Over the last three decades, the sound of music in Africa has undergone drastic fine-tuning and has left in its wake, many artistes and direct players in the music industry, reaping from it and making names for themselves nationally and globally.
This paradigm shift was caused by an increasing demand from music lovers who were yearning for a move from Africa’s already-known pentatonic scale sound with mostly five-octave notes to a more rhythmic flow, danceable beat, and a euphoric hook.
From this desire to tingle the eardrums of not only music lovers but critics across the continent as well, came a new sound which was a mixture of traditional African sounds and funk that got many bobbing their heads and moving their feet.
Some of these new sounds include Hip-life, Amapiano, and Afrobeats, which chiefly runs through many songs on the continent and is arguably in pole position when one considers the sound of African music in recent times.
Afrobeats, described by many as a Nigerian music genre, has cut across the face of the continent and even gone ahead to penetrate the international music space as the number one contender to overthrow pop music as we know it, a report by Aljazeera opined.
The Afrobeats sound, characterized by a mixture of Soul, American funk, and influence from the original African sounds, has seen the likes of Nigerian talents Davido, Wizkid, Fireboy DML, Asake, Ayra Starr, Burna Boy, Omah Lay, Ghana’s duo Kidi, Camidoh and others, gaining not only national fame but international recognition as well.
This point notwithstanding, Nigeria’s Burna Boy known in real life as Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu MFR, in an interview, sparked controversy when he claimed Afrobeats was “empty” and lacked substance. The African Giant crooner made the comment while speaking with America-based DJ, Zane Lowe.
Now, here’s why many music listeners and pundits would not buy into Burna Boy’s comment and go on ahead to stoke the fires he started, but would rather, gravitate toward a more positive representation of the music genre and all the blessings it has showered on the African continent.
First off, looking at marketability, Afrobeats, despite being inept when it comes to lyrical dexterity, has leveraged on its addictive rhythmic hooks to sell all over the world. In the last 5 years alone, the music genre has trended across the globe topping charts and breaking streaming records in their own rights. Burna Boy’s On The Low was streamed a whooping 178,000+ times daily and has garnered some 353,000,000+ streams on YouTube alone. KiDi’s 2019 hit, Touch It, came with a massive payout, being streamed 1,290,000,000+ times across the globe, making it a worldwide sensation. In fact, Spotify’s 2023 updated list of the most streamed African songs were all Afrobeats-inspired creations with CKay’s Love Nwantiti leading the charge. In recent times, Rema’s Afrobeat hit song, Calm Down, has been adjudged the most streamed Afrobeats song in US history as the song peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became the first Afrobeats song to top the American radio chart, achieving this enviable pedestal with only two casual phrases, “calm down” and lock down”. It is common knowledge that streams are not just about numbers but also characterized by constant bank alerts, thereby, defeating Burna Boy’s claim. To add to all of this, Spotify launched a platform solely for Afrobeats after the genre’s strong showing in just a few years. This feat is a testament to the importance of the African music genre.
Secondly, even though Burna Boy now touts himself as an Afro-fusion/Afro-pop artiste, (mixing 2 or more genres with Afrobeats) his claim to fame would always be rooted in Afrobeats. This genre has influenced many spheres of life as we know it and has impinged greatly on the other facets of the entertainment industry including movies, where the likes of Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy himself, have had their Afrobeats songs featured in many local movies and even making grand entries into Hollywood. Hit movies, Black Panther 2, Coming To America 2, Pacific Rim, and Queen and Slim, have all scored Afrobeats songs in their soundtrack collection. This is a big win for the genre and for Africa.
The new sound of Afrobeats which resonates in the continent and beyond, has also influenced the creation of many dance moves which tend to go viral instantly, and with the moves, the famous new sound of Africa travels far and wide. Dance groups and academies have been on the rise ever since Afrobeats took center stage leading to young talents getting noticed across the globe. It is notable to mention that members of Ghana’s DWP dance group, who apart from growing their individual fanbase through dancing to Afrobeats songs, have also recruited new members into their fold. This is also a testament to the magic made possible by the Afrobeats and this is far from the “empty” tag being ‘forcefully’ put on it by Burna Boy.
Now, Afrobeats has also influenced African fashion styles and choices. Artistes, as well as music lovers now dress in a new funky (brightly-colored outfits complimenting them with jewelry) way to compliment the beats they ‘jam’ to. Speaking about fashion and culture, global fashion brands like Burberry and Fenty, according to Vogue Business, have tapped into the Afrobeats market and are using the likes of Wizkid and Burna Boy, not only to curate a cultural cache but also to break new ground and enter untapped markets.
The world of social media influencing has also taken a new turn with many influencers riding the waves of their popularity to partner with Afrobeats musicians by promoting their music across social media platforms. This is a win-win situation as the influencers enjoy much engagement, with the artistes also gaining reach and fans which are exponential in terms of growth.
Afrobeats has transcended many disciplines and has greatly affected sports as well. Many sportsmen and women have been seen in viral videos jamming to Afrobeats songs. Not too long ago, Manchester United legend, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, was spotted dancing to an Afrobeats tune. These elite sports personalities even go ahead to reveal their playlists which consist of a number of hit Afrobeats songs. These viral videos do not only make people laugh or smile but behind them, are crunching numbers, support, and recognition for the makers of Afrobeats songs.
The list of the pros, unlike cons, when it comes to Afrobeats music, is endless, and it would be an exercise in futility for anyone, including Burna Boy who has won a Grammy courtesy of Afrobeats, to give the genre a bad name just to hang it.