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Afrobeat, Explained By D’banj, Ice Prince And Sneakbo

D'banj performs for the first time in New York in February 2012

Afrobeat’s infectious energy and captivating sound is fast becoming the music of the moment and whilst many struggle to decipher the lyrics of its most popular anthems, the need for translation is nowhere near as vital as it is to dance.

One could be fooled into thinking that Afrobeat’s growing popularity has magically appeared from nowhere, but much like most burgeoning trends, once the surface is scratched, the history begins pouring out – such is the case for this culturally rich music genre and its blatant influence.

If songs like “Gaou” , “Alaji” or “Yahooze” ring any bells, you’ll know Afrobeat’s resurgence, especially in the U.K., has been brewing for quite some time. Trace it even further and you’ll be transported to the ‘Shrine Compound,’ a bohemian nightclub in the heart of Nigeria popularized by the man responsible for the music itself, Fela Kuti.

Combining traditional West African rhythms and griot-styled storytelling with Jazz and Funk, Fela created a sound which spread during the 30 years of its inception and similar to the mother land’s Diaspora, Afrobeat has now officially made its way West. There is a contemporary generation of African Afrobeat artists, and while each one brings a different flavour to the musical pot, the group is united in their unapologetic cultural assertion.

Afrobeat artists leading the pack include D’Banj, ‘Flygerian’ Ice Prince, South Africa’s Black Coffee and Ghana’s Sarkodie; each of them spawning hits making huge waves across the U.K. raving scene and receiving increased radio play each day – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard D’Banj’s ‘Oliver Twist’ today.

Africa has developed its own sound and identity which is something multi-cultural Brits can relate too. Just look to Rare groove, Jungle, Garage and Grime music and you’ll see that though these genres may reference others, namely reggae and hip hop, they were all home grown and representative of the generation at the time.

And now with the likes of Sneakbo, M3nsa, Noni Zondi (South Africa’s version to Nicki Minaj), Sway, Skepta and Donaeo, thanks to the infusion of Funky House and House into the traditional music, Afrobeat now has a British twang. But if you listen carefully, you’ll realise that Africa has always been there, and us Westerners are just late catching on.

Here are a few Afrobeat artists to explore:

Donaeo

The Funky House veteran with a pendent for dirty baselines and catchy lyrics.

Skepta

One of Grime’s longest standing MC’s and leader of the ‘Boy Better Know’ music and fashion collective.

Sneakbo

South London’s latest rapper wearing his Nigerian heritage proudly and sparking the interest of Canada’s very own, Drake who recently invited the young Brixtonian to join him on stage at his concert in March.

D’banj

The self confessed ‘Koko master’ and most notable voice to emerge out of the Afrobeat scene and of course, new member to Kanye’s G.O.O.D Music family.

Ice Prince

Nigeria’s one to watch and possibly the coldest of them all, with word play that is. Prince’s tunes can be heard getting reloaded at every rave worth attending.

– Reah

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  • gregcaz

    The rumbling sound you hear is not the Underground, it’s Fela Kuti spinning in his grave. 

  • Your writer is grossly misinformed. None of these are “Afrobeat” artists and their connection to the genre is tangential at best, and even that is generous. Afrobeat is a specific genre rooted in the politics and musical tradition of Fela. Applying the label to any random beat-oriented artist from Africa is quite simply incorrect.

  • Hi Thomas, Thanks for reading. Who should we be listening to and why aren’t any of these artists deemed Afrobeat? Can one only be of the Afrobeat if he or she is political?