Fab and Glam: How Afrobeats Stars Tems, Black Sherif, Others Are Making Headlines Through Fashion

BY Edwin Lamptey October 5, 2023 1:07 PM EDT
Photo Source: Instagram/@wizkiddayo, @temsbaby, @blacksherif_

Afrobeats is evolving so fast and carrying the world along. According to Spotify, streaming of Afrobeats creations skyrocketed by 283 percent in 2019 alone. This is a testament to how music from Africa is being appreciated and relished by people in nations like France, the UK, the US, and the Netherlands. 

Afrobeats’ impact on the world does not just begin and end with music as the modern African music genre seems to be making an impression on fashion sense in the global community.

Fashion and music have always shared a relationship. As a result, many Afrobeats artistes like Nigerian duo Burna Boy and Adekunle Gold, 2023 Vodafone Ghana Music Award Artiste of the Year, Black Sherif, all tend to express their identities using their fashion taste and style. Even Nigerian idol, Fela Kuti, one of the pacesetters of Afrobeats was known for dressing in Ankara tight pants and tights shirts as he expressed his Pan-African roots with his wardrobe choice. 

“People who love fashion also love music”, an opinion shared by Nigerian streetwear brand founder, Yinka Ash of Ashluxe, expresses the reality of fashion in the Afrobeats experience.

The early days of Afrobeats saw stars replicating the fashion style of American hip-hop and music culture. As Ayomide Tayo, a senior entertainment editor puts it; “American urban fashion was trendy. American hip-hop stars were idols and everyone wanted to dress like them including the foundational Afrobeats acts.”

However, from the mid-2000s, Afrobeats artistes were seen performing live shows, and music videos while flaunting Africa’s creation – kente (a type of silk and cotton fabric made of interwoven cloth strips and is native to the Akan tribe in Ghana) and dashiki (a colorful garment that covers the top half of the body, worn mostly in West Africa) outfits.

This led to a spike in many people in the diaspora, Nigeria and Ghana finding self-expression in these cultural outfits of Ghanaian and Nigerian heritage.  As a result, many African and global fashion designers and houses embedded these bold, rich colorful prints into their fashion pieces.

Nigerian Afrobeats goddess, Yemi Alade, is noted for making music videos with Nigerian traditional and cultural fashion styles being adorned by herself and the performers in her music videos.  The award-winning performer is well known for hits like Johnny, Na Gode, and Oh My Gosh.

In 2019, British-Ghanaian musician Nana Richard Abiona known professionally as Fuse ODG, held a TINAFEST concert dubbed the “Kente Party” which was themed on the celebration of music, Kente, and African arts. Patrons from all over the world were seen richly dressed in African fabrics. The Azonto crooner has been applauded many times for his active promotion of Ghana’s culture in his music videos and songs. 

Ghanaian rising star, Black Sherif (born Mohammed Ismail Sherif) is known for his distinct fashion style that is not popular in the Ghanaian Afrobeats landscape. His debut album, The Villain I Never Was which was released in October of last year garnered more than 70 million streams. The Second Sermon hitmaker is usually found wearing bootcut jeans or buggy pants with skimpy tops alongside boots or sneakers – making him really stand.

Grammy winner for Best Melodic Rap Performance, Tems, for this year’s Academy Awards, wore a white cloud-inspired dress that became the talk of the town. The Damages singer wore an architectural one-shouldered tulle dress designed by Lever Couture, a Ukranian designer. Though the dress went viral for largely a negative reason – obstructing the view of other attendees – Tems (born Temilade Openiyi) had no regrets about her choice of wardrobe.

During an interview on Harper’s Bazaar, the artiste expressed her sentiment about her choice of attire for the Oscars admitting that two years ago, she would not have chosen that fashion style. “I really wanted to make the most of the day. The dress is also my way of celebrating my work and the people around me, celebrating my country, and celebrating the people who are rooting for me. This dress says, “Yes, yes, I am here!”, she further explained.

In recent times, Afrobeats artistes have found themselves collaborating with both local and global fashion houses.  In June 2018, Nigerian Afrobeats star, Wizkid was featured on the runway for Dolce and Gabbana in Milan. Popularly known as Starboy, he is esteemed as the first African artiste to walk the runway at a Dolce and Gabbana fashion show.

Likewise in June this year, some Afrobeats stars modeled for the Paris Couture and Menswear Week.  Nigerian Afrobeats stars like Asake, Tiwa Savage, Rema, and Burna Boy were sighted at the Botter Spring/Summer Show, Dior, Balenciaga, and Christian Louboutin fashion shows respectively.

In November last year, Burnaboy performed at the Savage X Fenty Vol.4 runway show. Burberry, a British heritage brand also used Burna Boy and Zamina Mina star, Shakira for their “The Night Before” festive campaign.

Many fashion houses are collaborating with Afrobeats stars for many good and exciting reasons. One of the major reasons is the intention of these brands to expand and build their presence in the African fashion world by presenting the African people with the stars they look up to and whose music brings them home.

The Afrobeats genre continues to make a statement about its diversity and versatility leaning to prove that the genre is not just music but a lifestyle.