Afrobeats: Here Are The Founding Fathers of the Dynamic Music Genre

BY Nii Ogbamey Tetteh October 7, 2023 10:53 AM EDT
Source: Instagram.com/ @felakutiofficial, @r2beesmusic, @gyedublay_official

West Africa, in particular, gave rise to a new musical genre in the early 2000s that was a beautiful fusion of Western music genres like hip hop, R&B, and pop with traditional African music genres like highlife, fuji, and Afrobeats.

When the Afrobeats genre is mentioned in West Africa, notable names that spring to mind include Davido, Femi Kuti, Gyedu-Blay Ambolley, KiDi, and Sarkodie. Euphoric hooks, energetic rhythms, and danceable tunes are traits of Afrobeats.

With all these important names who are immensely contributing to the genre, there are some notable names who laid down the foundation for the Afrobeats genre to have its strong roots in the global music industry now as we know it.

These individuals started the Afrobeats genre and culture which has grown to become a whole movement not only in Africa but in the entire world. In its current form, patrons of the Afrobeats genre can never forget the forefathers who worked to make sure the genre becomes a solid genre which would get the world’s attention and also shine light on the African continent.

The urge to combine the sounds of Africa with those from other continents led some musicians to create the Afrobeats genre. The new musical style quickly became popular around the world thanks to its upbeat sounds and varied stories of African experience.

Many individuals have pondered the origins of the Afrobeats genre and attempted to travel back in time to follow the development of the fresh sound that has captured the attention of both Africa and the rest of the globe.

These are some of the notable people who are considered the founding fathers of the Afrobeats genre.

Fela Kuti : Fela Aníkúlápó Kuti is generally regarded as one of the founding fathers of the Afrobeats genre. Fela was born in Nigeria, moved to the UK, and returned to Nigeria around 1970 during political chaos. Fela used his music to fight against the oppression in Nigeria around that period. Over the years Fela Kuti has influenced most of the top players in the Afrobeats genre as many modern Afrobeat singers cite him as the most significant influence in their careers. Some of his hit Afrobeats songs include Lady, Zombie and Water No Get Enemy. Even after his death, Fela’s legacy lives on with the Afrobeats Festival ‘Felabration’ named after him. In 1998, Yeni Anikulapo-Kuti created the annual music event Felabration in honor and in memory of her father, Fela Kuti.

Osibisa:  From the shores of Ghana, a musical story, will blossom and soon become a household name. The London-based Ghanaian/Carribean group went a long way to become a major catalyst in shaping the Afrobeats genre. The pop group made waves on the streets of London in the early and late 70s. With their fusion of jazz, soul music, African, funk, Latin, and RnB, Osibisa will go on to become one of the famous African heritage bands in London, playing in many nations across the globe.

Gyedu-Blay Ambolley: A Ghanaian highlife and Afrobeats musician, Gyedu-Blay Ambolley happens to be one of the veterans in history to have helped form the Afrobeats genre. He is known to be the first musician in the world to have formally fused rap into local highlife songs. He also coined the genre ‘Simigwa’ which he defined as the use of rap in highlife songs.  Ambolley mostly composed and still composes his songs in English, Fante and Pidgin. He also fuses saxophone into most of his Afrobeats songs to leave a unique blend for his patrons. Ambolley has some amazing Afrobeats songs to his name like Brokos, I No Dey Talk I Do Dey Lie, Akoko Ba and Toffie among others.

R2Bees: Since 2007, R2Bees, a Ghanaian Afrobeats duo has been making strides in the Afrobeats genre. The group is made up of Rashid Abdul Mugeez, popularly known in Ghana’s entertainment circles as ‘Mugeez’ and Omar Sterling. R2Bees at a point in time was recognized as industry leaders and strong pillars in the Ghanaian music space, owing to their landmarks and widespread dominance across Africa and even being recognized internationally. The group has featured some Afrobeats talent like Nigeria’s Wande Coal, Wizkid, and Ghana’s Sarkodie among others on some of their projects. Their hit Afrobeats songs include; Kiss Your Hand, I Dey Mad Oh, Ajeei and  Bayla Trap.