Last Updated on Aug 26, 2022 | 23:52 by Tyler
It was all a DREAM; Afrobeats officially started in 1999 and has grown into a 21st-century genre on the Billboard charts, Hip-hop charts, and radio lineups all over the world. A lot had happened for the movement to have come this far, it’s the force of the African spirit calling from the sprout of a legendary king; Fela Kuti. The legend pioneered a sound that has birthed another generation of urban creators; who are commanding respect for the art they make. The pieces are still getting put in place and the players are writing the story with the words that they paint; these beautiful records we hear every day. It’s been a long walk to fame and right now, the spotlight is on Afrobeats.
The coordinating line between all African sounds is knitted in culture, spirituality, and lifestyle. At the core, we can trace the root of a lot of western music back to Africa, because percussion is the mother of sounds, it’s rare, not to find percussion in music everywhere, and This is because “Percussions” are the most basic sound bytes in a song, and the most basic instruments can make that sound, whether you are drumming on a kitchen table or knocking on a door, or tapping your foot on the floor, etc, percussion is the line that gives African music that earthy sound of the motherland.
The world could not find a common base to place all the many sounds coming from all over Africa, so they imported African Music but didn’t see it fit to find a spotlight for African artists on prestigious platforms like the Grammy, Take, for example, Nigeria has a lot of mainstream sounds, Sounds like Fuji, Juju, High-Life, Apala, etc. Just to name a few.
The diversity made it difficult for the continent to break down some doors in the international music market. Africans who had Grammys or other prestigious awards were signed abroad, people like Sade Adu, Seal, Lighthouse, etc were Europeans, and when Africans were later recognized on these platforms, there wasn’t a direct relationship between the songs, the nominees, or the country they come from, so when the Grammy started honoring African artiste with the award, they had all African artiste under one category. This wasn’t right because the different countries did a different kind of music and they have different styles, and sounds too. It wasn’t until recently that the problem got fixed and the genre “Afrobeats” was introduced to the world.
The fastest growing genre in the world right now is Afrobeats; a new sound from Nigeria that has become an umbrella under which other sub-genres are categorized, influencing the world all over. Ladies & gentlemen, I will like to welcome you to the backstory of Africa’s number one genre right now “Afrobeats!”
Let me make this clear; Afrobeat is not the same as Afrobeats; although Afrobeat is the parent of Afrobeats, the former (a combination of African Music, Funk, and Jazz) was created and is peculiar to Fela. On the other hand, Afrobeats (a combination of Afrobeat, African Music, Hip-hop, Jazz, and Pop) is a wide range of different sub-genres fused into a general genre.
Fela Anikulapo Kuti is the Father of Afrobeat and his influence is very significant to the genre, because of what he represents. Fela represents freedom, prosperity, Africanism, and power to the black man. It is this foundation that Afrobeats sound thrives on until this day.
The ground base for classifying a song as Afrobeats is the uniformity of its sound. Afrobeats corporates a heavy African percussion that has a deep spiritual relationship with every Afro song. As the music got better, and as years went by, the curves of the different sub-genres, which went as far as Afro-highlife in Ghana became smaller at the top. The sound kept blending in and migrating and a lot of artists fell out circa 2010 when Wizkid became a household name. The curve became even smaller and the sound became more unified, and now, with Burna Boy winning a Grammy, it has gone global.
The turn of a century changed the world, at the start of the new millennium in 1999 when a new set of artists emerged in Nigeria. These guys began using American hip-hop instruments to create ingenious sounds, and mind you at this time, other Nigerian genres such as Fuji and Highlife were blowing up rapidly as this new revolution began.
Trybes-men, Plantashun Boiz, The Remedies, Idris Adulkareem, Labaja, and some others started interpreting indigenous sounds and lyrics into hip-hop beats. This gave rise to a new kind of sound that was embraced by Nigerians and other African countries. The opportunity gave other artists a chance to experiment with their indigenous sound in hip-hop and it worked. The concept of using other hip-hop beats was outgrown by producers making their sounds, which brought about the likes of OGB Jezreel, Don Jazzy, and to mention a few. They kept perfecting their sounds and it kept growing.
There was another group of artists in the UK at that time with the likes of JJC and Weird MC and a lot of other guys, who came into the game.
The First Generation Of The AfroBeats Class
The first part of Afrobeats was from around 1996 to 1999, with the likes of Shina Peter rapping on the “Experience” album and Junior Pretty, making records about women they loved. This kept rising until 1999 when Daddy Showkey and Baba Fryo became Nigeria’s Big boys with indigenous swag and sound. Then, in the 2000s, there was the rise of Eldee and the Trybesmen; Plantashun Boiz, Remedy, Ruggedman, Mode 9, Azadus, Jazzman, Marvellous Benji, Cush, Danfo Driver, and many more took over the game.
Second Generation Of The Afrobeats Class
As time progressed on, there was a shift, and the second part began with 2face, D’banj, Weird MC, P-square, 9ice, Timaya, Styl-Plus, African China; Wande Coal; Banky W; JJC and so much more.
2face was and is very instrumental to the rise of the genre and as a pioneer of Afrobeats and one of the biggest to do it, it was he who brought limelight to the genre more. His rise and partnership with Kennis Music brought Nigeria to the world, and that opened the door for more artists to come into the game, giving the rolling drum to the likes of Styl-Plus doing Afro-R&B, D’Banj doing Afro-Pop, Ruggedman doing Afro-Rap, Danfo Drivers doing dancehall, Mode9 doing Rap, P-square doing Afro-Pop and so on. It was a melting pot of these different artists and sounds.
And also, this era brought in big record labels, and the video became more colorful and better. The sound also became better, as new producers like Don Jazzy, Sarz, ID Cabasa, Masterkraft, Cobhams, and many more joined in.
Music producers are theatre architects of the music, they design and shape the skeleton of the songs, they direct the artiste when needed, and they are the backbone of any genre that is, as a fact, it was, the rise of producers in Nigeria that led to the explosion of the “Afrobeats” genre.
Nigerian artists use to get Hip-hop instrumentals from Dj’s back in the early rise of Afrobeats, they will rhyme on American-Hop & Rap songs instrumentals; using the indigenous language but not too long after a new group of producers sprung up to change the game, they experimented with different styles and sounds. The Afrobeat sound has been growing progressively ever since; and now that it’s getting recognition.
The possibility of making the product better and more diverse is viable at this pace. And artists are stepping up the challenge by working with other artists outside Africa which has influenced the sound lately. Artists like Burna Boy sampled Toni Braxton on his latest single “Last, Last” (off the “Love, Damini” album) and which is doing incredibly good; Chopstix who is the producer of the song; is a new generation producer who is making a change alongside some other dope producers (Kel P, Type A, London, Pheelz, etc).
In the early 2000s, OJB Jezreel (rest in peace) was the key producer that brought Afrobeats sound, a step further, He was the guy who merged hip-hop and the other Nigerian sounds into a blend, making it a more profound and identifiable product for the market. OJB Jezreel worked on 2Face’s first album (Face2Face) and there are probably no mainstream artists from that era who weren’t on his beat.
If OJB didn’t pass away, he would be Nigeria Dr. Dre now. His influence was picked up by Don Jazzy, Don Jazzy was a member of the UK JJC and 419 squads, alongside D’banj. He came with that London musical mind and added his touch to the music, which changed the paradigm and there was a shift, this brought more other producers into full force. Sarz on the beat also took the bar higher, as well as others such as ID Cabasa, TeeY Mix, Jesse Jagz, Terry G, Masterkraft, etc. The sound had grown faster than the music, it was the sound that brought a direction to what we have here today.
Nothing more than the trend can make a Nigerian artiste peak on radio charts, but there were some other fearless acts, who went on adding a new and different type of rhythm to the sound. Acts like Asa, Dare Art Alade, Brymo, Timaya, and Timi Dakolo, brought contemporary modern texture into the composition of their records, and all this helped to shape the very sound we hear today.
Much hasn’t been said about Ghana, as their contemporary sound of Afro and Highlife made cross travel into Nigeria Afrobeats and dancehall. The marriage between the two genres, had a tremendous impact on the Afrobeats genre today. Artists like Tony Tetula, VIP, 2face, R2bees, Wizkid, and Shatta Wale have collaborated or have collaborated with other artists from that region.
The present blend of “Amapiano” into the Afrobeats genre brought more exposure to the sounds and this is bringing Africans all over the world together because the music category gives more meaning to the songs.
The Third Generation Of The Afrobeats Class
The third part started in 2009 when M.I revolutionized the game with his Mr. Incredible album. This album is vital because it was the album that showed up in a time when quality was what the music genre needed to transcend into a higher realm, and the next year (after M.I album) in 2010, Wizkid, who was also on the album came out under Banky W mentorship and changed the trajectory of the sound and ever since then, the true state and beauty of the Afrobeats sound became more viable and acceptable to the world.
On the list of the third class, we have contemporary artists like M I, Asa, Wizkid, Ice Prince, Olamide, Burna Boy, Davido, Brymo, Patoranking, Tiwa Savage; and more.. who are not only popular but very important to the development of the Afrobeats genre. Many of the artists on this list are still very much active today and are doing such tremendous work in the Afrobeats genre. Burna Boy, Asa, Wizkid, and Davido to mention a few are changing the culture of the genre and adding their spices and touches to music everywhere on earth right now.
Burna Boy shut down the 02 Arena in London and Madison Garden in New York sometime this year (2022). So did Wizkid and Davido (they both had sold-out shows in London). These artistes are headlining festivals, appearing on international televisions and platforms, and getting their flowers and recognition for their work.
BURNA BOY is on top of the echelons at this moment, and the likes of Wizkid and Davido, who are not only competitors but following in similar steps are getting more international followings and fans. The trajectory of the game is heading up higher, even better than it has ever been in the last decade.
This class broke the market and brought more foreign presence (by working with other artists outside Nigeria and Africa). This became a pedestal; that many are still pushing towards the massive acceptance of the genre all over the world. One can’t deny the doors these artists have opened in recent times, and this has helped to usher in a new generation of new talents and sub-genres in Africa and the world.
Future Generations Of Afrobeats Class
Many of the older generations are still making good music and very much passing the touch to a new set of emerging acts. But there is much more for Afrobeats in the future as new sounds like the “Amapaino” is being added to the genre; and new artists like Buju, Rema, Fireboy DML, Joeboy, Bella Shmurda, Omah Lay, Ayra Starr, Zinoleezky, Ruger, Zlatan, and the rest are now making waves, even taking the bar higher.
Afrobeats is now a movement. UK Radios; US Radios, all over the world, play Afrobeats all day, making it a movement in many places. It’s quite a norm to find a white man or woman riding a train in London or London listening to the latest Afrobeats song. It’s a transcending phenomenon; slowly taking over.
It’s a movement of a cultural state of mind that makes African and Africans, and the line that holds this together is the fact that Africans are proud people who like to have fun, and being the most urban, African genre has afro rhythm these days, thus the reason most sounds from Africa go by Afrobeats nowadays.
The culture of Afrobeats is about fun, dance, and African lifestyle; all embodied in the African Heritage. The spiritual theme of Conga; Timbrels; Tom Tom; Drums; and percussion instruments are symbolism and medium for communicating emotions; spoken words and information. Africans like to dance, it’s easier to see Africans dancing than a kiss in public. the share of energy between our body and the world around us is as old as man; Africans are still running with the conduct of rhythm and life.
To understand Afrobeats, you have to understand the connection between the black man and the oldest form of art; music. Music to the African man is personal; he has to identify with his sound because it tells a story of his past and ancestry, and opens his heart to demanding attention for his taste in music and style. when you get to understand that Afrobeats is composed of the different tiers that influence the people and culture(that’s the social; spiritual and cultural state of the people). The music is a true representation of the people.
Praise Singing is an art in Africa Music and culture because it’s the way musicians in early African history are employed. You are hired to sing the praises of people and shout them out on the streets or at parties for a fee. This art of singing praise is one of the components of Afrobeats.
Dancing is another component of Afrobeats, it’s embedded in the culture’s spiritual and social life of the people. The concept of the Afrobeats sound is deep and euphoric, creating a commission of Jazz; Funk; African Music; Hip-hop, and fusion.
This climb has been through a lot of steady growth, and the wave of talents in Nigeria and other parts of the world is ridiculous, The melody, the rhythm, the synergy and energy of the production, and the quality of sound, fused in a blend of African music and diaspora elements, make Afrobeats a necessary force in the international music market. Milestones are being set every day; as Afrobeats artists are inking international deals; living luxurious lifestyles; touring the world, and making chart-popping music. It’s a bigger picture for the future as the world becomes more global and technology rises high with the craze of social media; there is a window that somewhere along the line; the genre might be number one in the whole wide world!!
Where Afrobeats Is Today
The business of music is getting bigger by the day, and more and more people from other parts of the world are accepting the genre. Burna Boy’s Grammy win is a big part of the progress made, and with such a huge impact, and much more creativity, Afrobeats will soon become as big as Hip-hop, but it will take a lot of effort, for it will take only artistes who can bring depth into the music to create a glorious and flourishing pathway. A pathway of authenticity; creativity; art and lifestyle, the exceptional traits of Africans have to be portrayed in a more applicable way so other cultures and races can understand and relate to them.
Afrobeats is exported outside the shores of Africa and recently is bringing investors to these countries. Record labels like Sony, Def Jam, Atlantic, Warner, and Roc Nations are coming to scout for artistes in Africa. This has opened more doors for music artists on the continent.
Technology and Infrastructure used to be a challenge for the music business in Africa but in recent years, the growth of the Afrobeats genre has helped the rapid growth of these areas. Artists now have world-class videos, world-class audio wear, and the stage performances are always entertaining, the venues are getting better, the fans are getting bigger, the music is making waves, radios and televisions across the world, air Afrobeats 24/7 alongside other contemporary songs.
Although there is a lot more needed to make the performance and shows great, as the technology and fracture need to be upgraded. Because the artists are taking their shows to The United States, Asai and the United Kingdom for lack of capacity and facilities. Burna Boy sold out Madison Square stadium in New York and all that revenue was made by the American Government, someday it will be great for shows as big as that to be held in Africa (Nigeria to be precise).
Afrobeats is mostly sung in an African dialect, English, and chants. Its underlying rhythmic pulse is spiritual and as the music flows, you want to flow with it, making a lot of people dance and sing along with every line in a song. And Afrobeats is getting more popular and better by the day, the music is enjoyed everywhere and has probably come to stay.
Written by Olalekan Remilekun
Olalekan Remilekun has been studying HipHop for over 20 years; and building his brand as an entrepreneur, Rapper, Blogger and Writer, you can follow him on twitter and other social media platform.