Afrobeats: Tracing the Genre’s Roots and Global Reach
What’s the story behind Afrobeats, a genre that has become a fave worldwide and just how grand is its cultural impact?
●11th October 2023
In this age of streaming, Afrobeats has taken center stage, boasting over 13 billion streams in 2022 alone on Spotify. But what’s the story behind this genre that has become a fave worldwide and just how grand is its cultural impact? Thanks to Spotify’s microsite exclusive to Afrobeats’ info, we have some facts to share.
Afrobeat vs. Afrobeats
First of all, let’s clear up the confusion between Afrobeat and Afrobeats. Per Spotify’s findings, Afrobeat, thanks to the legendary Fela Kuti, blended West African Highlife, Jazz, Funk, and some seriously politically charged lyrics.
Meanwhile, Afrobeats, a term that started getting thrown around in 2011, embraces a more extensive range of influences and boasts an even greater volume of international success. It is more diverse, drawing from a broader range of themes and musical styles. Basically, it is the funky result of blending traditional African drum beats, danceable rhythms, and great melodies with Western music and electronic beats.
The Special Groove
Why do we love Afrobeats so much? For one, the genre has a groove that’s hard to resist, literally. It is defined by traditional African drum beats, delivered in the 3-2 or 2-3 rhythm or clave. The clave is a rhythmic pattern that has an underlying 3-2 or 2-3 pulse which operates as a cross-rhythm with the regular 4/4 beat. A practical example of the 2-3 rhythm is Mr Eazi’s “Skin Tight.”
But there’s more. 23% of Afrobeats fans say it’s all about connecting with their African heritage, while 12% simply enjoy it because it’s familiar, they understand the language.
Afrobeats can Make you Catch the Feels, too
Yes, Afrobeats lovers are all about the groovy beats that get you moving, but there’s more to it than just dance. It’s about the emotions too, that it can stir. From songs like Victony’s “Jaga Jaga” with Babyboy AV, Libianca’s “People” and the popular “Soso” by Omah Lay which dive into themes of sadness, giving birth to what some call “Afrodepression,” to tracks that inspire hard work and the value of chasing your dreams like Teni’s “Hustle,” and even those that let you celebrate life, there’s something for everyone.
Afrobeats as a Cultural Phenomenon
Afrobeats isn’t just about the music; it’s about the fashion, the dance, the language, and the vibe, generally. It’s a cultural phenomenon. It transcends borders, bringing people together from all corners of the globe. Artists like Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, and Tems, Burna Boy have used fashion to elevate their presence on international red carpets, trailed closely by African stylists from the likes of Onome Meraki to Dunsin Wright.
Afrobeats’ influence isn’t confined to the dancefloor; it’s embedded in everyday life. It does its part in shaping colloquialisms and everyday speech. Nigerian phrases like “abeg,” “oga,” “no wahala,” and “na wa” have gone international, spicing up everyday conversations of many Africans even those in diaspora. Remember when Burna Boy’s “Last Last,” dropped and everyone couldn’t get enough of “Igbo and Shayo”?
The Beats that Keep on Giving
Afrobeats is a genre that refuses to stand still. Musicians, DJs, and producers continue to work tirelessly to keep it on the move. Afrobeats fans, too, aren’t looking back; they’re expecting the genre to keep evolving. Spotify’s study reveals that 90% of fans are hungry for more. Truly, the artists deserve major props for pushing the boundaries and shaping Afrobeats into a global sensation. Case in point, Rema’s hit single “Calm Down,” featuring Selena Gomez, reached one billion streams on Spotify.
It became the first African artist-led track to join the Billions Club on Spotify. Reggae has been a big influence on Afrobeats, and now we’re seeing more collaborations and experiments between artists from both backgrounds. Moreover, Dancehall, a more uptempo subgenre of Reggae known for its groovy beats and lively rhythms, has also found common ground with Afrobeats. This fusion has given rise to an array of hit tracks created by talented Nigerian acts like Ruger, Patoranking, etc.
Also, artists like Wizkid, Rema, Tems, etc, have worked to create R&B stylings of Afrobeats and their hits are getting global attention and acclaim. Afrobeats’ ability to evolve, borrow from various influences, and keep the vibes fresh is what’s propelling it from Nigerian studios and nightclubs onto the global stage.
To cap it all off, Spotify is throwing a party on October 13th to celebrate Afrobeats’ milestone over the years.
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