Afrobeats Worldwide: Nigerian Musicians making the new global pop
October 3, 2018 8:29 AM   Subscribe

Kelefa Sanneh wrote for the The New York and recently profiled ten Nigerian musicians and groups who are changing the sound of global pop, including brief bios of each and a description of how they fit (or don't fit) into the Afrobeats sound. "But isn't Afrobeat old?" Yes, but this is Afrobeats plural. For more context, last year Fareeda Abdulkareem wrote for The Culture Trip and provided An Introduction to Afrobeats, Nigeria's Beloved Music Genre, but wait, there's more! If you have the time, start with an hour long audio-history of Nigerian music from Afropop Worldwide. Even more music and links below the break.

Kelefa Sanneh takes things back almost two decades, with the Body And Soul by Plantashun Boiz (2000), with its "hybrid new form of R. & B., propelled by a loping kick-drum beat and slippery verses delivered in Idoma, Tuface’s native language."

But we're probably getting ahead of ourselves. DJ Jimmy Jatt and others active in Nigerian music connects it back decades before in an amazing hour-long history lesson for Afropop Worldwide, following the productive, positive 1970s (previously on MeFi), to the late 1980s at the end of a tough decade for Nigeria, with the crash of oil prices and a a series of military coups. Things changed in the 1990s, in part with Raypower, the first official non-government radio station, when American hip-hop and R&B influenced a new generation of Nigerian "fusion" artists, making their own sounds. To hear and see snippets of this lengthy past, Afropop Worldwide also made a YouTube playlist of 28 videos, tracking the history of Nigerian music.

Back to Tuface or 2face Idibia, his track “Nfana Ibaga” is still fondly remembered 14 years after its debut. The track was later later remixed and featured Jamaican reggae and dancehall singer Beenie Man. In 2014, 2face became Tu-baba, and two years later was coaching new artists on The Voice Nigeria.

Last summer released 2Baba's "Gaga Shuffle", which serves as a way to segue us back to the current sound of Afrobeats, which isn't really a singular style, but a more general sound or feeling to R&B and hip-hop coming out of Nigeria (and Ghana, and maybe other parts of Africa*) today. And it's not a term that is universally accepted in Nigeria or Africa by artists, but often used as the easiest way to differentiate Nigerian, or in some cases general African pop/dance music.

* Joey Akan wrote a piece for Pulse NG titled Afrobeat vs Afrobeats: Confusing contemporary African popular music with Fela’s purist genre, in which he defends the notion of Afrobeats being a meaningless and overly broad term, and instead proposes that pop music from Africa be called "pop music," as it is in Europe and America. Indirect counterpoint: Peter Holslin wrote Global Shake: How Africa became the sound of now for the Native Instruments blog, noting
Of course it’s ridiculous to make generalizations about this enormous and diverse continent, home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people. But the impact of popular genres like afrobeats is undeniable. Just listen to the way Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande’s new song “Bed” swaps a typical four-to-the-floor beat in favor of a syncopated, snare- and shaker-driven rhythm that’s similar to what you’d hear from a Nigerian artist like Wizkid (Master Groove) or Davido (Assurance).
This Is New Africa! (TINA!) Magazine has a round-up of thoughts and views on the term, including a quote from Joey Akan's article, and a list of who they consider to to be Afrobeats artists in Africa and abroad, copied below for posterity, and with linked to videos on YouTube for bonus goodness:

Nigeria Afrobeats Artists
  1. Davido (Nwa Baby)
  2. Wizkid (Pakurumo)
  3. Runtown (Gallardo ft. Davido)
  4. Patoranking (Suh Different)
  5. Yemi Alade (Oh My Gosh)
  6. Tiwa Savage (Lova Lova Ft Duncan Mighty)
  7. Tekno (Choko )
  8. Mayorkun (Posh)
  9. Olamide (Motigbana)
  10. Ycee (Juice ft. Maleek Berry)
  11. Kiss Daniel (Yeba)
  12. Reekado Banks ( Easy Jeje)
  13. Simi (I Dun Care)
  14. Adekunle Gold (IRE, with English subtitles)
  15. Niniola (Maradona)
  16. L.A.X (Gwara Gwara (Baddest Version))
  17. Seyi Shey (Surrender ft. Kizz Daniel)
  18. (Joe) Praize (Unchangeable)
Ghana Afrobeats Artists
  1. Sarkodie (Can't Let You Go ft. King Promise )
  2. R2bees (Over)
  3. Mr Eazi (Property feat. Mo-T)
  4. Fuse ODG (Antenna Ft. Wyclef Jean)
  5. Mz Vee (Bend Down ft Kuami Eugene)
  6. Efya (One of Your Own ft. Bisa Kdei)
  7. Shatta Wale (Thunder Fire ft. SM Militants)
  8. Stonebwoy (Mane Me ft. Mugeez & Praiz)
  9. Joey B (Stables ft. La Même Gang)
  10. E.L (Koko)
  11. Castro (Seihor ft. D-Black)
East African Afrobeats Artists
  1. Vanessa Mdee (Wet ft GNako)
  2. Diamond Platnumz (African Beauty ft. OMARION)
  3. AliKiba (Mvumo Wa Radi)
  4. Sauti Sol (Short N Sweet ft Nyashinski)
  5. Becca (Nana Feat. Sarkodie)
South African Afrobeats Artists
  1. Distruction Boyz (Omunye ft Benny Maverick & Dladla Mshunqisi)
  2. Babes Wodumo (Wololo ft Mampintsha)
  3. eMTee (We Up)
  4. Nasty C (King ft. A$AP Ferg)
U.K. Afrobeats Artists
  1. Maleek Berry (Love U Long Time ft Chip)
  2. Yxng Bane (Vroom)
  3. G.A. (Kojo Funds x RaysMuzik - For You (Prod By GA))
  4. NSG (Natural Disaster (prod. by Jae5)
  5. Not3s (Just Fine)
  6. Juls (Oshey featuring Moelogo, Siza and Dj Tunez)
  7. Afro B (Drogba (Joanna) Prod by Team Salut)
  8. Naira Maley (Ko Si Werey ft. Olamide)
If some of this sounds familiar, maybe it is. Two years ago, Buzzfeed announced that Afrobeats was Pop Music's Next Big Thing (Sept. 9, 2016), and included a few more names to watch and tracks to find, including Ayo Jay's "Your Number" that was getting airplay in the United States, and more than that, major label support via remixes featuring Fetty Wap, and another with Chris Brown and Kid Ink (NSFW lyrics). There's also Davido ("Dami Duro"), "the Beyoncé of Africa," Tiwa Savage ("Bad ft. Wizkid"), D'Banj ("Oliver Twist"). But as seen and heard in the videos linked above, the artists are still going strong.
posted by filthy light thief (15 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Fizz at 8:42 AM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


And a note on the video content: there might be swearing in the audio, and people in various states of undress in the videos, so you could generally consider the videos NSFW.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:22 AM on October 3, 2018

Afropop worldwide is the greatest radio program. I’d like to be able to tune into a stream of similar quality and variety 24/7. Does this exist? Or should I just listen to episodes from the archives?
posted by mai at 10:12 AM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

You might be able to find something on (previously).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:31 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

What a nice post! So glad you have Adekunle Gold's Ire there, it's one of my favorites (made I cry first time I heard it).
I find a lot of the modern Nigerian music a just a bit slick and it's also it's more explicitly sexy than before, like maybe there's a cost to such high production video values. Anyhow I like uncertainties and rough edges on my music - on my art generally. But one thing I love about Afrobeats is the use of Autotune as an instrument, and I think Nigerian artists pioneered this.

Here's Wo by Olumide which has some of the roughness back. Artists get a LOT of stick for say, showing an unreconstructed Lagos, or drugs, or too much poverty etc. Mind you they have bleeped the rude words out in this video, which, yay? And here's a song by Tekno, Pana (I like the song and dislike the video) which one of the things I like most about it is rhyming church with Porsche.

Here's someone who's a just a bit different because he's got a consciously retro thing happening, with all the tremolo and harmonies and reverb and traditional percussion, while the vocal style is emphatically Muslim. I mean, you would know the religion of band members when hearing the music. Q-Dot, Apala New Skool. So seventies! Here is the style of music it's riffing off: Ayinla Omowura. And another, Apala Disco, Haruna Ishola. Of course the new stuff doesn't go on half as long.

Here's QDot again with Olumide in Ibadan. 'I've gone to Ibadan, you'll find me there...' then they list the places on the way ('by the time I get to Phoenix'-style. Actually not really) and list the neighbourhoods of Ibadan and give people shout outs - neither of them are polite songs by the way. In fact they're kind of scurrilous.
posted by glasseyes at 10:59 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

An absolute humdinger of a post. Thank you so much!
posted by stonepharisee at 11:24 AM on October 3, 2018

Between this and the man of twists and turns' post on Burkinabé jazz from yesterday, the front page is on an African music roll this week. There's so much to explore. Thanks for this!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:40 AM on October 3, 2018

By the way that's one hell of a tracklist you've got there. Excellent post.

Olumide --> Olamide, my mistake
posted by glasseyes at 11:43 AM on October 3, 2018

Atumpan is a big Ghanaian afrobeat star who probably got in 2013, you won't believe it, a spot in the BBC Radio 1 playlist A. but failed to chart, I don't know why, with "The Thing". This "Clap" song really had the Scatman John qualities and was a huge fav ourite in my then-playlist. p.s historical article.
posted by avi111 at 12:50 PM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

but failed to chart, I don't know why, with "The Thing"

Oh man I haven't heard that in ages. How did it not blow up?

OkayAfrica is a pretty good resource for keeping up on the current state of Afrobeats (and other genres). They have an entire category dedicated to music, and weekly playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.
posted by asterix at 1:00 PM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

hey! I added all the videos in the OP's list to this playlist on youtube
posted by rebent at 1:14 PM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh man I haven't heard that in ages. How did it not blow up?

but this did
posted by avi111 at 1:47 PM on October 3, 2018

I was at the supermarket a few months ago, and heard some music that I thought I recognized as Afro Celt Sound System, at first...when the vocal kicked in, it turned out to be Contemporary Country.

There was another tune that same day, that would have been straight-up hip-hop if it had been black guy reciting the lyrics instead of a good ole' country boy...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 2:56 PM on October 3, 2018

There was another tune that same day, that would have been straight-up hip-hop if it had been black guy reciting the lyrics instead of a good ole' country boy...

To see something of the reverse of that, check out Joey B - Stables ft. La Même Gang -- guitar-driven hip-hop/Afrobeats and Black cowboys, but likely set in Ghana.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:05 PM on October 5, 2018

Afro Beats by Quartz News - a 9 minute YouTube video, focusing on an interview with Sarz, a major Afrobeats producer [via Johnny Wallflower]
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 PM on October 12, 2018

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