Over the last several years, America, Europe and even Asian listeners have grown more and more attuned to the sounds of West African pop music, also known as Afrobeats. Whether it’s the swaggering Nigerian Afro-fusion of Burna Boy, the soothing sounds from Nigerian singer Wizkid, the playfully blending anthems of Ghanaian-American singer Amaarae, or the enthusiastic dabbling of stateside superstars like Drake and Diplo.
Originally, Fela [Kuti] created Afrobeats. Fela was a huge pioneer of a new sound in Nigeria that spread from Nigeria to different parts of the world. It was the basic template that a lot of people worked with in creating their own sounds. Fela got horns from jazz, got sounds from soul, he got some certain traditional African chants. And they also included a lot of instruments, multilayered instrumentation, to create something called Afrobeat. A great example of it is the song “Gentleman.” It was released in 1973 off the album Gentleman by Fela Kuti.
You know, much of Fela’s music back then was very realistic. A lot of it was militant, a lot of it was activist. Fela was a politician who also fought for the rights of his people and was a scourge to the Nigerian dictators during the dictators’ military regime. His work and his actions inspired a generation. Even down to this point in time, a lot of the music that we call Afrobeats now, they still collect from Fela’s compositions and utilize it in the music. Fela has been sampled continually.
So when he died, his music didn’t die. The Nigerian music industry made sure they inculcated and transformed it into what it is now. With a lot of progress happening, the world opening up and people becoming aware of our music, So they decided to name it Afrobeats, and that’s how it came to be. All the pop music coming in from Nigeria, Ghana, sub-Saharan Africa, they just named it Afrobeats to give it a marketable entity.