Legacy Of Afrobeats: The Influence of Nigeria’s Fela Kuti And Ghana’s Osibisa Band

BY Edwin Lamptey October 4, 2023 7:33 PM EDT
Photo of Fela Kuti and a cross-section of Osibisa band members. Photo Credit: The New York Times, Prog Archives

If there have ever been profound elements that characterize the African people, these would be their resounding affinity for culture and music. In recent times, African music has gained prominence globally and would be worthy of focus.

African music has taken shape over the years and has made a huge statement both on the continent and beyond with genres like Afrobeats and Amapiano leading the charge.

Many years ago, the sounds of music coming from the continent prototypically comprised traditional music, folklore, highlife, hip-hop, soul music, and reggae.

Afrobeats, ‘the new kid on the block’, was born after some artistes saw the need to marry the sounds of Africa with the sounds from other parts of the world. Not too long after its introduction, the new genre of music took the world by storm with its dance-worthy beats and diverse tales of the African experience.

Many people have wondered how the Afrobeats genre came to be and have sought to go back in time to trace the trajectory of the new sound captivating Africa and the rest of the world.

To better understand the genre, we would take a walk down memory lane as we relive the moments of two impactful elders of our Afrobeats genre; Nigeria’s Fela Kuti and Ghanaian group, Osibisa, both considered influential in the birth of the new African music type.

Fela Kuti

Born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, the Nigerian icon would go on to have an illustrious music career and have his name mentioned any time the history of Afrobeats was the topic for discussion.

Fela Kuti lived his life telling the Nigerian story with his music and touching the lives of many with his activism. His music style was predominantly a blend of American blues, jazz, and funk together with traditional Yoruba music.  Two of his most famous songs are Zombie and Water No Get Enemy.

Touted as the father of Afrobeats, the Let’s Start hitmaker defined the sprawling scope and relentlessly funky sound of the genre from the early 1960s until his death in 1997, Masterclass reported.

Apart from being recognized as the Father of Afrobeats, Fela amplified the African expression of thoughts, perspectives, and criticism through music. His art of storytelling with drums and all kinds of instruments as well as his blend of English and Yoruba captivated a lot of hearts.

Seun and Femi, sons of the celebrated Nigerian would later walk in their father’s stride and carry the torch after him.


From the coast of Gold (now 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.

Some of the group’s members included Teddy Osei, Sol Amarfio, Mac Tontoh, Kari Bannerman and the famous keyboardist, Kiki Gyan.

With famous hits like Sunshine and Welcome Home, the band’s names always popped up when some of the greatest African bands are mentioned.

The sounds and fusions of Fela and Osibisa would, later on, be tapped by new-age acts who are now reaping the seed sewn by their forebears.

It is now common to see and hear Afrobeats acts selling out venues and sweeping awards due to the legacy that was left behind by the oldies.

In recent times, the likes of Davido, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Tems. Ayra Starr, Amaarae, OliveTheBoy, Asake and a lot more are riding high on the shoulders of two entities who would be talked about for centuries to come.