Popularised in Africa in the 1970s, the Afrobeat musical genre thrives on a unique combination of traditional Yoruba music, jazz, funk, and chanted vocals, fused with percussion to form one of the most recognisable of all musical genres in the world. Millions of fans including Nigerian Tunde Folawiyo hold a great appreciation for Afrobeat as it has long held cultural significance far surpassing its sounds. With its rich history and close association with the continent of Africa, Afrobeat continues to induce great pride within its fans.
It’s long been speculated that early music originated in Africa with ancient Africans using percussion and chants to form musical sounds. While Afrobeat music’s roots are derived from many musical styles, it was Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who gave true meaning to the term “Afrobeat” when it was originated in the southern part of Nigerian in the 1970s. Kuti, in 1938 in Nigeria was the son of a pastor and a nationalist activist. At the age of 20, Kuti ventured to London to study medicine before dropping his coursework to begin studying music at the Trinity College of Music. In the city of London, Kiti formed his first band, Koola Lobitos. Kuti revolutionised African music with a vibrant combination of chants and interacting rhythms and harmonies. The political climate of Africa was a major influencer for Kuti as his use of Afrobeat music held a valuable role in the quest for change. Used as a social criticism to battle the social injustices, military corruption and political issues plaguing many African countries during the 1970s, Afrobeat paved the way social improvements. Many artists began incorporating Afrobeat musical influences into their styling’s as the genre spread across the continent.
Prominent contemporary producers such as David Byrne and Brian Eno have credited Fela Kuti for the influence Afrobeat has had on their musical styling’s. This influence is none more recognisable than on Talking Heads’ 1980 album Remain In Light which featured polyrhythmic Afrobeat influences. Many other albums have featured Afrobeat influences, further demonstrating the vast impact its creation has had on Western music. Other highly-acclaimed artists such as Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon utilise Afrobeat influences in their music. The genre’s millions of fans including Tunde Folawiyo continue to look to Afrobeat to connect with the African culture. Eliciting the energetic vibe of Africa, this musical genre will forever provide an instant sense of nostalgia for those who associate it with their home land.