The Afrobeat music scene has always been vibrant and creative and over the last 10-15 years we have seen a surge of afrobeat music popularity in the West. This music genre involves the combination of West African musical styles like fuji and highlife with a bit of funk and jazz influences, focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms and percussion.
Distinct from afrobeat is afrobeat’s– a sound originating in West Africa in the 21st century, that takes in diverse influences and is an eclectic combination of genres such as British house music, hipline, hip hop, dancehall, Jùjú music, highlife, Naija beats, Azonto, and Palm wine music. The two genres, though often conflated, are not the same.
The term was coined in the 1960s by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti who is responsible for pioneering and popularizing the style both within and outside Nigeria. You can’t talk about afrobeat without the name of legend Fela Kuti being brought up. Fela’s music was popular among the Nigerian public and Africans in general. He made the decision to sing in Pidgin English so that his music could be enjoyed by individuals all over Africa, where the local languages spoken are very diverse.
Sometime in the mid 2000’s, MTV Base Africa was launched and gave a large platform to spread their music. Arguably it can be said that it was not until “Oliver Twist” was released by D’banj in the summer of 2011 that afrobeat’s was given international success. It made the top 10 on the UK singles chart in 2012 making it the first afrobeat song on the list.
Ghanaian British artist Fuse ODG helped popularise afrobeat’s in the UK. In 2012, he saw his first success with the song “Antenna” which peaked at number 7 on UK charts. He followed that up with Azonto which further helped popularise afrobeat’s and the dance in the UK. Viral dances played an instrumental role in popularising afrobeat’s as songs became viral and known for their dances, songs like Kukere by Iyanya and Skelewu by Davido were known through the poplar dances.
Afrobeats is now something that is well known all over the world, with artists like Angelique Kido, Femi Kuti, Ebo Taylor, MonoMono and the newer and younger artists such as Sarkodie, Mr Eazi, D’banj, Burna Boy and much more using their platform to music to as many countries possible.