Afrobeats has only become ubiquitous worldwide in the last 5-10 years but many are not aware that it was actually pioneered by the late, great Fela Kuti. The incredibly talented, singer, multi-instrumentalist, innovator and political activist, not only introduced Afrobeat to Nigeria and West Africa, but he still influences musicians from all genres, all over the world.
Afrobeats has put West Africa, and in particular, Nigeria and Ghana, on the world map. For the past five or six years, the Afrobeats genre has quickly unleashed itself to the world and has made itself a force to be reckoned with. Most especially in the UK, with hits like ‘Oliver Twist’ by Nigerian artist D’banj, and ‘Million Pound Girl (Badder than bad)’ by Ghanaian-British artist Fuse ODG. Both of these songs entered the UK charts in the top five in 2012 and opened the doors for a wave of talented Afrobeats superstars.
The popularity of Afrobeats is proven by the fact that you’re bound to hear at least one Afrobeats song at any party, gathering, or event. Afrobeats nightclubs are now mainstays within the UK’s nightlife, with clubs opening in most major cities.
The 21st-century Afrobeats genre has seen the establishment of musicians and producers like Kiss Daniel, Tiwa Savage, Davido, Sarz, Don Jazzy and so many more.
They have all attained global stardom by creating hypnotic, trance-inducing, bold and rhythmic harmonies. Their music is hard to miss yet easy to listen to, producing a feel-good factor whenever heard.
Artists like Burna Boy and Tekno have managed to include strong messages in their music, relating to politics, economy, and the general state of Africa.
Fela Kuti was well known for using his music as a tool to speak freely about the state of Nigeria and mostly the government’s corruption and lack of progression.
“He [Fela Kuti] produced about 50 albums of politically conscious music that enraged the Nigerian government and defended universal struggles of the working class, earning himself comparisons to Bob Marley.” LA Times
“Fela’s life deserves to be global. He deserves for everyone to understand Nigeria and the political climate, what was happening in his mind and what his struggles were.” Femi Kuti
“Afrobeat is more than just music, it’s a movement. It’s about politics, economics – all of that, in musical form,” said Seun Kuti, son of Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti
The explosion of Afrobeats has forced the world to stop and pay attention and it is doing just that.
The genre has, in recent years made waves on the international scene, influencing RnB and Hip hop music artists like Drake, who has collaborated with Nigerian Afrobeats superstar Wizkid on multiple occasions. One of their songs ‘One Dance’ went platinum in 10 countries and was a historical success. Wizkid has also worked with UK artists Skepta and Tinie Tempah. Whilst renowned Afrobeats producer, Don Jazzy, has worked with Beyoncé, Jay Z, Kanye West, and Ne-Yo, and co-produced ‘Lift Off’ and ‘Push Back’.
The current Afrobeats movement doesn’t just stop with the music itself, it’s also taken over the global dance scene with the creation of popular dances like Azonto, Shoki and more recently Shaku-Shaku. Dancers, musicians, and celebrities like Chris Brown and Ciara have been known to include these West African originated dances in their routines.
The new Afrobeats movement still has its roots firmly set in West Africa with a mixture of highlife and juju, but with the introduction of new influences like hip-hop, dance, and funky house, the genre has taken on a more contemporary, fresh, and energetic feel that’s making it a staple across the globe.
Now an international music genre, Afrobeats has not lost its authentic West African sound and feel good vibe. The phenomenon is taking over the music industry and influencing pop culture, whilst introducing West African culture to the world.
Long may it last!