Foreigners have violated our music, often grouping all our sounds under one bijou genre; Afrobeats. In truth, it should never be, as that’s just a very slothful attempt at a job that shouldn’t be that hard. But it may also be an intentional subtle effort to limit the impact and recognition that our music and musicians deserve.
Our modern music is bigger than the pluralisation of one genre, and our artistes prove that time and time again. Forgetting its adulterated Afrobeats form, Afrobeat, is a musical genre pioneered by the legendary Fela Kuti. It mainly continues to live through Fela’s blood descendants Seun, Femi, and Made Kuti. However, before the genre, we had Juju music, Fuji, Oghene, Highlife and a host of others.
What is Afrobeat(s)?
Breaking the word down, Afrobeat is a blend of two words; Afro which refers to anything that has to do with Africa and the African people, and Beat which simply means any kind of rhythmic sound. Perhaps this is why it’s easy for people, especially those who do not fully understand, to jump at pluralising the word, and deploying the resulting term, ‘Afrobeats’ in referring to all mainstream sounds within Nigeria and Africa at large. But we’re more sophisticated than that.
Sonically, Afrobeat is a fully formed genre of music. It’s a blend of Highlife, Juju, and a little bit of Jazz and Funk; thanks to Fela’s exposure to the world outside Africa. It is completed by vocals that attempt to raise political and societal consciousness among the people.
Our modern artists do more than blend Highlife, Juju, Jazz and Funk. Juggernauts like Davido, Burna Boy, and Wizkid import elements from contemporary Pop, Hip Hop, Soul, Afrobeat, Reggae, Amapiano, Rock and more into their music. Hence, Afrofusion, despite also being a very basic shot at describing our elusive sound, presents a better opportunity.
What is Afrofusion?
The term Afrofusion, like Afrobeat, is a blend of two words; Afro meaning anything that has to do with Africa and the African people, and Fusion which refers to unification. Notwithstanding its shortcomings, it’s a true reflection of the contemporary sound of modern Africa.
What is the difference between Afrobeat(s) and Afrofusion?
Afrofusion is an umbrella term used to describe contemporary Nigerian and African music, while Afrobeat without the ‘s’ is one of the minute genres that exists within Afrofusion. With the ‘s’ as it is in the bastardized Afrobeats, the term represents nothing more than a mere charade, and an unwelcome generalization of the modern music of the second most populated continent in the world.
The US and UK have remained headstrong on their myopic classification of Nigerian and African music, disdaining the rebuttal from some of our woker artists. Early this year, Billboard US introduced an Afrobeats chart, where they group all African songs according to their popularity stateside, a rather icky appendage that only serves to boomerang on the rapidly growing industry.
The continuous disambiguation of Afrobeats, Afrobeat, and Afrofusion by mainstream African media will be key in reversing this redundant boxing and that only serves to place structural limitations on our growth and dampen the splendid work that we do.
Our stars, in the distinct characteristics, styles, and gracefulness of their craft, in truth deserve to be unequivocally recognized and rewarded. It starts with us.