The Rise and Shine of Afrobeats: How the Music Genre Became a Global Sensation
If you love music, chances are you have heard of Afrobeats. It’s the catchy, upbeat, and colorful genre of music that has taken over the world with its irresistible rhythms and melodies. But what exactly is Afrobeats, and how did it become so popular?
In this blog post, I will explore the origins, characteristics, and global influence of Afrobeats, a popular music genre from West Africa and the diaspora. I will also highlight some of the most prominent artists and songs in the genre and provide some recommendations for listeners who want to discover more.
As a huge fan of Afrobeats myself, I will share my own experience and opinions on the genre, as well as some fun facts and trivia that you might not know. I hope you will enjoy reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.
But before we dive into the details, let’s start with a simple question:
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Afrobeats is a term that refers to a variety of contemporary popular music styles from West Africa, especially Nigeria and Ghana, that are influenced by traditional African music, highlife, fuji, R&B, hip hop, dancehall, and other genres.
The term Afrobeats was coined by Nigerian DJ Abrantee in 2011 when he started hosting a radio show called “Afrobeats with Abrantee” on Capital Xtra in London. He used the term to describe the new wave of music that was emerging from West Africa and gaining popularity in the UK and beyond.
However, Afrobeats should not be confused with Afrobeat, which is a different genre of music that was pioneered by Nigerian legend Fela Kuti in the 1970s. Afrobeat is a fusion of jazz, funk, highlife, and traditional Yoruba music, with political and social messages. Afrobeats, on the other hand, is more diverse, modern, and commercial, with lyrics that are often about love, partying, and success.
To understand the difference between Afrobeat and Afrobeats better, think of it this way: Afrobeat is like the father, while Afrobeats are like the children. They share some DNA, but they have their own personalities and identities.
In fact, some Afrobeats artists prefer to use different labels to describe their music, such as Afro-fusion, Afro-pop, or Afro-swing. For example, Nigerian superstar Burna Boy refers to his music as Afro-fusion, because he blends elements of Afrobeat, dancehall, reggae, hip-hop, and pop.
But regardless of what you call it, Afrobeats is a genre that is constantly evolving and expanding, incorporating new sounds and influences from across Africa and beyond. It’s a genre that celebrates diversity and creativity, while also staying true to its roots and culture.
And it’s a genre that has taken the world by storm.
Afrobeats is a relatively young genre of music, but it has a rich and diverse history that spans across different countries and cultures. The roots of Afrobeats can be traced back to the late 1990s and early 2000s when a new generation of Nigerian artists started experimenting with new sounds and rhythms that appealed to the youth and the diaspora.
Some of the pioneers of this movement were 2face Idibia, D’banj, P-Square, and Wande Coal, who blended elements of Afrobeat, highlife, fuji, R&B, hip hop, and pop to create catchy and danceable songs that showcased their talent and charisma. These artists also collaborated with international stars such as R. Kelly, Akon, and Snoop Dogg, exposing their music to a wider audience.
But Afrobeats would not be what it is today without the role of the producers, who were responsible for crafting the sound and identity of the genre. Some of the most influential producers in Afrobeats history are Don Jazzy, Sarz, and Killertunes, who incorporated catchy hooks, beats, and melodies that fused traditional and modern influences. They also used digital tools such as auto-tune, synthesizers, and drum machines to create a distinctive and futuristic sound.
While Nigeria is often considered the birthplace and hub of Afrobeats, other West African countries also contributed to the development and diversity of the genre. For example, Ghanaian artists such as Sarkodie, R2Bees, and Shatta Wale added their own flavor and style to Afrobeats, using local languages such as Twi and Ga, as well as genres such as Hiplife and Azonto. Other countries such as Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Mali also produced their own versions of Afrobeats, using languages such as French, Wolof, and Bambara, as well as genres such as coupé-décalé, mbalax, and mandé.
As a result, Afrobeats became a diverse and inclusive genre that celebrated the culture and music of West Africa and its diaspora. It also became a genre that was constantly evolving and adapting to new trends and influences from across Africa and beyond.
Afrobeats is a genre that is hard to define, because it encompasses a wide range of styles and sounds that vary from artist to artist, and from song to song. However, there are some common features that can help us identify and appreciate Afrobeats songs.
One of the most obvious features of Afrobeats songs is their upbeat tempo. Afrobeats songs are usually fast-paced and energetic, with tempos ranging from 110 to 140 beats per minute. This makes them ideal for dancing and partying, as they create a lively and festive atmosphere.
Another feature of Afrobeats songs is their danceable groove. Afrobeats songs are driven by rhythmic patterns and syncopation, which create a sense of movement and flow. The groove is often created by a combination of drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, and guitars, which produce a rich and layered sound. The groove is also influenced by the musical traditions of West Africa, such as highlife, fuji, and Afrobeat, which use complex polyrhythms and cross-rhythms.
A third feature of Afrobeats songs is their catchy chorus. Afrobeats songs often have simple and memorable choruses that are easy to sing along and remember. The choruses are usually repeated several times throughout the song, creating a hook that draws the listeners in. The choruses are also often accompanied by call-and-response patterns, which are common in African music and culture.
A fourth feature of Afrobeats songs is their repetitive lyrics. Afrobeats songs often have simple and short lyrics that are repeated throughout the song, creating a hypnotic effect. The lyrics are usually in pidgin English or local languages, such as Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Twi, or French. The lyrics are also often slang or colloquial expressions that reflect the culture and identity of the artists and their audiences.
A fifth feature of Afrobeats songs is their social relevance. Afrobeats songs often reflect the social realities, aspirations, and challenges of the artists and their audiences, such as love, money, politics, identity, and culture. For example, some Afrobeats songs celebrate the success and achievements of the artists and their fans, such as “Ojuelegba” by Wizkid, “If” by Davido, or “Ye” by Burna Boy. Other Afrobeats songs address the issues and problems that affect the society and the continent, such as corruption, poverty, violence, or injustice, such as “This Is Nigeria” by Falz, “FEM” by Davido, or “Monsters You Made” by Burna Boy.
A sixth feature of Afrobeats songs is their personal expression. Afrobeats songs are also influenced by the personal experiences, preferences, and creativity of the artists, who may incorporate elements from other genres or regions to create their own unique sound. For example, some Afrobeats artists experiment with genres such as R&B, pop, house, or dancehall to create a fusion sound that appeals to a global audience. Some examples are “Essence” by Wizkid featuring Tems, “Ginger Me” by Rema, or “Koroba” by Tiwa Savage. Other Afrobeats artists explore genres such as amapiano or afro-house to create a new sound that connects with other African regions. Some examples are “Ke Star” by Focalistic featuring Davido, “Jerusalema” by Master KG featuring Nomcebo Zikode, or “John Vuli Gate” by Mapara A Jazz featuring Ntosh Gazi & Colano.
As you can see, Afrobeats is a genre that has many characteristics that make it unique and appealing. It’s a genre that is dynamic and diverse, reflecting the culture and identity of West Africa and its diaspora. It’s also a genre that is innovative and adaptable, incorporating new influences and trends from across Africa and beyond.
And it’s a genre that has a lot to offer to anyone who loves music.
Afrobeats is not only a popular genre in Africa, but also a global phenomenon that has captivated millions of listeners around the world. But how did Afrobeats achieve this remarkable feat? What are the factors that contributed to its international recognition and popularity?
There are many channels and avenues that helped Afrobeats reach a global audience, but here are some of the most important ones:
One of the ways that Afrobeats gained exposure and acceptance in the global music scene was through collaborations with mainstream artists from other genres and regions. These collaborations not only introduced Afrobeats to new fans but also showcased its versatility and compatibility with other styles of music.
Some of the most successful collaborations between Afrobeats artists and mainstream artists are:
- Beyoncé’s album The Lion King: The Gift (2019), featured several Afrobeats artists such as Wizkid, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Tekno, Mr. Eazi, Shatta Wale, and others. The album was inspired by the remake of the Disney classic The Lion King and celebrated the culture and music of Africa. The album received critical acclaim and commercial success, reaching number two on the US Billboard 200 chart and winning a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album. One of the songs from the album, “Brown Skin Girl” by Beyoncé feat. Wizkid, Saint Jhn, and Blue Ivy Carter, also received a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video.
- Drake’s song One Dance (2016), which featured Nigerian singer Wizkid. The song was a massive hit, topping the charts in 15 countries and becoming the most-streamed song on Spotify at that time. The song also earned Drake his first Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Performance. The song was part of Drake’s album Views, which also featured another Afrobeats-inspired song, “Controlla” with Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan.
- Ed Sheeran’s song Shape of You (2017), which was remixed by Nigerian singer Yxng Bane. The remix added an Afrobeats flavor to the original pop song, with Yxng Bane singing in pidgin English and adding his own verses. The remix was well-received by fans and critics alike and became one of the most popular versions of the song. The remix also helped Yxng Bane gain more recognition and exposure as an Afrobeats artist in the UK and beyond.
- Justin Bieber’s song Peaches (2021), which was remixed by Nigerian singer Omah Lay. The remix was part of Bieber’s album Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe), which featured guest appearances from various artists from different genres and regions. The remix gave a fresh twist to the original R&B song, with Omah Lay singing in pidgin English and adding his own lyrics. The remix also showcased Omah Lay’s talent and potential as one of the rising stars of Afrobeats.
These are just some of the examples of how collaborations with mainstream artists helped Afrobeats gain more visibility and credibility in the global music industry. These collaborations also opened up more opportunities for Afrobeats artists to work with other artists from different backgrounds and genres, creating more diversity and innovation in music.
Afrobeats is a genre that is home to many talented and diverse artists, who have made their mark in the music industry with their unique and captivating songs. Some of the most prominent artists in Afrobeats are:
- Wizkid: One of the biggest stars in Afrobeats, Wizkid is known for his smooth vocals, melodic hooks, and versatile style. He has collaborated with artists such as Drake, Beyoncé, Chris Brown, Major Lazer, and Skepta, and has won several awards, including a Grammy, a BET, an MTV, and a MOBO. Some of his hit songs include “Ojuelegba” (2014), “Come Closer” (2017), “Essence” (2020), and “Ginger” (2020).
- Burna Boy: One of the most acclaimed and successful artists in Afrobeats, Burna Boy is known for his fusion of Afrobeat, dancehall, reggae, and hip hop. He has collaborated with artists such as Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Sam Smith, Diddy, and Sia, and has won several awards, including a Grammy, a BET, an MTV, and a MOBO. Some of his hit songs include “Ye” (2018), “On the Low” (2018), “Anybody” (2019), and “Way Too Big” (2020).
- Davido: One of the most prolific and influential artists in Afrobeats, Davido is known for his energetic vocals, catchy choruses, and lavish lifestyle. He has collaborated with artists such as Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Meek Mill, Young Thug, and Popcaan, and has won several awards, including a BET, an MTV, a MOBO, and a Headies. Some of his hit songs include “If” (2017), “Fall” (2017), “FIA” (2017), and “FEM” (2020).
These three artists are among the most popular and influential artists in Afrobeats, but they are not the only ones. There are many other notable artists in Afrobeats who have contributed to the genre’s growth and diversity. Some of them are:
- Tiwa Savage: The queen of Afrobeats and one of the most successful female artists in Africa. She is known for her powerful vocals, sultry lyrics, and glamorous image. She has collaborated with artists such as Wizkid, Beyoncé, Sam Smith, and Omarion, and has won several awards, including an MTV Europe Music Award and a Headies Award. Some of her hit songs include “Kele Kele Love” (2010), “All Over” (2017), “49-99” (2019), and “Koroba” (2020).
- Mr Eazi: The pioneer of Banku music and one of the most innovative and influential artists in Afrobeats. He is known for his distinctive voice, laid-back style, and fusion of Ghanaian highlife and Nigerian chord progressions. He has collaborated with artists such as Major Lazer, Diplo, J Balvin, and Nicki Minaj, and has won several awards, including a MOBO Award and a Headies Award. Some of his hit songs include “Skin Tight” (2015), “Leg Over” (2016), “Pour Me Water” (2017), and “Oh My Gawd” (2020).
- Yemi Alade: The Mama Africa and one of the most versatile and charismatic female artists in Afrobeats. She is known for her dynamic vocals, colorful costumes, and diverse repertoire. She has collaborated with artists such as Rick Ross, Angélique Kidjo, Dadju, and Rudeboy, and has won several awards, including an MTV Africa Music Award and a Headies Award. Some of her hit songs include “Johnny” (2013), “Shekere” (2019), “Boyz” (2020), and “Deceive” (2020).
Afrobeats is a genre that has emerged from the rich and diverse musical traditions of West Africa, such as highlife, fuji, Afrobeat, and others. It is a genre that has evolved and adapted to the changing times and trends, incorporating influences from other genres and regions, such as R&B, hip-hop, dancehall, pop, and others. It is a genre that has created its own identity and style, using pidgin English, local languages, slang, and colloquial expressions.
It’s a genre that has inspired and empowered millions of people around the world, especially the youth and the diaspora. It is a genre that has given voice and visibility to the stories, experiences, and aspirations of Africans. It is a genre that has challenged and changed the stereotypes and perceptions of Africa and its people.
If you want to listen to some of the best Afrobeats songs from different artists, countries, and eras, I have created a list for you. It includes songs such as:
- Calm Down by Rema (Nigeria)
- King Promise – Terminator (Ghana)
- Ayra Starr – Rush (Nigeria)
- Kelvyn Boy – Down Flat (Ghana)
- Davido – Unavailable (Nigeria)
- Khaid – Jara (Nigeria)
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