|Stylistic origins||Funk - highlife - jazz - Yoruba music|
|Cultural origins||1970s Nigeria|
|Typical instruments||Bass guitar - conga - drums - guitar - horns - keyboards - percussion - saxophone - shekere - vocals|
Afrobeat is a combination of traditional Yoruba music, jazz, highlife, funk and chanted vocals, fused with percussion and vocal styles, popularised in Africa in the 1970s. Its main creator was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who gave it its name, who used it to revolutionise musical structure as well as the political context in his native Nigeria. It was Kuti who coined the term "afrobeat" upon his return from a U.S. tour with his group Nigeria '70 (formerly Koola Lobitos). Afrobeat features chants, call-and-response vocals, and complex, interacting rhythms.
The new sound hailed from a club that he established called the Afro-Shrine. Upon arriving in Nigeria, Kuti also changed the name of his group to Africa '70. The band maintained a five-year residency in the Afro-Shrine from 1970 to 1975 while afrobeat thrived among Nigerian youth. Afrobeat is now one of the most recognizable music genres in the world and has influenced as many Western musicians as it has African ones with its exuberant style and polyrhythms.
Afrobeat originated from the southern part of Nigeria in the 1960s where Kuti experimented with many different forms of contemporary music of the time. Prevalent in his and Lagbaja's music are native African harmonies and rhythms, taking different elements and combining, modernizing and improvising upon them. Politics are essential to afrobeat, since founder Kuti used social criticism to pave the way for social change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1960s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination. As the genre spread throughout the African continent many bands took up the style. The recordings of these bands and their songs were rarely heard or exported outside the originating countries but many can now be found on compilation albums and CDs from specialist record shops.
Big band (15 to 30 pieces: Fela-era afrobeat) and energetic performances
- Lead vocals (may play sax/key solos as well)
- Chorus vocals (may include horn players)
- Rhythm guitar(s) (plays funk strumming pattern)
- Tenor guitar (plays a finger-picked ostinato groove)
- Bass guitar
- Drum set, generally in the form polyrhythmic percussion
- Rhythm conga #1
- Rhythm conga #2
- Solo (lead) conga
- Akuba: a set of 3 small stick-hit congas (play flourishes/solos, and ostinatos). Also mistakenly called "gbedu" (gbedu is the name of a large ceremonial drum).
- "Sticks"/claves (plays ostinato)
Many jazz musicians have been attracted to afrobeat. From Roy Ayers in the 1970s to Randy Weston in the 1990s, there have been collaborations which have resulted in albums such as Africa: Centre of the World by Roy Ayers, released on the Polydore label in 1981. In 1994 Branford Marsalis, the American jazz saxophonist, included samples of Fela's "Beast of No Nation" on his Buckshot LeFonque album. The new generation of DJs and musicians of the 2000s who have fallen in love with both Kuti's material and other rare releases have made compilations and remixes of these recordings, thus re-introducing the genre to new generations of listeners and fans of afropop and groove.
Afrobeat has profoundly influenced important contemporary producers and musicians like Brian Eno and David Byrne, who credit Fela Kuti as an essential muse. Both worked on Talking Heads' highly-acclaimed 1980 album Remain In Light which brought polyrhythmic afrobeat influences to Western music. More recently, the horn section of Antibalas have been guest musicians on TV On The Radio's highly acclaimed 2008 album Dear Science, as well as on British band Foals' 2008 album, Antidotes. Some Afrobeat influence can also be found in the music of Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon.
Modern afrobeat bands/artists include:
- Adé Bantu, German-Nigerian musician,
- Lágbájá, Nigerian musician
- Kokolo, New York City Afrobeat group
- Nomo, Ann Arbor based group that weaves various styles into a primarily Afrobeat sound
- Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra, 10 piece cosmic Afrobeat collective based in Leeds, UK
- Afrodizz, an eight-piece band from Montreal, Canada
- Tony Allen, drummer, played in Fela Kuti's band
- Antibalas, Brooklyn, New York based multiracial Afrobeat Orchestra
- Funsho Ogundipe, Nigerian musician
- Chopteeth, an international 14 piece outfit based in Washington D.C.
- Femi Kuti, Nigerian musician, son of Fela Kuti
- Seun Kuti, Nigerian musician, son of Fela Kuti
- Weird MC, Nigerian musician
- May7ven, Nigerian born UK based musician
- Mr. Something Something, Canadian afrobeat group
- Chicago AfroBeat Project
- Jungle by Night, 9 piece (very young) band from Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Grass, Randall F. "Fela Anikulapo-Kuti: The Art of an Afrobeat Rebel". The Drama Review: TDR. MIT Press. 30: 131–148. doi:10.2307/1145717. JSTOR 1145717.
- "Stylistic analysis of afrobeat music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti" (PDF). analysisworldmusic.com. Retrieved 1 August 2010.
- The Afrobeat Blog
- The Unofficial Seun Kuti Fan-Site – Unofficial fan-site for Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 with news, videos, music, pictures and much more]
- The Shrine The Unofficial Website for Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti and Afrobeat Music
- BBC Afrobeat Documentary
- Afrobeat Font - a typeface about afrobeat music