In This Article, Am going to give you a straight to the point education about Afrobeat music’s roots and influences from a true African’s perspective who’s also a music creator
Afrobeat has grown in leaps and bounds in recent times in the international music community with a lot of buzz around african singers like wizkid and davido and a renewed intrest in the legendary music of it’s originator Fela Kuti but there’s also a lot of gabs of information about the genre of the music
Although there are a few articles about afrobeat online, almost none of them give a comprehensive look at it in details and explore it’s evolution especially in Nigeria where most of it’s growth has happened which is what exactly what this article is going to do
What is Afrobeat
Wikipedia defines afrobeat Like this
“Afrobeat is a music genre which involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles such as fuji music and highlife with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion.”
This Definition is accurate but it’s not one any Nigerian or west African would generally use. ask any Nigerian what afrobeat is and they will tell you It’s a Genre of Music created and made legendary by fela kuti. In other words, Afrobeat=Fela Kuti period.
Am always surprised when I see singers Like wizkid, davido and other African artistes categorized as afrobeat musicians by people in the USA and UK because the style of music they do bears almost no resemblance to afrobeat as created by fela kuti and that’s why you wouldn’t find any true Nigerian associate afrobeat with modern day African music
What Today’s ” Afrobeat” artiste actually do is either afro pop or Afro hip hop with a stronger influence from highlife music (and almost no jazz and funk influences) most of the times but for ease of Understanding, Am going to use the Term Afrobeat in the broad Sense to mean music from legendary and modern day artistes from Nigeria and Ghana
Lagos, The City of Afrobeats
Most of the musical growth and evolution of afrobeat has happened in Lagos which was one time the Capital of Nigeria
contrary to popular belief by people who are not Africans, yoruba is not the only ethnic group in Nigeria.
There are as many as 250 different ethic groups across a population of 198 million people.
The most populous and politically influential groups are: Hausa and Fulani 29% (occupying all of the Northern part of the country), Yoruba 21% (found in The west), Igbo (Ibo) 18% (located in the east), Ijaw 10%, Kanuri4%, Ibibio 3.5% (all 3 found in the south), Tiv 2.5% (located in the middle belt where am from).
Lagos, Located in the west of Nigeria is indigenous to the yoruba speaking people of the country and almost all the key influences have all been Artiste who are from the yoruba speaking states of Nigeria
This Mostly because Lagos is Nigeria’s major state of commerce with a population of 18 million which has attracted other Nigerians to it in search of better opportunities
The Origin of Afrobeat
The Word Afrobeat and it’s Rich sound was crafted by the Late Fela Kuti (singer-songwriter and multi instruments) with a lot of contribution from his key drummer Tony Allen (also a Nigerian who is Still Alive) and Expressed through his Band That evolved with Him over His active years
you can check out a more detailed count about his Life and music HERE from Wikipedia .I am Just Highlight a few things Here
He studied Music at the Trinity College of Music In London (against his parents wish who sent him to overseas to study medicine) and fused his new knowledge of Jazz and Funk with African highlife music which developed into a very distinct sound between the 60ies and early 70ies
Fela’s Afrobeat sound definitely made him outstanding but what gave him the legendary status today (in My Opinion) was his political activism and how he used his music to challenge the military corruption in the country which cost him his Studio and equipment,the life of his mother (who was thrown to the ground from her apartment upstairs of building) and Ultimately his life in 1997
He’s Still Remembered today and celebrated with an annual Afrobeat Music festival called Felaburation (click HERE To learn more about it) all across the world
Femi And Seun Kuti
Femi and seun kuti (children of Fela Kuti) have continued their fathers afrobeat sound in it’s original form till this day with seun kuti (fela’s youngest son) still leading his fathers band Egypt 80′
Femi Kuti has enjoyed massive success with 4 Grammy award nominations in the world music category of the year 2003, 2010, 2012 and 2013 and world wide acceptance especially in London and in the united states
Although He hasn’t really expanded the Afrobeat that much from what his father created, He has definitely contributed to the continued love for afrobeat
LAGBAJA (And His Contributions To Afrobeat)
Lagbaja remains the only Noteable afrobeat artiste who is not a relation to fela kuti yet stayed true to the original afrobeat sound but with more emphasis on Yoruba drums and pop music that is more live than electronic
Lagbaja won a channel O Best male music video award for his song
His Unique Take on afrobeat has influenced modern day singers like adekunle gold and simi who both represent a dying bread of Nigerian Afrobeat Artistes as most Music creators have chosen a different Path way as you will Understand in the Next Section
The Evolution of Old School Afrobeat to Modern Day Afro Pop/Afrobeats
To Understand Why Afrobeat didn’t continue to grow in the pathway created By Fela Kuti,you need a clear picture of all the other musical influences that where present in the country after a democratic government took over the military and after the death of fela kuti
Growing Up in the Middle Belt of Nigeria in the early 1990s, There was No Nigerian Music for young people
Most people of my generation and even Most of our parents were not big fans of music from Nigerian musicians likes of King Sunny Ade who where huge in The 80s and hand International presence large enough to get a Grammy nomination
All we listen too was music from the USA. Older people where more interested in country musicians like dan seal, don williams or christian music by Don moen,Ron Kenoly and the most successful African gospel artist at the time- Panam Percy Paul
Young Teenagers like me where more interested in Micheal Jackson, Craig David, Hip hop artistes like 2pac, dr Dre, Eminem, DMX, 50 cent and anything from overseas we could lay our hands on
There was also a Hugh explosion of Congolese music in Nigeria especial Awilo Longomba’s album-Coupe Bibamba (1998). It broke through every corner of the country.
All these Outside Influences played a role in the modern sound of Afrobeat but The arrival of computer based Music production was the Biggest game changer
Computer Based Music Technology
With the arrival of computers, The Internet and cracked music production softwares like cubase, FL studio and Reason, Studios comercial studios started springing up.
The opportunity to thrill Music fans, friends and family (who where used to Karaoke and miming) with your original composition it provided was a welcomed development
Computer based music production made it easy to create music without using any “analog” equipment which were out of the price point for 98% of Nigerians at the Time
A few Record Labels also showed up at the time. The Most Notable of them was Kennis Music Based in Lagos.
Most artistes at this time Where self sponsored with no viable source of making any money from their Music but would go to great lengths to save up to do a song (that may not even turn out great due to poor production quality)
I remember trekking very long distances to save up money I was given for transportation to and back from school for about 3 months Just to Do My very first song in 2003
Artistes at this Time where either Doing Hip hop or RnB Songs. Almost nobody at the time where interested in Afrocentric music and most of these Nigerian Artiste doing songs where usually not that good but a few stood out and Went Viral
The Standout Artistes of Early Afropop/Afrobeat Music
Between the year 1999 and 2013, Nigerians where thrilled by so many artistes and gradually evolved to what the world Knows as Afrobeat today
Am Going to Try and create a timeline of Hit Songs and great artistes as they came and share with you My impressions about them
Plantashun Boiz were a Nigerian hip hop and R&B music group. It consisted of 2face Idibia, Faze and Blackface.The group was formed during their college years in Enugu, at the Institute Of Management And Technology (I.M.T Enugu)
Their whole album was a Hit. They where all really good singers and their success got the attention of Kennis Music who made the decision to pic only 2 face idibia (now called 2baba)who went on to be the most successful of the 3 who also started their own solo careers after the split
Ruggedman (From The Igbo Speaking People of The Country) was Nigeria’s first Rapper To Blow up.His Song and Music video for Baraje in 1999 was a Very massive Hit. He quickly Became an Idol for a lot of Upcoming Rappers.
Eedris Abdulkareem was The first Nigerian Afro Hip hop Artiste To Have mass acceptance both In Nigeria and a lot of African countries with both young and older people. His Success surpassed all that ruggedman had done and did during his time
His Hit Song Mr. lecturer (part 1, 2 and 3) where very massive Hits
On December 4, 2004, Nigerian rapper Eedris Abdulkareem did the unthinkable- he tried to fight 50 Cent on board a plane.
After performing in 2 out of 4 shows, 50 Cent and his crew were headed to Port Harcourt aboard an ADC flight. On the flight Eedris Abdulkareem tried to sit on a seat reserved for 50 Cent. The Nigerian rapper was stopped by 50 Cent’s bodyguards. Eedris was not having any of that and this led to a brawl in the plane.
As a result of this Incidence, 50 Cent decided not to perform at the remaining two shows and left Nigeria.
Even though this incident was one of the many reasons that led to the decline of Eedris’ career, it was also a catalyst for Nigerian artistes being treated better.
4. 2 Baba
2face idibia Now Known As 2Baba released his first solo album Face 2 Face which sold 2 million copies in Nigeria Alone with It’s Lead Single “African Queen”
2baba is The Nigerian Artiste with the Longest Successful Musical Career (active since 1999 to date) and has Made Hits after Hits
He’s Also the Most notable Afrocentric artiste from the middle belt and northern Nigeria as a whole
Timaya (from The Southern Part of the country)is a Nigerian singer and songwriter. He is the founder of South South hip hop group Dem Mama Soldiers.
His solo career began in 2005 with the release of “Dem Mama”, which also appeared on his debut album
Timaya Introduced a fresh take on what african music should sound like.He’s Music is generally more uptempo, happy and energetic.
His music marked the beginning of a strong shift in what the nigerian audience would prefer to hear from local artistes
werid Mcee is one of Africa’s most popular female rappers,and one of the few Nigerian female artists associated with Afrobeat. There have been other Nigerian female artistes But non as Afrocentric as weird MC
Her 2006 Hit Song ,Ijoya, Did Really well but saddly was her last Notable song.The really Unique sound of this record is one that I see resurfacing sometime in the future.
D Bang brought a new swags to afrobeat similar to what we where used to seeing from international artistes like usher and P.diddy but with an African touch to it
His Unique sound is credited to Nigeria’s Most Remarkable music producer, Don Jazzy,who’s also responsible for a lot of Afrobeats continue growth and success
His most popularly Known for his 2012 Hit single, Oliver Twist but in My Opinion, His most important contribution to the sound of afrobeat was his first Hit song in 2005 tittled tongolo.
The Drum Parttern on this song is very similar to popular rythm heard in modern day afrobeat
He has won several music awards, including the awards for Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2007, Artist of the Year at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2009, Best International Act: Africa at the 2011 BET Awards, and Best-selling African Artist at the 2014 World Music Awards, Evolution award at the 2015 MTV Africa Music award
Olu maintain rose to prominence on May 2007 with the release of the hit song “Yahooze” from his debut studio album, Yahooze (2007)
It was also famous for it’s very catchy dance move which has made Unique dance moves in music videos a very important success factor of modern day Afrobeat songs
The Drums and Singing Style on this song has defined a lot of modern day afrobeat music.
9ice, an Afro hip hop artist, Helped push the Afrocentric sound of afrobeat to the international audience with his Biggest Hit song, Gongo Aso (2008)
Gongo Aso is the first Afrobeat song to Inspire a cover by a none African. His Unique singing style and voice is still unmatched
Terry G, is a Nigerian musician and producer. He is widely known for his eccentric dress-sense, controversial lyrics and awkward identity.He has been described by The Punch as “one of the world’s weirdest singers”, by Vanguard as a “weird singer”, and by Channels TV as the “craziest musician in Nigeria”
He alone is responsible for introducing Meaningless singing to afrobeat and also influencing Nigerian music creators to make their songs more uptempo and club like with Just one song he tittled free madness( released in 2018) which had a part 2 and several covers
The Influence of this one song has lasted for a decade and can still bee seen in some songs today
Olamide,also popularly called Olamide Baddo or BaddoSneh, is a Nigerian hip hop recording artist. He records mostly in Yoruba, his native tongue. On 7 November 2013, he released his third studio album Baddest Guy Ever Liveth. The album’s Major single “Durosoke” in My opinion is his most important contribution to the growth of afrobeat.
The creativity displayed in the video of Durosoke solidified olamide’s enjoyed status today
Olamide is the most street credible artiste in western Nigeria
He has evolved his sound to a more uptempo sound with great success maintaining his preference to sing in his native tongue
Yemi Alade, is a Nigerian Afro pop singer and songwriter. She gained prominence after winning the Peak Talent Show in 2009, and is best known for her hit single “Johnny”(2013)
The song was an international smash hit in many countries including Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Liberia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, The United Kingdom and others
It was the first massive hit song by a female artiste
Phyno, is a Nigerian rapper, singer, songwriter and record producer.He started his musical career as a producer in 2003. He is renowned for rapping in the Igbo language.
His debut studio album, No Guts No Glory, was released in 2014. It produced the singles “Ghost Mode”, “Man of the Year”, “Parcel” and “O Set”
There have been other Igbo rappers before phyno but none of them have represented the rich culture of eastern Nigeria mixed with hip hop like he has
wizkid is Afrobeats most prolific artiste and is one of the top 2 Afrobeat artiste ever.He has had Numerous Hits back to back and has a way of making a song become a hit when he is featured
He rose to prominence in 2010 with the release of the song “Holla at Your Boy” from his debut studio album, Superstar (2011). “Tease Me/Bad Guys”, “Don’t Dull”, “Love My Baby”, “Pakurumo” and “Oluwa Lo Ni” were also released as singles from the Superstar album. Wizkid’s self-titled second studio album, Ayo, was released in September 2014 and was preceded by six singles: “Jaiye Jaiye”, “On Top Your Matter”, “One Question”, “Joy”, “Bombay” and “Show You the Money”
He has too many hit songs to pick from as his major contribution to afrobeat because most of the afrobeat artistes have always looked to him to define what their music should sound an Dress like
My favourite wizkid will always be Ojuelegba which also got drake featured on one of the versions of it
Davido, is a Nigerian singer, songwriter and record producer. His 2011 single “Dami Duro” was well-received throughout Nigeria
He is often compared with Wizkid and most people can’t make up their minds which of them should be crowned the biggest Afrobeat artist.
To Me, He’s Just as Big and Unique in his own way But he’s not as prolific as wizkid.His 2 Most Influential Songs to the Sound of afrobeat are Aye and Skelewu
He won the BET 2018 AWARD for Best International act
Afrobeat has come a long way and is getting bigger in the international space. I Recommend artistes take advantage of it’s very unique sound to standout
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