|Cultural origins||1970s, Nigeria , 1960s Ghana|
Afrobeat is a music style which developed in the 1970s out of a combination of West African musical styles, such as highlife and yoruba, with American funk and jazz, with a focus on chanted vocals and percussion. It was created by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti who popularised the style both within and outside Nigeria.
Afrobeat, which is currently seen as the most popular form of music in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and other parts of Africa and the world, was partially borne out of an attempt to distinguish Kuti's music from the "soul music" of American artists such as James Brown. Afrobeat features chants, call-and-response vocals, and complex, interacting rhythms.
The new sound hailed from a club that he established called the Afrika Shrine. 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. Afrobeat is now one of the most recognizable music genres in the world and has influenced as many Western musicians as it has African ones with its exuberant style and polyrhythms.
Afrobeat originated from Fuji, heavy Nigerian drumbeats and highlife. It was later exported to the southern part of Nigeria in the 1970s, Fela Kuti, experimented with many different forms of contemporary music of the time. 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 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. More recently, 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.
Afrobeats (a term also sometimes used to denote popular Nigerian and Ghanaian music, hiplife, or Afropop) is an emerging genre: drawing from broad continental and diasporic sounds. The new genre seeks inspiration from Afrobeat, hiplife, R&B, house music, Jamaican dancehall, as well as various local musics. 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."
In recent years, afrobeat has become more prominent on the international popular music scene. This was notably seen in Drake's 2016 single "One Dance" which featured the Nigerian afrobeat artist Wizkid, and was infused with afrobeat sounds. The single became an international success and one of the best selling of 2016, topping the charts in 15 different countries, including the U.S., the UK and Canada, thereby making it the most successful afrobeat song to date.
Notable afrobeat musicians
- William Onyeabor
- Geraldo Pino
- Fela Kuti
- Femi Kuti
- Em Prince
- Seun Kuti
- Tony Allen
- Yinka Davies
- Manu Dibango
- Dele Sosimi
- Kola Ogunkoya
- Sonny Okosun
- 2face Innocent Idibia
There are several active afrobeat bands worldwide today. Afrobeat today is often mixed with other genres, such as hip hop, makossa, azonto, gospel, skelewu, shoki, shakitibobo. dancehall and galala.
Modern afrobeat bands/artists include:
- Tony Allen, drummer, played in Africa 70 and helped define afrobeat in Fela Kuti's band
- Femi Kuti, Nigerian musician, son of Fela Kuti
- Seun Kuti, Nigerian musician, son of Fela Kuti
- EL (rapper) Ghanaian musician
- Jose Chameleone, Kampala, Uganda
- Olamide Nigeria
- R2Bees, Ghanaian Group
- Adé Bantu, German-Nigerian musician
- Dela, Kenyan musician
- Sauti Sol, Kenyan Group
- Wizkid, Nigerian musician
- Yinka Davies, Nigerian Musician
- Lágbájá, Nigerian musician
- Sarkodie, Ghanaian rapper
- Kokolo, New York City Afrobeat group
- Nomo, Ann Arbor-based group that weaves various styles into a primarily Afrobeat sound
- The Shaolin Afronauts, are an Adelaide-based instrumental afrobeat band. Their music incorporates elements of avant-garde jazz, soul and traditional African and Cuban percussive rhythms.
- Afrodizz, an eight-piece band from Montreal, Quebec, Canada
- Antibalas, Brooklyn, New York-based multiracial Afrobeat Orchestra
- Funsho Ogundipe, Nigerian musician
- Chopteeth, an international 14-piece outfit based in Washington D.C.
- Chicago Afrobeat Project, Based in Chicago Il
- Afrolicious Afrofunk from Sacramento CA
- Dele Sosimi, Nigerian musician and former Fela Kuti and Femi Kuti band member
- Weird MC, Nigerian musician
- May7ven, UK Based, Nigerian musician
- Mr. Something Something, Canadian afrobeat group
- Fuse ODG, a British Ghanaian musician
- Budos Band, based in New York
- Castro de Destroyer, Ghanaian
- Afrikan Boy, London based Nigerian Afrobeat rapper
- Don Jazzy, head of Mavin Music, Producer, Artist.
- Korede Bello, Nigerian, signed to Mavin Records
- Timaya, Nigerian Dancehall Artist
- Reekado Banks, Nigerian, signed to Mavin Records
- Flosha, Nigerian, signed to Korus Records
- Adekunle Gold, Nigerian singer who fuses Afrobeats and Fuji
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- Dan Hancox, "The rise of Afrobeats", The Guardian, 19 January 2012.
- Guide to Nigeria's Afrobeats stars. By DJ Edu, BBC Radio 1Xtra, 29 March 2014.
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- "The (Afro) beat goes on". The Evening Standard.