SPECIAL FEATURE: The Afrobeat you never knew

Posted by Itty Okim | 10 September 2019 | 2,205 times

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•Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti

In 1973, a certain young man had just joined a local music band in Agogo, Ghana. The band was called the Kumapim Royals and was led by a prominent composer; Akwasi Ampofo Agyei (called AAA).

He had made the move to join the KR because he had plans of taking his music very seriously. He wasn’t getting the exact vibrations he needed to launch into the industry at KR, so he left the band.

In 1980, the young man made what he called the most important decision in his career by leaving the lagging Kumapim Royals to form his own band called Apollo High Kings. This young man – by name Dan Amakye Dede – alongside the Apollo High Kings, went on to become the pioneer of modern Afrobeat as we know it today; a major revolution in Alkebulan music.

After Afrobeat had been made popular by the famous revolutionary political thought leader and multi instrumentalist, Olufela Anikulapo Kuti, the genre of music has grown to gain wide acceptance and recognition all over the world as a pioneer music genre and a major influence of jazz and soul music.

Afrobeat, according to Wikipedia, is a music genre which involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles such as fuji and highlife with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion.

Nigeria’s Fela Kuti first called it Afrobeat after he returned to Nigeria from London to form his first band after the defunct Koola Lobitos called Africa ’70.

However, the history of Afrobeat can be traced to as far back as the 18th century when African traditional music got influenced by spices from the whites.

Over time, Afrobeat has metamorphosed from being an affair of traditional music into a beautiful mixture of features that make resplendent genres on their own. They are called Afrobeats (note the ‘s’).

In this article, we will be getting to meet some of them that the media doesn’t exactly say so much about.


Originally, Banku is a local food made out of cassava. It is most times eaten alongside sauce or soup and is widely consumed all over the cities and suburbs in Ghana. However, in 2016, popular Nigerian singer Oluwatosin Ajibade known popularly as Mr. Eazi called his kind of music Banku. Banku Music is a subgenre of afrobeats pioneered by Mr. Eazi.

The core of the genre is Ghanaian highlife bounce while mixing them with Nigerian chord progressions, then mixed in with various other genre influences such as reggae, R&B, and hip-hop.

Mr Eazi’s style is also mellowed and laid back, with heavy usage of Pidgin English, and percolating rhythms.

The genre is called ‘Banku’ in reference to the Ghanaian dish. The dish contains a multitude of different ingredients, much like how Banku is a fusion of various genres. Eazi credited Ghana for the mellowed sound in his music, in contrast to the typical high energy of Lagos, Nigeria.

Some other artistes who have plugged into the Banku frenzy to make a name for themselves are Fireboy DML; Joeboy who is a beneficiary of Mr. Eazi’s Empawa Africa; Oxlade and Maleek Berry to mention a few.


This is a subgenre that is under a type called Afrofusion. Self-acclaimed Nigerian lyrical king, MI Abaga gave it this name. Don Jazzy said he prefers to call it Afro-pop. However, whichever name it is called, artistes like Sarkodie, defunct duo P-Square, 2face, Wizkid, Davido and Burna boy have ridden on its wings to steal fame and influence for themselves.

Beninese Angelique Kidjo who is a three time Grammy Award winner, is regarded globally as the face of Afro-fusion even though she majors in typical Yoruba highlife and Caribbean swings.

In 2019, Burna Boy (real name, Damini Ogulu) has been able to establish himself as a leading Afro-fusion artiste; especially after his hit album ‘African Giant’.

In August 2015, French rapper MHD released a cover of an instrumental made by P-Square. MHD had been disappointed with the world of French Language rap, judging there was too much influence from American trends.

Influenced by his parents of West African roots, MHD decided to incorporate elements of West African genres such as Afrobeats into his songs and languages such as Fula or Wolof. He coined this newfound genre as “Afro Trap”. The genre is only very loosely influenced by trap music.

This sound is everywhere and youngsters like Rema of Mavin Records have also plugged into it.


Many times, the expected language to be used in Afro pieces are English, Pidgin, French or local dialect. But Afro-reggae artistes are known to use Patois (or Patwah); a form of broken English spoken in Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago and the Caribbean.

Some popular Afro-reggae acts are Nigeria’s Patoranking, Stonebwoy B and Cynthia Morgan.


Afrosoca is a fusion genre of Afrobeats and soca music with some influences from dancehall. The genre was pioneered in Trinidad & Tobago by Nigerian and Trinidadian artistes.

The genre has been pioneered by artistes such as Olatunji, and Timaya. Olatunji's song "Ola" was one of the most popular songs in Trinidad’s 2015 carnival season, leading Olatunji to earn the prize “Groovy Soca Monarch” for his performance at the International Soca Monarch competition.

Another notable song is the remix of “Shake Your Bum Bum” by Timaya and Machel Montano released in 2014, which was a hit in Trinidad.

By 2016, a wave of Afro Soca songs were released coinciding with the year’s carnival season in Trinidad.

Notable songs include Olatunji’s “Oh Yah” and Fay-Ann Lyons and Stonebwoy B’s song “Block D Road”.


Pon Pon is a genre that was briefly the main sound in the Nigerian afro pop music scene during the mid-2010s.

The genre has been used to describe songs influenced by upbeat dancehall and highlife. Sess, a producer, characterised the genre by its “mellow vibe and soft-hitting synths, mostly in pairs”.

There has however been confusion over exactly what defines the genre. It’s unknown exactly where the genre originated, but Tekno’s song “Pana” has been credited for popularising the sound. Krizbeatz, one of the producers behind “Pana”, instead prefers to call the genre “Afro Dance Music” (ADM), denoting the influence of EDM.

Davido’s songs “If” and “Fall” both fall under the Pon Pon genre. Other songs include “Mad Over You” and “For Life” by Runtown, “Gaga Shuffle” by 2baba, “Mama” by Mayorkun, “Ma Lo” by Tiwa Savage, “Jeje” by Falz, and “Ur Waist” by Iyanya.


Not surprisingly, this genre is majorly dominated by females. The likes of Niniola, Teni, Waje, Tiwa Savage (who is considered the queen of Afrobeats), Yemi Alade and Seyi Shay fall under this group.

The genre is a fusion of Afrobeat, pop, highlife and western dancehall and is a perfect blend of hip-hop instruments to produce fine, upbeat sound.

Of recent, African music has been stealing international recognition on all levels and it tells a bright future for the industry.

But be it Afrobeats or not, the communication of music is universal and it has over the years proven to be a beautiful medicine for the soul regardless of its genre. All that is required is the perfect rhythm on the perfect melody in the perfect atmosphere and at the perfect time.

•Itty Okim is a Nigerian journalist and content writer who has deep interest in the music industry. Read him @ittyokim on all social media.

Source: News Express

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