Afrobeats music genre has taken the globe by stardom and its wave is becoming increasingly irresistible. It has become apparent that a number of international acclaimed artists are flocking to blend their tune into the genre- an idea that was not very popular during the 20th century. The genre has also been a commercial success for most West African artists and its demand on streaming sites is surging.
Most recently, the likes of Drake, Ed Sheeran and Selena Gomez have joined into the wave with features involving Wizkid, Burna Boy and Rema. These are just but a few of the unlikely features we have seen in the recent years-thanks for the ear enticing African vibe. Even the global audience itself, Afrobeats has made an overwhelming breakthrough into environments of diverse race.
For the past three years, the West has seen the rise of Afrobeats in the musical industry. Artists like Burna Boy, Fireboy DML, Wizkid, Davido, and Teni have graced our ears with singles, EPs, and albums, and now they are finally getting global recognition from it. Their success in Europe and America makes many think they’re just starting, but that’s not true. Each and every one of them has been celebrated in African countries for a while, and afrobeat as a genre has been around for decades, but it begs the question, why is it blowing up now?
For those that don’t know, the music genre Afrobeats was created in the 1960s, around the same time Soca, Dancehall, Reggae, and other African-inspired music genres were born, including Rap and RnB. Afrobeats as a genre is said to be created by Fela Kuti, a musician who blended funk from James Brown, traditional West African music, and jazz.
Evolution of music genres
As time has passed on and music genres have evolved, Afrobeats has fused with many Caribbean sounds as well, particularly from Jamaica’s dancehall genre. This is heavily evident in artists like Burna Boy, who sings in several languages and dialects, from Yoruba, English, Nigeria’s pidgin English, and the patois found in the British West Indies, from Grenada to Guyana to Jamaica.
Afrobeats, just like Dancehall, has gained much traction since its inception, not only in black spaces but in non-black ones as well. From America to France, to Greece, people are listening to Afrobeats and encouraging performing artists to visit these countries on their tours. In the African diaspora and the Americas, Afrobeats are played alongside other genres, from Soca and Dancehall to Reggaeton and Bachata.
The image of Africa and the African identity itself has immensely contributed to the success of the Afrobeats music genre. Unlike in the past when the African image was coated with varying degrees of stereotypes, the black pride has tilted the fate of musical exposition of the African heritage. Afrobeats being an African flavor is now on demand and this explains the paradigm shift towards a more tolerant social existence across the universe. This owes in part to the need for new experiences and ethnic cultural synthesis characterised by the modern era.
Always fresh and new
Afrobeats artists mix rap and R'n'B with syncopated dancehall rhythms and local genres such as highlife and jùjú to create sweet, lighthearted songs that make it hard to stand still. This allows music fanatics to yearn for more releases since the genre lacks repetition and with each new release, the sound hits differently. The flexibility of the genre to mix with other up and coping sounds such as Amapiano makes Afrobeats even more inclusive and with a positive future in music production.
Supporting international acts
Internationally acclaimed artists, most of which are Grammy holders have also stepped up to push the sound, making it stylish and enticing. For example, the wider world discovered the sound in 2016 through Canadian superstar Drake's hit single One Dance, which had elements of Afrobeats and featured one of the scene's biggest names, Nigerian artist Wizkid. At the time, One Dance became Spotify's most played song ever, with more than a billion individual streams. Ever since, Afrobeats has been on everybody's lips.
Numerous rap and R'n'B artists, from Snoop Dogg to Chris Brown, have experimented with the sound and collaborated with the likes of Davido, Burna Boy and Mr Eazi. In 2019, Beyoncé predominantly picked Afrobeats artists for her soundtrack album The Lion King: The Gift, saying, "I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa."
The Afrobeats craze started a bit earlier in the UK than elsewhere – Nigerian musician D'Banj's dance track Oliver Twist debuted at number nine on the UK singles chart in 2012. This was the tune that elevated African pop music from the communities into a broader urban space.
As recent as 10 years ago, it was unimaginable that songs in Yoruba would be released by major labels and appear on heavy rotation on mainstream radio stations, or that the biggest artists in Western music would not only sample an African musician's track, but instigate a collaboration to increase their coolness.
The internet has been dubbed as the "ultimate equaliser"for facilitating the genre’s grand entrance. On one hand, social media made it possible to cut out the gatekeepers at traditional radio stations that kept Afrobeats off the air; on the other, internet artists abroad have discovered their similarities. Successful young artists like Drake and Skepta realise that the only difference between them and Burna Boy or Wizkid is their location. They have the same lifestyle and are into the same things. It's only natural they would collaborate.