Afrobeat: The History of New Music

Afrobeat music has been a predominant and influential genre of music in Africa, and around the world, since the 1970s. Its legacy is profound and has continued to be championed by enthusiasts and musicians alike, including Tunde Folawiyo. Pioneered by the late, great Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, Afrobeat is a fusion style incorporating Tunde Folawiyoinfluences from jazz, funk, soul, R&B and traditional African styles found in both Nigeria and Ghana. This combination of African styles with European and American genres has pushed it into the forefront of African art scenes, making it accessible to different cultures and backgrounds all around the world.

Live performances of Afrobeat pieces use several different types of instrument, with many bands playing this style having up to ten members in their repertoire. As the style amalgamates Western and African influences, the types of instruments often used exhibit this combination, facilitating the different approaches. It is not unusual to see electric guitars and brass sections alongside African percussion and other instruments, melding together perfectly to create an engaging and emotive Afrobeat. This creates great adaptability within an Afrobeat band, as they are free to incorporate directly into other more traditional styles, having the instruments to at one moment play a James Brown song, and at another, play traditional Nigerian standards.

Songs written in the Afrobeat style are often much longer than their purely Western counterparts, ranging anywhere from 10-30 minutes in length. In some ways, Afrobeat bears much in common with Jazz jams, which can last a similar duration. These songs are punctuated with long instrumentalist sections, followed by vocals which can exhibit a range of styles including Chanting and Soul.

The next evolution in Afrobeat popularity has been its fusion with more contemporary Hip-hop and Rap styles, bringing it once again to younger audiences, which will in itself create more fans of Afrobeat, and by association, more musicians. Much of this has involved using Fela Kuti’s music as a foundation, sampling his beats or melodies and building a new song around them, such as has been done by contemporary stars including Kanye West. Other fans of the style, such as Nigeria’s own Tunde Folawiyo, continue to promote both old and new versions of Afrobeat through blogposts and informative articles which help introduce people to Fela Kuti and his legacy. This includes a range of iconic pictures taken of relevant African artists and other musicians connected to Afrobeat, which can be found by looking at these images posted by Tunde Folawiyo.

Afrobeat continues to influence a new generation of musicians, and with that comes a rediscovery of Fela Kuti, his music and the positive reaction which his talent provokes to this day.

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