A History of Afrobeat

Afrobeat is a genre of music (one of the types of African popular music) that combines high-life dance guitar-brass style with African-American genres: funk and jazz. This direction is characterized by an instrumental ensemble, rhythmic works, improvisation, and a strong political orientation of the lyrics.

The biological fathers are a multi-instrumentalist Nigeria 70 and Fela Kuti, musician of the group. Fela Kuti started by playing a sequence of African highlife and jazz bands that included various sounds, rhythms, and blues of tours from Africa and the United Kingdom. Later it was carried forward by the drummer Tony Allen. 

This genre was created in the sixties and hyped in the seventies. At the beginning of the 21st century, the term Afrobeat, itself is already taking root and splits into several subgenres and related styles – Ghanaian music, hiplife, Afropop, and mixed Afrobeat with highlife, fuji, juju, hip-hop.

Afro beta music is currently named Afrobeats, an umbrella term covering the music scene from West Africa to the United Kingdom. Highlife is a derivative genre of Afrobeat. It draws its origins from the jazz sound and western palm wine music of Sierra Leone, consisting in its structure of a wild mixture of dance styles of Anglo-Saxon West Africa and a fusion of native rhythms combined with jazz. It divides into two types of performance forms: guitar ensembles with a brass-wind section, in which jazz rhythms predominate, and performers with a guitar sound from agricultural areas.

The genre itself arose as the brainchild of European and African fusion of musical rhythms with an atmosphere of local color, the ancestors of which were various wind ensembles, percussion bands, and musicians from the branch of the palm wine wave (pam-wain).

During the Second World War, classical highlife was formed under the influence of swing, and in 1957, when Ghana (the cradle of the genre) became independent, the government actively encouraged and funded African ensembles. As a result of support in early 1960, the trumpeter Emmanuel Tetti Mensah appeared with the group The Tempos, later he appears as a solo musician. A significant figure in The Tempos was also virtuoso drummer Guy Warren.

Following this, palm wine musicians transform into guitar ensembles with key virtuoso E. K. Nyame. Further, the highlife conquers Nigeria and gives birth to performers like Bobby Benson, Rex Lawson, Victor Olea. Worth mentioning is Nana Ampadu with the African Brothers, A. B. Crentsil, Ramblers International, Professional Uhuru Dance Band.

In the 1970s, African-American music increasingly dominated. Under this influence, Osibisa appears – one of the first African rock bands to achieve international recognition and create the direction of Afro-rock (a combination of classic rock, soul, and high life). In the wake of this musical experiment, afro-rock, afro-beat, and afro-funk emerge from the shadows of the underground, giving birth to the Ashanti Brothers, City Boys, Magic Aliens, and Boombaya.

Today, most of the Afrobeats stars have developed under different circumstances, which brings new turns to the Afrobeats. Also, the vocalist combination of English and Yoruba sounds more lyrical than aggressive. With the music industry shifting to electronically programmed and sped-up sound, the Afrobeats are listening and adapting to the changes.


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