythms like osibisaba (Fante). Highlife was associated with the local African aristocracy during the colonial period, and was played by numerous bands including the Jazz Kings, Cape Coast Sugar Babies, and Accra Orchestra along the county's coast.[Nigeria] later joined the Afrobeat wave in the late 60s by Fela Kuti who experimented with different contemporary music of the time. Upon arriving in Nigeria, Kuti also changed the name of his group to Africa '70. The band maintained a five-year residency in the Afrika Shrine from 1970 to 1975 while afrobeat thrived among Nigerian youth.
Prevalent in his and Lagbaja's music are native Nigerian harmonies and rhythms, taking different elements and combining, modernizing, and improvising upon them. Politics are essential to Afrobeat, since founder Kuti used social criticism to pave the way for social change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1970s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination. As the genre spread throughout the African continent many bands took up the style. The recordings of these bands and their songs were rarely heard or exported outside the originating countries but many can now be found on compilation albums and CDs from specialist record shops.
Big band (15 to 30 pieces: Fela-era afrobeat) and energetic performances
- Lead vocals (may play sax/key solos as well)
- Chorus vocals (may include horn players)
- Rhythm guitar(s) (plays funk strumming pattern)
- Tenor guitar (plays a finger-picked ostinato groove)
- Bass guitar
- Drum set, generally in the form polyrhythmic percussion
- Rhythm conga #1
- Rhythm conga #2
- Solo (lead) conga
- Akuba: a set of 3 small stick-hit Yoruba congas (play flourishes/solos, and ostinatos). Also mistakenly called "gbedu" (gbedu is the name of a large ceremonial drum), but are related to the Gbedu.
Many jazz musicians have been attracted to Afrobeat. From Roy Ayers in the 1970s to Randy Weston in the 1990s, there have been collaborations that have resulted in albums such as Africa: Centre of the World by Roy Ayers, released on the Polydore label in 1981. In 1994 Branford Marsalis, the American jazz saxophonist, included samples of Fela's "Beast of No Nation" on his Buckshot LeFonque album. The new generation of DJs and musicians of the 2000s who have fallen in love with both Kuti's material and other rare releases have made compilations and remixes of these recordings, thus re-introducing the genre to new generations of listeners and fans of afropop and groove (see Afrobeats section below).
Afrobeat has also profoundly influenced important contemporary producers and musicians like Brian Eno and David Byrne, who credit Fela Kuti as an essential influence. Both worked on Talking Heads' highly acclaimed 1980 album Remain In Light, which brought polyrhythmic afrobeat influences to Western music.
The horn section of Antibalas have been guest musicians on TV On The Radio's highly acclaimed 2008 album Dear Science, as well as on British band Foals' 2008 album, Antidotes. Some Afrobeat influence can also be found in the music of Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon.
Notable pioneers of afrobeat
From early in the 21st century, a new type of sound, originating in Nigeria, has become increasingly prominent in African popular music.This name echoes Afrobeat, the 1970s fusion of jazz and traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian music which is an important influence, but Afrobeats is a largely different style.
Afrobeats is most identifiable by its signature driving drum beat rhythms, whether electronic or instrumental. These beats harken to the stylings of a variety of traditional African drumbeats across West Africa as well as the precursory genre of Afrobeat. The beat in Afrobeats music 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 are of greater importance than the lyrics and almost always more central than the other instrumentals. Another distinction within Afrobeats is the notably west African, specifically Nigerian or Ghanaian, accented English that is often blended with local slangs, pidgin English, as well as local Nigerian or Ghanaian languages depending on the backgrounds of the performers.
DJs and producers like DJ Black, Elom Adablah, and C-Real (Cyril-Alex Gockel) for example, have been a crucial part in spreading the popularity of this form of music. Their artistic mixing of beats and sounds allow a younger audience to experience a sound that is somewhat familiar in its influences and yet uniquely African. Their mixing and promotion of popular hits on the continent is also a tried and true method for success. Often what the play in clubs, radio shows, podcasts, etc. are what become popularized both within Africa and abroad.
Since 2012, Afrobeats have gained mainstream recognition outside of Africa, especially within the UK. UK hits have included "Oliver Twist" by D'banj a Nigerian which reached 9 on the UK Singles Chart in 2012, and "Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad)" by the Ghanaian British artist Fuse ODG, which reached 5 on the UK Singles Chart in 2014. Afrobeats nightclubs are now primary features of UK's nightlife with clubs opening in most major cities.
According to David Drake, the eclectic genre "reimagines diasporic influences and—more often than not—completely reinvents them." However, some caution against equating Afrobeats to contemporary pan-African music, in order to prevent the erasure of local musical contributions.
"We are moving towards an African majority which is diverse both in its cultural habits and in its relationship to colonial and postcolonial governance, so the shift away from Caribbean dominance needs to be placed in that setting. Most of the grime folks are African kids, either the children of migrants or migrants themselves. It's not clear what Africa might mean to them"
Many first and second generation African immigrants follow - and produce - Afrobeats music. Fuse ODG, a UK artist of Ghanaian descent, coins #TINA or This is New Africa as a means to change perceptions of Africa:
"This movement will shed light on Africa in a positive way and focus on how we can improve Africa. It’s not about just plying your talents in the Western world; it’s about going back home and helping Africa."
Notable Afrobeats musicians
Notable musicians whose music have been classified as Afrobeats:
- Grass, Randall F. "Fela AnikulaThe Art of an Afrobeat Rebel". The Drama Review: TDR. MIT Press. 30: 131–148. doi:10.2307/1145717. JSTOR 1145717.
- David McDavitt (21 April 2006). ""Lead Congas" in Afrobeat". The Afrofunk Music Forum. Retrieved 2010-01-30.
- Michael E. Veal (2000). Fela: the life & times of an African musical icon. Temple University Press. p. 3. ISBN 1-56639-765-0.
- Hancox, D. (2012). The Rise of Afrobeats. The Guardian.
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- Houghton, Eddie "Stats" (2018). "How Dancehall-Inflected Is Drake's Album More Life, Really?". The Fader. Retrieved 2018-02-04.
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- "At the crossroads of BET, Afrobeats, and #BlackLivesMatter". Africa is a Country. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
- Dan Hancox, "The rise of Afrobeats", The Guardian, 19 January 2012.
- Dan Hancox (19 January 2015). "The rise of Afrobeats". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
- Kenner, Rob (13 February 2017). "Introducing Mr Eazi, the OVO and Wizkid Favorite Bringing Afrobeats to the Masses". Complex. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
- Robin Scher (6 August 2015). "Afrobeat(s): The Difference a Letter Makes". Huffington Post. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
- Olusegun-Joseph, Y. (2014). Transethnic allegory: The Yoruba world, hip hop and the rhetoric of generational difference. Third Text, 28(6), 517-528.
- Hazelann Williams (9 April 2012). "Quick Chat With... Afrikan Boy". Young Voices. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
- Lakin Starling. "10 Ghanaian Afrobeats Artists You Need To Know". The Fader. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
- Ofulue, C. I. (2016). Language of Politics and Identity: A Sociolinguistic Study of Linguistic Practices in Nigerian Political Campaign Advertising Discourse on Social Media. Ihafa: A Journal of African Studies, 8(2), 229-261.