Afrobeats on the Rise: Will Its Success Come at the Cost of Originality? If so, Why Hasn’t Hip-hop?
BY EMMANUEL CHIDERA AMOKE
African musicians, and particularly the Nigerian industry, have evolved significantly with substantial effort in place. Despite occasional toxicity and competition, including stanships that draw benchmarks for each competitor in the industry, for a thing it does, it pushes them up and above limits. Now, other global artists around the world explore this captivating sound. And do you believe it will lose its originality? I doubt.
In our previous episode of the ‘Groove Odyssey,’ we delved into Afroswing, a UK-originated sound that is undeniably and significantly influenced by Afrobeats. These and more project the height Afrobeats is aimed for. However, our concern lies in guiding our local artists to recognize that their acceptance stems from the authenticity of their original music rather than their conformity to foreign styles. The question arises: who will impart this message to our artists and encourage them to embrace with confidence and pride the elements that garnered them global recognition? It’s disheartening to witness individuals we consider our African (Afrobeats) giants potentially discrediting the genre that has propelled their craft, whether for some cheap album sales, or others attempting to sync with the foreign style, merely for global acceptance.
On the social spectrum, beyond the realm of music itself, we are greeted each day with the excitement of international artists collaborating and connecting with our local talents. The desire to associate with Afrobeats and its creators has always been present. Notably, in “The Lion King: The Gift” (2019), US icon Beyoncé broke new ground by enlisting the services of Afrobeats stars, such as Wizkid and Burna Boy. Her collaboration with WizKid on “Brown Skin Girl” earned a prestigious Best Music Video award at the 2021 Grammys.
Even Grammy award winner Angelique Kidjo from Benin, though not classified as an Afrobeats artist, recognizes the genre’s influence. This is evident in her 2021 album, “Mother Nature,” nominated for Best Global Music Album. Kidjo co-opted some of Afrobeats’ brightest stars, including Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Rexxie, and Yemi Alade. This collaboration underscores the genre’s global impact and the willingness of international artists to embrace Afrobeats and collaborate with its shining talents.
A historical lens on hip-hop’s journey reveals that its incorporation of diverse beats and rhythms has been instrumental in its global success. Far from diminishing its essence, this cross-cultural exchange has enriched hip-hop, making it a mosaic of influences. Hip-hop has lasted for decades and has dominated the world and almost every existing music genre, including Afrobeats itself.
Much more for Afrobeats, the writer sees it as a catalyst for a spectrum of derivatives that will forever be linked back to its roots, Afrobeats. Like hip-hop, it’s the turn of Afrobeats to rule the global music scene. The flexibility and adaptability of this African genre are highlighted as strengths, enabling artists worldwide to seamlessly blend with its distinctive sounds. This stands in contrast to other popular genres like reggae, which, despite their popularity, lack a similar level of adaptability.
In other words, the exploration of Afrobeats by non-African artists can be seen as a catalyst for creativity, much like the cross-cultural pollination that fueled the innovation within hip-hop. The infusion of diverse musical styles and perspectives has the potential to elevate Afrobeats into a global soundscape.
Music, as an art form, is inherently dynamic. Afrobeats, too, can evolve without sacrificing its core identity. The infusion of diverse influences can lead to a richer and more nuanced Afrobeats that resonates with a global audience. The genre’s adaptability as its strength, ensures that it remains a living, breathing entity that reflects the spirit of its time.
In conclusion, the global exploration of Afrobeats by non-African artists, rather than fearing dilution, should be embraced as a harmonious journey of cultural exchange. It’s an advantage for more of our artists, as it will attract lots of collaborations between African and non-African artists which will create a symbiotic relationship. Beyond musical enrichment, it will also foster economic and cultural exchange. This collaborations provides African artists with opportunities to showcase their talent on a global stage, creating a bridge between cultures that extends far beyond music.
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