HARLEM LATE NIGHT JAZZ Presents:
The Jazz History Tree
Afrobeats sometimes referred to as Afro-pop and Afro-fusion is vibrant dance music that draws on West African rhythms and mixes them with genres from across the Americas, including hip-hop and Jamaican dancehall, funk and R&B among other Nigerian genres. Afrobeats has a similarly named precursor, Afrobeat, which emerged almost 50 years earlier.
Afrobeat was created by Nigeria’s Fela Kuti In the 1970s. He fused James Brown’s funk, traditional West African dance rhythms with jazz and his music. Greatly influenced by the Black Panther Party and the Black Power movement of the 60’s and 70’s he used his lyrics to criticize and challenge the colonial powers that carved up Africa as well as the corrupt systems that kept his country’s leaders in power. Like other Jazz genres before it, Afrobeat expressed the conditions of Black people and spoke against oppression.
After Fela’s death in 1997, his international stature grew among hip-hop’s creators. Mos Def used his “Fear Not For Man” as the lead-off track to his 2000 disc, Black On Both Sides. Questlove and Erykah Badu have curated his recordings for box sets. His life was also chronicled in a Broadway musical (Fela!). These productions anticipated the cross-cultural appreciation that would lead to The Lion King: The Gift. Around the time of Fela’s passing in the late 90s, a new pop music developed in Nigeria that later became known as Afrobeats.
Afrobeats,began to explode in the 2000s and 2010s. Afrobeats, today, is a diverse fusion of various genres such as British house music, hiplife, hip hop, funk, dancehall, soca, Jùjú music, highlife, R&B, Ndombolo, Naija beats, Azonto, and Palm-wine music. Afrobeats can be thought of as an umbrella term for contemporary West African pop music.
Styles of music that make up afrobeats largely began sometime in the mid-2000s. With the launching of MTV Base Africa, artists within West Africa were able to grant themselves a large platform. Artists such as MI Abaga, Naeto C, and Sarkodie were among the first to take advantage, however most of the artists at that time were merely making interpretations of hip hop and R&B. In 2007, P-Square released their album, Game Over, which was unique for its usage of Nigerian rhythms. Other artists such as Flavour N’abania found success by embracing older genres, such as highlife, and remixing it into something new. 1
Afrobeats first saw international success in 2011 with the release of “Oliver Twist”`by Nigerian artist D’banj. It made the top 10 on the UK Singles Chart in 2012 and number 2 in the UK R&B Charts. British DJ’s such as DJ Edu, with his show Destination Africa on BBC Radio 1Xtra, and DJ Abrantee, with his show on Choice FM, were early adopters of the sound and helped grant it a platform in the country. DJ Abrantee has been credited for coining the name “Afrobeats”.2 American artists soon joined the party. Michelle Williams, French Montana, Rick Ross, and Kanye West all collaborated with Afrobeats artists. Michelle Williams released “Say Yes” in 2014, a gospel song based on the Nigerian hymn When Jesus Say Yes. Another notable hit was “Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad)” by Fuse ODG, which reached 5 on the UK Singles Chart in 2014.
In 2014, a derivative of Afrobeats known as Afroswing emerged in the UK. Afroswing fuses the sound with influences from road rap, grime, dancehall, trap, and R&B. Many people refer to Afroswing as ‘Afrobeats’ further broadening the appeal of Afrobeats. Afrobeats continues to evolve an is gaining in popularity worldwide.
Notables include D’banj, Mr Eazi, MI Abaga, P-Square, Flavour N’abania, DJ Abrantee Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy,Tiwa Savage, Naeto C, Yemi Adale and Sarkodie. Of course the great Afrobeat creator Fela Kuti must be cited as well as Manu Dibango, Femi Kuti, and Tony Allen.