Afro beat is a musical genre originally created by Fela Kuti in the 1960s after his search for an identity in music took him across Europe and other parts of Africa like Ghana. His dislike for people comparing him with James Brown the soul singer drove him to create a different sound that had the original African elements like conga drums, shekere, saxophone, rhythm, bass and lead guitars, keyboard, sticks/claves, chorus vocals etc.
A blend of Yoruba music with jazz, funk and West African highlife with the above mentioned instruments gave birth to the new genre of music that the world today is demanding for. Fela Kuti, a political gladiator with music, used his music to taunts the government for all their wrong doings and oppression of the masses. This made him a target to the government with back and forth tribulations including the attack, and death of his mother.
His several arrests by the Nigerian government had increased his fame as campaigns for his release were being held in different countries across Europe like Paris, Berlin, Greece with “FREE FELA” printed T-shirts sold across these cities; this came after Amnesty International launched an investigation into Fela’s case and declared him a Political Prisoner. Major television networks and print media across Europe had ran features on Fela which also contributed to the world standing up to support his course. Even though he would later not admit that this contributed to his release from prison, he believed it was his exposing of the corruption in the judiciary system that led to his release in 1985 and not the international agitation. The international agitation only made people realized that government was wrong with his arrest.
During the period of his travail, his music transcended beyond the man Fela Kuti as his music was travelling the world side by side, with the news of his arrest, and the protest for his release. This in turn created the awareness for the acceptance of Afro beat.
Fela is sometimes referred to as ‘Abami Eda’, the most controversial man in Nigerian music history toured the world with his EGYPT 80 band to sing and dance about the dark moments of Nigerian/African politics which till today has remained the same despite the persistent public outcry of the people.
Today, Fela’s genre discovery in music has been retouched, remolded and recreated by different people to make it more appealing, therefore breaking down the Afro beat sound to Afro fusion, Afro rhythm, Afro Pop, Afro Blues etc.
The emphasis on the demand for Afro beat cannot be over emphasized as the demand keeps growing worldwide. This can be seen in different world charts with Davido’s “IF” peaking at number 32 in US charts and wizkid latest single “Joro” hitting number one on different streaming platforms in different European countries. This has cemented the demand, penetration and validation that African artistes have been seeking for from these places and this automatically translates to more revenue opportunities for the artistes from touring to streaming etc, even though some people will largely blame it on the surge of African migration to different parts of the world, we can’t deny the fact that it is rubbing off on the main citizens of this countries and they are accepting afro beat.
However, going back to our focal point, artistes these days don’t really on their sound like Fela did with engineering the whole process of recording and telling each band member what to play on their various instruments.
So as this penetration continues who stands to gain more, the artistes or the producers?