Nigerian artistes take Afrobeats to next level

|    Sophie Bouillon    |

LAGOS (AFP) – Pop star Davido gets the same reaction wherever he goes in Africa, whether it’s in Guinea or Mozambique, Botswana, Kenya or Sierra Leone: teeming crowds and adoring fans.

The 24-year-old icon is one of the favourites for best artiste at this year’s All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA), which take place in Lagos this weekend.

AFRIMA – sponsored by the African Union — are the continent’s equivalent of the American Grammy Awards, with interest reflecting the continent’s rich seam of emerging talent. Davido and his Nigerian compatriot Wizkid, Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz, Sarkodie of Ghana and Ivory Coast’s DJ Arafat are leading a musical revolution: Afrobeats.

The genre was born in Nigeria but has spread across Africa as fast as the rhythm of the bass in a nightclub.

“Nigerians knew how to mix all the influences of Afropop: Congolese soukous, Ivorian coupe-decale, Ghanaian Highlife, Jamaican dancehall,” said video journalist Hugo Claveau, who wrote and directed the documentary, “Afrobeats, From Nigeria to the World”.

“They created a sound for all of Africa. They created the first pan-African music,” Claveau told AFP.

Banning Eyre, an African music specialist, added: “It’s very interesting for me, because it’s totally different from what we’ve seen in the African scene for the past 30 years.”

Afrobeats (with an ‘s’) – a name given in homage to the Afrobeat (without an ‘s’) of the 1970s – was born about 10 years ago with pioneers such as 2Face, D’Banj and P-Square.

File photo dated November 15, 2015 shows a large poster with the portraits of African music icons, displayed during the All Africa Music Awards in Lagos. Pop star Davido gets the same reaction wherever he goes in Africa, whether it’s in Guinea or Mozambique, Botswana, Kenya or Sierra Leone: teeming crowds and adoring fans. – PHOTOS: AFP
File photo dated September 26, 2015 shows Nigerian singer Wizkid performing during a concert in Conakry, Guinea

The Internet and satellite television channels did the rest.

“Music channels like MTV or Channel O made a big impact on exporting Nigerian music,” said Efe Omorogbe, 2Face’s manager and the head of the Now Muzik Limited label. “For the first time you could sit at home in South Africa and you see the best of Nigerian artistes.”

In its wake came the French channel TRACE, which in turn led to TRACE Naija (slang for Nigeria) two years ago, where Nigerian music accounts for about 60 per cent of its output.

TRACE Africa is one of the most popular channels in French-speaking Africa and about a third of its programming is exclusively Nigerian. Omorogbe said the channels “broke the boundaries. Now Africa makes one boundary, not 53”.

The increase in festivals and events such as AFRIMA has equally allowed artistes to meet, exchange ideas and collaborate.

Wizkid, for example, sings on ‘My Soweto Baby’ with the South African DJ Buckz.

Ivory Coast’s DJ Arafat and Nigerian Iyanya use their song ‘Fever’ to call on ‘Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria’ to dance together. The Internet has again been a game-changer.

Kenyan afro-pop star “Sauti Sol sent me a beat and I liked it, I thought it was cool,” said Kritzbeatz, a 22-year-old Nigerian music producer.