A Brief History Of Afrobeats

by Dyesek Admins

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When you hear about ‘Afrobeat’ or ‘Afrobeats’ all fingers points to one man, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. This man fell in love with with the African jazz scene and evolved jazz into making music with social and political critique lyrics as well as Nigerian proverbs. He gave Afrobeats lyrics a whole life.

In 1960, Fela Kuti popularized Afrobeat music giving the musical genre its uniqueness both in Africa and internationally. The social and political theme of Afrobeat lyrics would help you identify the music anywhere you hear it. It is quite impossible to talk about Afrobeats without talking about Afrobeat. 

Afrobeats evolved from just the political and social themes of Afrobeat into creating music that people can dance and vibe to with new musical influences. In Afrobeats music you’ll find Afrobeat, dancehall, hip hop, hiplife, juju, British House music, Fuji, and RnB. 

Afrobeats has its origin between Ghana and Nigeria. Over the years, Afrobeats has given birth to sub-genres like Afro Pop, Afro Life, Afro House, Afro-Fusion and many more spreading its wings throughout West Africa and the diaspora. 

The Start

The launch of MTV Base Africa in the 2000s was the jumpstart Afrobeats artists needed to reach a wider audience. During this time, artists like M.I Abaga and Naeto C from Nigeria, and Sarkodie from Ghana got through to more audiences beyond their localities but language was a barrier to reach a wider audience. There’s was no platform that had Afrobeats lyrics and translations to help them cut across. 

Several artists from Nigeria especially, made attempts to break out into the international scene but D’banj was the one that succeeded with the release of ‘Oliver Twist’. This song was a hit! ‘Oliver Twist’ made it the Top 10 UK Singles Chart in 2012, making D’banj the first Afrobeats artist to make it to the top 10 in the UK. 

The Mid-2010s

Canadian Rapper, Drake was one international artiste that was interested in the Afrobeats sound. He connected with Wizkid and in 2014, Drake featured on the remix of Wizkid’s hit track, ‘Ojuelegba’, alongside British MC Skepta. 

In 2016, ‘One Dance’ was released by Drake featuring Wizkid and Kayla. ‘One Dance’ went ahead to become the most-streamed song on Spotify with over a billion streams and charted in over 16 countries.

The Late 2010s

In 2015, Wizkid signed the biggest deal an African Musician would ever receive with RCA Records. Since then, Wizkid and Drake have both been credited in helping popularise Afrobeats globally. This feat got Wizkid into the Guinness book of records for being on the most-streamed song of Spotify. Wizkid is the first Afrobeats artist to enter the Guinness Book of Records. 

After this came the rise of artistes like the Nigerian, Mr Eazi who later became the first African pop artist to gain an extensive Apple Music artist page. On October 1 2017, Wizkid became the first African artist to hold a sold-out headline show at the Royal Albert Hall. 

International record labels like Universal and Warner Music started investing in Afrobeats artists. In 2018, Burna Boy came into the limelight thanks to the release of Kanye West’s ‘Ye’ album. Kanye’s fans kept stumbling on Burna’s ‘Ye’ single released in January of the same year.  Burna Boy’s streams got a 200% spike gaining over 11.2 million streams in the United States.

In 2019, Afrobeats witnessed a series of big wins. Mr Eazi launched emPawa Africa to help build African talents and this initiative is supported by YouTube Music. In July 2019, Beyoncè released ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ coinciding with the release of ‘The Lion King’ movie. This album featured Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Wizkid, P2J, Yemi Alade, Maleek Berry, Tiwa Savage, and Shatta Wale. This got the whole world interested in not just Afrobeats songs but Afrobeats meaning and translations. 

Davido's "Fall" became a top 20 radio hit in America, 24 months after it was initially released. "Fall" also began rising on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and U.S. Shazam charts, also becoming the longest-charting Nigerian song in Billboard history. Then Burna Boy's album 'African Giant' was nominated for 'Best World Music Album' at the Grammy Awards.

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