AfroBeats vs. AfroBeat: what’s the difference?

We are so happy to share the latest in contemporary African Music on our AfroPop Radio podcast. We explore a wide range of music genres, no doubt. In these days and times it is very exciting to hear and witness the explosion of popularity where it comes to African Music. And in its zeal to cover this progressive expression of music, mainstream media and a LOT of y’all have labeled this music as AfroBeat. Some have labeled it as AfroBeats. But the two are very very different.

Surely, with digital technology, core music buying audiences across the globe are discovering what is being called AfroBeats.

Making-Africa-720x430Afrobeats is not to be confused with AfroBeat or AfroSwing. This genre is also known as Afro-pop, and is an umbrella term for contemporary pop music made primarily in West Africa and the diaspora, that initially developed in Nigeria and Ghana in the first decade and a half of the 2000s. We estimate Afrobeats as less of a style, and more of a descriptor for the fusion of sounds flowing out of modern African pop culture. Its popularity is undeniable with artists like Burna Boy and Davido gaining important music award nominations. In fact, the respected BET Awards honored Davido in 2018 with the Best International Act award and for the first time, included this category’s presentation during its main broadcast. Up until that triumphant moment, the category had been relegated to an off screen designation, much to the chagrin of Africa’s top music stars. They would explode on the scene to the tune of tens of millions of views, download and shares. They would tout thier BET Award nominations to great fanfare only to be let down hard when they realized this segment would not be telecast across the globe. With Davido, that changed. And with it the consciousness of Afrobeats was raised exponentially in the United States.

This year, the flavor of the moment is Burna Boy. He is making news as he won the BET Award category in 2019’s edition of the honor. And has been selling out shows across the US ignited by his triumphant concert debut at Coachella. Now as we go into Award season, we see him emerging with a coveted Grammy nomination. Yes, AfroBeats is blowing up with Major labels taking notice and building new signings and departments to specialize in the marketing and promotion of contemporary African Music.

But this music genre should not be confused with AfroBeat. No. This genre was invented in the ’70’s and remains an influential foundation on the music we hear today. AfroBeat was pioneered by the late great Fela Kuti and is described as a mix of West African Musical styles such as Ghanaian High Life seasoned with funk and jazz influences. The best AfroBeat Bands have ginormous horn sections blaring out complex riffs accented by a bed of percussions and dancers.

Recently we were at a conversation event with Bootsy Collins where he directly attributed his style of funk and sense of funk to the sounds of AfroBeat.

In the end, AfroBeat is not the same as AfroBeats. To make this error is to ignore the very fabric of African pop culture identity.

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The AfroBeat Explosion Show presented by AfroPop Radio each May in celebration of Africa Day.