Afrobeat (also known as Afrofunk[1][2]) is a Nigerian music genre that involves the combination of West African musical styles from mainly Nigeria, such as the traditional Yoruba and Igbo music and highlife, with American funk, jazz, and soul influences.[3] With a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion,[4] the style was pioneered in the 1960s by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who popularised it both within and outside Nigeria. At the height of his popularity, he was referred to as one of Africa's most "challenging and charismatic music performers."[5]

Distinct from Afrobeat is Afrobeats, a combination of sounds originating in West Africa in the 21st century. This takes on diverse influences and is an eclectic combination of genres such as hip hop, house, jùjú, ndombolo, R&B, soca, and dancehall.[6][7][8][9][10][11] The two genres, though often conflated, are not the same, as Afrobeats is rather just the amalgamation of Afrobeat.[7][8]

Seun Kuti during an Afrobeat performance
Seun Kuti during an Afrobeat performance[10]


Fela Kuti

Afrobeat evolved in Nigeria in the late 1960s by Fela Anikulapo Kuti, (born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun) who, with drummer Tony Allen, experimented with different contemporary music of that time. Afrobeat was influenced by a combination of different genres, such as highlife, fuji, and jùjú,[12] as well as Yoruba vocal traditions, rhythm, and instruments.[13] In the late 1950s, Kuti left Lagos to study abroad at the London School of Music, where he took lessons in piano[14] and percussion[15] and was exposed to jazz. Fela Kuti returned to Lagos and played a highlife-jazz hybrid, albeit, without commercial success.[4]

In 1969, Kuti and his band went on a trip to the U.S. and met a woman by the name of Sandra Smith, a singer and former Black Panther. Sandra Smith (now known as Sandra Izsadore or Sandra Akanke Isidore) introduced Kuti to many writings of activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, and his biggest influence of all, Malcolm X.[7]

As Kuti was interested in African-American politics, Smith would make it her duty to inform Kuti of current events; in return, Kuti would fill her in on African culture. Since Kuti stayed at Smith's house and spent so much time with her, he started to re-evaluate his music genre. That was when Kuti realized that he was not playing African music. From that day forward, Kuti changed his sound and the message behind his music.[16]

Upon arriving in Nigeria, Kuti had also changed the name of his group to "Africa '70". The new sound hailed from a club he established called the Afrika Shrine. The band maintained a five-year residency at the Afrika Shrine from 1970 to 1975 while Afrobeat thrived among Nigerian youth.[7] Another influential person Ray Stephen Oche [de], a Nigerian musician touring from Paris, France, with his Matumbo orchestra in the 1970s.

The name was partially born out of an attempt to distinguish Fela Kuti's music from the soul music of American artists such as James Brown.[17]

Prevalent in his and Lagbaja's music are native Nigerian harmonies and rhythms, taking contrasting elements and combining, modernizing, and improvising upon them. Politics is essential to Afrobeat, due to Kuti using social criticism to pave the way for change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which relates to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1970s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination. As the genre spread throughout the African continent, many bands took up the style. The recordings of these bands and their songs were rarely heard or exported outside the originating countries but many can now be found on compilation albums and CDs from specialist record shops.[citation needed]



Many jazz musicians have been attracted to the aromatic genre of Afrobeat. From Roy Ayers in the 1970s to Randy Weston in the 1990s, there have been collaborations that resulted in albums such as Africa: Centre of the World by Roy Ayers, released on the Polydore label in 1981. In 1994, Branford Marsalis, the American jazz saxophonist, included samples of Fela's "Beasts of No Nation" on his Buckshot LeFonque album.

Afrobeat has also profoundly influenced various important[according to whom?] contemporary producers and musicians, such as Brian Eno and David Byrne, who credit Fela Kuti as an essential influence.[18] Both worked on Talking Heads' highly acclaimed 1980 album Remain in Light, which brought polyrhythmic Afrobeat influences to Western music. The new generation of DJs and musicians of the 2000s who have fallen in love with both Kuti's material and other rare releases have made compilations and remixes of these recordings, thus re-introducing the genre to new generations of listeners and fans of afropop and groove.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a small Afrobeat scene began in Brooklyn, New York, with projects including Antibalas, The Daktaris and the Kokolo Afrobeat Orchestra. Since then, other artists like Zongo Junction have come onto the scene. Many others have cited Afrobeat as an influence, like Daptone Records-adjacent groups The Budos Band and El Michels Affair. The horn section of Antibalas have been guest musicians on TV on the Radio's highly acclaimed 2008 album Dear Science, as well as on British band Foals' 2008 album Antidotes. Further examples are Val Veneto, Radio Bantu, Tam Tam Afrobeat, Combo Makabro, Marabunta Orquesta, Minga!, Antropofonica, Guanabana Afrobeat Orquesta, El Gran Capitan, Morbo y Mambo, Luka Afrobeat Orquesta or NikiLauda. Some Afrobeat influence can also be found in the music of Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon. In 2020, Antibalas was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Global Music Album.[19]

Afrobeat artists of the 2000s and present continue to follow in the footsteps of Fela Kuti. Some examples of these artists are his sons Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti,[20] Franck Biyong & Massak (from Cameroon), London Afrobeat Collective (from London, UK), Segun Damisa & the Afro-beat Crusaders, Shaolin Afronauts (from Adelaide, Australia), Newen Afrobeat (from Santiago, Chile), Eddy Taylor & the Heartphones (from Cologne, Germany), Bantucrew, the Albinoid Afrobeat Orchestra / Albinoid Sound System (from Strasbourg, France), Underground System / Underground System Afrobeat (from Brooklyn, New York), Abayomy Afrobeat Orquestra, Chicago Afrobeat Orchestra, Warsaw Afrobeat Orchestra, Karl Hector & the Malcouns (from Munich, Germany), Ojibo Afrobeat (from Vilnius, Lithuania), Afrodizz and Dele Sosimi and the ex-Africa '70 members Oghene Kologbo (guitar) with Afrobeat Academy, Nicholas Addo-Nettey (percussion), who is also known as Pax Nicholas [de], with Ridimtaksi (both based in Berlin, Germany). Namibian artist EES (Eric Sell) associates Afrobeat with reggae and kwaito.

In 2009, the music label Knitting Factory Records (KFR) produced the Broadway musical Fela! The story showcased Kuti's "courage and incredible musical mastery" along with the story of his life. The show had 11 Tony nominations, receiving three for Best Costumes, Best Sound and Best Choreography. Fela! was on Broadway for 15 months and was produced by notables such as Shawn "Jay-Z " Carter and Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith. Many celebrities were noted as attending the shows, including Denzel Washington, Madonna, Sting, Spike Lee (who saw it eight times), Kofi Annan, and Michelle Obama. Michelle Williams, former singer of girl group Destiny's Child, was cast as the role of Sandra Izsadore.[21]

Fela Kuti's music has been sampled by various hip-hop musicians such as Missy Elliott, J. Cole, and Kanye West, as well as other popular acts such as Beyoncé.[22][23]

The "Festival de Afrobeat Independiente" (FAI) takes place regularly in Buenos Aires, where regional bands as well as renown Afrobeat acts perform.

See also



  1. ^ "Afropop Worldwide | Mark LeVine: Ghana's Afro-Funk History". Afropop Worldwide. Retrieved 10 May 2024.
  2. ^ "Return to the shrine : Fela Kuti's legacy inspires an Afro-funk revival". Retrieved 10 May 2024.
  3. ^ Staff (16 July 2021). "Guide to Afrobeat Music: A Brief History of Afrobeat". Masterclass. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  4. ^ a b Grass, Randall F. "Fela AnikulaThe Art of an Afrobeat Rebel". The Drama Review: TDR. MIT Press. 30: 131–148.
  5. ^ "Fela Kuti", Wikipedia, 11 November 2023, retrieved 13 November 2023
  6. ^ Khamis, Laura (October 2019). "8 Afrobeats collaborations linking the UK with Africa". Red Bull. Archived from the original on 13 October 2019. Retrieved 13 October 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Scher, Robin (6 August 2015). "Afrobeat(s): The Difference a Letter Makes". HuffPost. Archived from the original on 25 October 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  8. ^ a b Starling, Lakin. "10 Ghanaian Afrobeats Artists You Need To Know". The Fader. Archived from the original on 4 June 2017. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  9. ^ Phillips, Yoh. "WizKid Affiliate Mr Eazi's Journey From Tech Startup to Afrobeats Stardom". DJBooth. Archived from the original on 12 April 2019. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  10. ^ a b Khan, Ahmad (21 September 2017). "A Conversation with the Queen of Afrobeats: Tiwa Savage". HuffPost. Retrieved 22 August 2019.
  11. ^ Smith, Caspar Llewellyn (23 June 2012). "I'm with D'Banj". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Archived from the original on 24 August 2019. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  12. ^ Jumi, Ademola (12 July 2024). "Importants of Afrobeat music". Nigerian pickup. Retrieved 12 July 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Dosunmu, Oyebade Ajibola (2010). Afrobeat, Fela and beyond : scenes, style and ideology. OCLC 933924342.
  14. ^ "Piano | Definition, History, Types, & Facts | Britannica". 5 October 2023. Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  15. ^ "Percussion | Therapy, Treatment & Diagnosis | Britannica". Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  16. ^ Stewart, Alexander (2013). "Make It Funky: Fela Kuti, James Brown and the Invention of Afrobeat". American Studies. 52 (4): 99–118. doi:10.1353/ams.2013.0124. S2CID 145682238. Archived from the original on 24 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018 – via Project MUSE.
  17. ^ "Ghana News – Fela Kuti coined Afrobeat in Accra out of hate for James Brown – Prof John Collins". Archived from the original on 22 April 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
  18. ^ "Brian Eno: Fela's music will live on through his son". 17 November 2010. Archived from the original on 5 April 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  19. ^ "Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Antibalas". 16 February 2021. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  20. ^ "Den Geist des Vaters beschworen: Der Saxofonist Seun Kuti zeigt in Berlin, wie lebendig der Sound seines Vaters Fela Kuti, des Funk-Großmeisters aus Nigeria, bis heute ist". Die Tageszeitung (in German). 1 July 2011.
  21. ^ Brantley, Ben. "About | FELA! On Broadway". FELA! On Broadway. Archived from the original on 31 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  22. ^ Conteh, Mankaprr; C.J, Nelson (12 January 2022). "How Afrobeats is Making the World Listen". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 16 October 2023.
  23. ^ McPherson, A. Malik (26 June 2013). "Afrobeat In Hip-Hop: The Influence On The Influential - Okayplayer". Retrieved 16 October 2023.

Further reading