Edited by: Adedeji Oluwafemi
Wizkid in Concert. Credit: TooXclusive
If you stop any random person on the streets of a European country or in America, you’ll most likely be able to find a handful who have heard about this music genre. Artists like Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, and many others have gradually pushed this sound far across the shores of this country.
This music genre can boast sold-out stadiums, arena tours, and prestigious awards, such as Grammys, and BETs, shared among its top artists. Afrobeats has come a long way, and there are indications that it can reach an even bigger audience.
But how did this genre go from being a ‘local’ Nigerian sound to becoming the global sensation it is today?”
This article will explore the Afrobeats’ historical background, genre pioneers, global recognition, the future of this genre, and much more. Enjoy this deep dive into its organic growth.
Historical background of Afrobeats
You can trace the origin of Afrobeats back to 1970 when the legendary king of music Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician, started the Afrobeat sound. However, Fela’s music is widely known for its political lyrics criticizing the Nigerian government and social injustice.
His music is widely respected since it combines jazz, west African highlife, funk, and soul music for the US. Fela represents power, independence, prosperity, and Africanism through his music which became the basis on which Afrobeats thrives today. It’s no wonder everyone recognizes him as the father of Afrobeats.
In the 1990 and early 2000s, a new wave of music emerged, incorporating traditional African tempo with Western cultures. This new sound becomes the Afrobeats known for its catchy hooks, danceable rhythms, and upbeat tempo.
However, you shouldn’t confuse Afrobeats with Afrobeat. But these two genres are different despite their similar names. Afrobeats is a combination of Afrobeat, R&B, and hip-hop. Therefore it’s not wrong to say Afrobeats is a modernized Afrobeat.
Simply put, Afrobeat (without the “s”) started with Fela Kuti and his unique music style. Afrobeats (with the “s”) fused other music genres while using Afrobeat samples as the background sound and tune.
Another common belief is that Afrobeats originate in Ghana and Nigeria in the early 2000s. However, musically, you must recognize the Kutis effect on new-generation Afrobeats artists.
Various artists produce hip-shaking hits in the Afrobeats genre, so listing all the artists will take a lot of work.
Afrobeats in Africa
The fusion of catchy hooks, danceable rhythms, and upbeat tempo gave African music lovers a new taste in music. This genre created a bridge between African cultural music like Fuji, Juju, Apala, and Local Jazz and Foreign sounds such as hop, Patios, and Reggae.
This new introduction has artists like 2 Face Idibia ( 2 Baba), D’Banj, and P-Square to thank for its growth and spread across Africa. It is essential to add that while some of these artists quickly turned their attention to the international market beyond Africa, some had other ideas.
A worthy mention is Yemi Alade (Mama Africa), who took her music and its influence across different African lands. Her large fan base across the continent is her reward for such forward-thinking.
The likes of Tiwa Savage, Patoranking, Mr. Eazi, Ninola, and many others also traded their crafts across various African lands. This spread and subsequent growth outside Africa invited other music artists to explore and find their roots in Afrobeats. So what happened to Afrobeats during this era of growth?
Afrobeats is a combination of genres allowing it to evolve as it spreads across different parts of Africa. At this point, South African contribution to Afrobeats through Amapiano comes to mind. Tanzanian sensation Diamond Platnumz has also collaborated with various artists, including Davido, to help Afrobeats grow across the continent. With its growth across the lands, it was only a matter of time before Afrobeats replicated the same success beyond the seas.
Afrobeats in International Market
“Oliver Twist” by the great music performer D’Banj was the first Afrobeat song to enter the Official Singles Chart UK Top 10. This entry was the start of international growth for Afrobeats artists.
Wizkid also contributed significantly to Afrobeats’ success. Many other African artists started getting features with different international acts. These led to artists infusing the Afrobeats style into their music.
In 2019, Beyonce released the tracklist of her African-themed album “The Lion King: The Gift.” That album indicated Afrobeats’ influence in the US music industry. The album featured various African stars like Yemi Alade, Mr. Eazi, Wizkid, and Burna Boy.
Now, it is essential to say this about the album. It is not the pioneer of Afrobeats in the international scene. Some have arrogantly attributed the pioneering of Afrobeats to the likes of Beyonce and Drake. But like any other marketer, the simple truth is that they saw a growing market and took full advantage of it.
In the same year, 2019, Burna Boy released a 19-track album titled “African Giant” just a week after Beyonce’s release. This album’s outstanding achievements indicate that African artists have what it takes to champion Afrobeats globally. The album topped different charts in various countries around the world.
In 2020, Afrobeats poster boy, Wizkid, showed the world that the success of 2019 was not a mistake. It was baby steps compared to the achievements of his album “Made In Lagos.” The album had standout tracks like Essence featuring another African artiste, Tems, and “Blessed,” featuring the Reggae star Damian Marley.
Made In Lagos gave Afrobeats a new look and added to the success of the African Giant.
While the top guys of Afrobeats made waves, other artists across Africa also enjoyed success in the international market. “Jerusalema’ by Master KG enjoyed much success. “Fall” by Davido is another worthy mention of songs that Afrobeat to the world. After a year of release, “Love Nwantiti”, a sensational track by CKay also broke out in the music world. The song reached parts of the world where English (the language of the track) was not popular.
Many other songs also enjoyed similar success. One of the latest is “Last Last” by Burna Boy. With such organic achievements, it was only natural for Afrobeats songs to start having a stake in music award shows.
Afrobeats in the Award Scene
“African Giant” by Burna Boy was nominated at the 2019 Grammy Awards. On the same occasion, Wizkid won his first Grammy award thanks to his contribution when he featured on one of Beyonce’s songs.
In 2020, Burna Boy won a Grammy award with his “Twice As Tall” album. His second nomination and first win. Made in Lagos also got a nomination. Well, Afrobeats’ success didn’t stop with the Grammys.
The best international act award at the BET Awards from 2019 to 2021 had Afrobeats artiste winners.
As more Afrobeats continued introducing their craft to the world scene, awards followed. Fast Growing artiste, Tems also won a Grammy award thanks to her feature with Future. Multiple awards followed this success for many artists, with Wizkid having a major share of the deserved glory. These prestigious awards also served as marketing exploits for artists helping reach lands beyond the US and UK.
The Afrobeats Tour Around the World
For many international artists, selling out the prestigious O2 Arena is no small feat. But it is impressive that various Afrobeats artists have sold out this venue, with Wizkid doing that three times in a single tour.
Other artists like Davido have also achieved this feat. Burna Boy, the African Giant, has succeeded in different parts of the world, including Accor Arena in France and the Ziggo Dome in the Netherlands. Some other artists like Rema have also enjoyed tour success across the world.
Afrobeats is a genre that infuses various cultures and styles. This accommodating stance has allowed Afrobeats to evolve to various trends, tastes spread, and cultures. This has no doubt influenced its growth to become a worldwide sensation.
On March 29, 2022, Billboard Magazine launched the US Afrobeats Charts to acknowledge its great spread and distinct yet fluid identity. There is more to come with Afrobeats. The pioneers are not backing off anytime soon. The new artists are also widening their reach. There is more space for expansion. Just sit back, listen to your favorite Afrobeats songs, and watch the genre grow and grow.