From Fela to Burna Boy: A Brief History of Afrobeat and Its Evolution Over Time

In recent years, Afrobeat music has experienced a surge in global popularity, with artists like Burna Boy, WizKid, and Davido cementing their positions in the international music scene. However, the genre’s roots can be traced back to the Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, who pioneered the sound in the 1970s. In this essay, we will delve into the history of Afrobeat, from its origins to its evolution over time.

 

Origins of Afrobeat

  • Fela Kuti: the father of Afrobeat
  • Born in Abeokuta, Nigeria in 1938
  • Studied music in London and returned to Nigeria in the 1960s to start his music career
  • Blended traditional Nigerian music with jazz and funk influences
  • The birth of Afrobeat
  • Fela’s formation of his band, Africa ’70
  • Hit song “Jeun Ko Ku” (Eat and Die) criticized the Nigerian government and established Fela as a political activist and icon
  • Musical elements of Afrobeat: big band sound, complex polyrhythms, call-and-response vocals, and sociopolitical lyrics

Evolution of Afrobeat

  • Influence on global music
  • Fela’s music and activism inspired artists worldwide
  • Musicians like Paul McCartney and Brian Eno collaborated with Fela
  • International tours and exposure increased Afrobeat’s global influence
  • Second generation of Afrobeat
  • Fela’s sons Femi and Seun Kuti continued their father’s legacy and developed their own styles of Afrobeat
  • Introduction of electronic instruments and modern production techniques
  • Contemporary Afrobeat
  • Artists like Burna Boy, WizKid, and Davido brought Afrobeat into the mainstream
  • Fusion with other genres like hip hop, R&B, and dancehall
  • Increased global visibility through collaborations with international artists

From its beginnings with Fela Kuti to its current global popularity, Afrobeat has undergone significant evolution over time. Nevertheless, the genre’s social and political roots remain at its core, as modern Afrobeat artists continue to address issues of African identity, globalization, and government corruption through their music.

Influencer/Artist/Dancer: Poco Lee

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Burna boy graces the Daily Show with Trevor Noah ahead of his sold out show at MSG

Nigeria is one of the highest exporters of crude oil in the world, but even with that, lately, the proudest export from Nigeria has unarguably been afrobeat. Just like one star said in one of his songs “my music travel no visa”. Nigerian music has spread all over the world, from the US to Switzerland, to the UK, and even into Asia. One of the proponents of this movement is Burna Boy, an ultra-successful afrobeat, grammy-winning musician. In preparation for his show in a sold-out Maddison square garden titled “Once Night In Space”, he stopped by the famous Daily Show hosted by Trevor Noah.

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