“It represents Africa and the party life style of Africa. Like what hiphop is to America” – this comment is what some people sum up the new wave of Afrobeats to be.
Afrobeat is a combination of traditional Yoruba music, jazz, highlife, funk and chanted vocals, fused with percussion and vocal styles which was popularized in the 70’s by vintage Afrobeat player Fela Kuti who’s sound was more instrumental – now the Afrobeats sound is different, it’s intertwined with things like pop, hip hop and funky house.
Its crossover appeal has been thoroughly explored these past few years and while afrobeat from the 70/80’s has received much coverage here in the UK, it has been treated like a dead, dormant relic, whereas in reality it has been growing whilst integrating the influence of Hip-hop/Reggae/Pop etc.
Afrobeats are on the rise, and it can’t come soon enough. What’s more surprising is how long it’s taken to be noticed. Over the last 3 weeks, choice and 1xtra have been gracing the UK radio waves with a wide range of Afrobeat tunes and it seems many have now started to take notice.
In a recent radio documentary, BBC radio 1Xtra’s DJ Edu explains all about Afrobeats, the fast emerging African music genre. Featuring leading Afrobeats artists including D’Banj – Nigerian superstar signed to Kanye West’s label, Sarkodie – Ghana’s fastest rapper and Black Coffee – the South African House Music legend, plus personal insights from Donae’O, Sean Paul, Estelle and Tinchy Stryder.
Also words from British-Ghanaian hip-hop Sway, who has been rapping over Ghanaian beats and collaborating with Accra’s finest for almost a decade, “When you’ve got African swag and African traditions combined with up-to-date western styles, and singing in English, well – you’ve got a winning formula on your hands”.
Over the last eighteen months there has been an Afrobeats explosion in nightclubs and it is also making its way onto our airwaves. What was once a relatively private affair confined to West African weddings seems to have escaped and leaked into the mainstream. Afrobeats has close relationships with already familiar urban music genres. The UK Funky House scene planted the rhythmic seeds for the exuberant and infectious Afrobeats tribal motifs. It is as if artists like Donae’O and Gracious K were laying down the welcome mat for their older brothers from overseas.
The lyrical foundation of dialect and ethnic slang in reggae and dancehall also assisted Afrobeats’ former stumbling block – Pidgin and broken English, as well as its many, many individual languages. There is a wider Afro-Cool cultural movement that covers fashion, film and the arts. Africa has benefited from the heavy investment from China and India and its burgeoning telecommunications industry – Africa has more mobile phone subscribers than Europe (let’s not be surprised).
The effect of a more affluent African continent reflects on Africans closer to home. There has been a rise in African pride and identity – supported by high profile music role models: Tinie Tempah, Dizzee Rascal, Tinchy Stryder, Taio Cruz, Sway, Estelle, Lethal B…the list could continue. Peer successes are influential and dancing to their heritage music is how young British African celebrate their significance.
The Rise and Rise of Afrobeats ties all these strands together in a fun, fast feature that will keep your feet tapping until the very last beat!
2011 will probably be remembered as the year that afrobeat finally broke out of it’s ‘box’ and hit mainstream audiences in it’s rawest form and this can only be a good thing.
This is a MUST listen! Hear where Afrobeat is now and where it will be going.
Click on the below links to hear these FAB shows.
DJ Edu – Destination Africa
BBC Radio 1Xtra’s stories: The Rise of Afrobeats
Let us know what Afrobeats mean to you!by