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Afrobeats and the Power of Repetition

by Dikos Nestaa

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Afrobeats is one of the most powerful music genres in the world. 

We’ve all experienced that Afrobeat song and concluded we hate it but (in SpongeBob’s voice) a few hours later, we find ourselves singing a line from the song till it becomes our jam.  

Lots of this power comes from repetition.  

Wonder why you find yourself dancing to songs from Davido or hum to a Tiwa Savage song long after you’ve heard their songs? Repetition changes the way we orient to sound. 

Tiwa Savage

You can’t separate repetition from Afrobeats. It’s like a birthday party without cake. And we wouldn’t want that, would we? 

Afrobeat originated from a fusion of heavy Nigerian drumbeats and Ghanaian highlife. In the 1970s, Fela Kuti experimented Afrobeat with different forms of contemporary music of that time like Jazz and Funk. 

Interestingly, repetition is one major spice to creating a hit song. No wonder, Afrobeats songs tend to go viral in no time. This accounts for the success of many artists in Africa like Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Sarkodie, Sho Madjozi, Burna Boy, to mention a few.

Wizkid

According to a paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, repetitive choruses are the key to a hit song. For each repetition of the chorus, a song’s chance of reaching the top of the chart rises by 14.5%.  

That’s why you’ll hear a song while walking down the streets and you decide you don’t like the song but when next you hear it, you’re singing along to a song you said you disliked. You may go as far as getting the song on your phone and add it to your playlist. 

Apparently our brain as a way of forming familiarity to music, food and other things around us because we’ve been exposed to it before consciously and unconsciously even if it was one time. Repetition has a way of demanding participation from us and Afrobeats thrives on repetition, therefore demanding us to sing or dance along to the music.  

Repetition in the case of an Afrobeats song means we might notice an intriguing part of the beat that we didn’t hear at first when we were only trying to process the artist’s melody and lyrics. 

Davido’s “Risky” as a Case Study 

You probably cringed or laughed the first time you saw Davido’s freestyle of ‘Risky’ but the moment Davido released ‘Risky’ as a track, you heard it differently. 

For some, there was the first bias of not liking Risky as a song but at some point they find themselves singing along. The mere exposure to the song has triggered our brains to feel familiar with the tune and in turn, the lyrics. 


But you say
Kilo ko mi
I'm getting money
Big money
So what's funny?
Who be this kid?
Pour the Whiskey
Get tipsy
But odikwa risky
Kilo ko mi
I'm getting money
Big money
So what's funny?
Who be this kid?
Pour the Whiskey
Get tipsy
But odikwa risky

The chorus of ‘Risky’ samples the use of repetition. The above chorus was repeated twice.

Wizkid’s ‘Joro’ is another great example. The chorus sounds more like a chant. 

Joro, joro, joro, joro, joro, joro, joro, joro 

Je a-joro, joro, joro, joro, joro, joro, joro, joro 

Je a-joro, joro, joro-o, joro-oo, joro, joro, joro 

Omoh-joro, je a-joro oo, oh ohh oh 

When next you find yourself singing along to an Afrobeats song you decided you didn’t like earlier, be sure to check that there’s a lot of repetition in that song. 

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