Afrobeat is a musical genre that has been experiencing tremendous growth on the global music scene over the past few years. It involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles such as fuji music with American funk and jazz influences.
Although the genre has been around since the 1960s, its popularity on the international scene has increased tremendously in recent times, so much so, that the genre is said to be leading dancehall music on the international music scene and could very well be taking over in markets where dancehall was once dominant.
According to an article published in the UK Voice earlier this year, Afrobeat is now “rivalling or even exceeding the popularity of Jamaican dance-hall”. The article states that in the last three or four years, Afrobeat has made its way into the mainstream and is being embraced by African audiences, but Caribbean audiences and audiences across the USA and the UK.
Julian Jones-Griffiths, an artiste manager and record label owner, told The Gleaner in an interview that many Afrobeat artistes are on the rise and the genre is being supported by the international market. He said that few dancehall artistes and songs are being shown the same love.
“Davido’s record, Fall, which has been out for a good while and is a very hardcore Afrobeat record, was all of a sudden getting played on HOT 97 (New York) 125 times a week very recently. The only dancehall record getting regular play on Hot 97 was getting just 30 spins a week,” he said.
“Davido, Wiz Kid, Burner Boy and many more have all signed with majors recently, and there has definitely been a rush to sign hot Afrobeat artistes by major label A&Rs (artistes and repertoire). There is not that same desire to sign Jamaican dancehall artistes currently,” Jones-Griffiths said.
“One thing I do see with all the Afrobeat acts is that they are very unified. There isn’t that infamous ‘crab in a barrel’ mentality afflicting their industry that everyone bemoans in dancehall,” he said.
“They are also ahead of us in terms of streaming numbers on Spotify, etc. Streaming is a real issue for us. Spotify is not available here, and it seems that dancehall fans all over don’t really consume the music in these platforms. We’re falling behind in an area the rest of the world is leading,” Jones-Griffiths added.
Sean ‘Contractor’ Edwards, head of Contractor Music Group in Ocho Rios, St Ann, pointed to another set of reasons Afrobeat seems to be edging out dancehall on the international scene. He explained that aside from the rhythm, which makes people feel good and want to dance, Afrobeat boasts clean lyrics and a vibe to which people are drawn.
“Afrobeat has more melody to it than regular dancehall, so it’s something that people can dance to, as well as the lyrics are more radio- and party-friendly. Many of them are love songs, not violent lyrics,” he said.
“Afrobeat is for the younger generation of Europeans, British and African people. … In all the places I have visited recently – Paris, London, Ibiza, Berlin, and Cologne in Germany – this is what is playing in the urban parties and clubs.”
Although admitting that Afrobeat has become quite popular in places where dancehall was once dominant, Edwards does not believe that Afrobeat has taken over from the genre birthed out of Jamaica. He believes that Afrobeat complements dancehall well on the international scene but believes that the hardcore nature of dancehall remains in high demand and will not dwindle even as Afrobeat continues to grow.
Jones-Griffiths and Edwards believe that with the Afrobeat genre predicted to grow even further globally, dancehall acts should consider collaborating with Afrobeat artistes. Pointing to collabs such as DeMarco’s No Wahala, which he did with Akon, Jones-Griffiths and Edwards noted that artistes such as Konshens, Popcaan, Charly Black and Ding Dong have dabbled with Afrobeat. They believe that there is much success to be had if there is more collaboration between artistes who perform the different genres.