Afrobeat was developed in the 1970s out of a combination of West African musical styles, such as Fuji music and highlife with American jazz, with a focus on chanted vocals and percussion.
The genre was originated by musician and human rights activist Fela Kuti popularized by some of his songs such as Lady, Zombie, and of course Shakara.
The legacy of the legendary activist and politician has been carried on by his sons Seun and Femi Kuti; accomplished afrobeat musicians as well as his daughter Yeni who puts together “Felabration” yearly to celebrate him and honour his memory.
In recent times, however, a seeming afrobeat genre has emerged.The likes of Nigeria’s Star Boy Wizkid, Ghana’s Guru, Fuse ODG have been identified as afrobeat musicians. It is obvious to the ordinary music lover that what we hear today does not exactly sound like what Fela’s work.
The question then is, could what we term as afrobeat today, rather be a reference to “African beat”; music that has an African feel and not Fela Kuti’s afrobeat?
Or is it simply an evolved and modern version of Fela’s innovation. At least that’s the opinion of musician Guru who insists his music is afrobeat.
According to him, “music is growing, and we are still being creative, trying to bring in a different texture and a different feel.”
Producer and CEO Of Slip Entertainment, Mark Okraku Mantey, on the other hand, believes that what is called afrobeat today really is not.
Musically, he says “ the difference is very clear”. According to the music authority, “Fela created his own pattern of horns, created the baseline progression and all of that. Today what they call afrobeat has nothing to do with Fela”.
Wizkid is one of the artistes believed to be doing the afrobeat genre. Several times, the Starboy has been compared to the legend musically. Seun Kuti, however, thinks that “Wizkid is doing his own thing”.
He is sure that “ what Wizkid represents has nothing to do with what my father represents. They are different artistes representing different ideologies”.
Seun Kuti believes that a lot of artistes are inspired by Fela Kuti’s music but “to say Fela and Wizkid are doing the same thing makes no sense”.
Another school of thought, on the other hand, thinks that what we term ‘afrobeat’ is a different genre supposed to be spelt with an ‘s’ at the end.
Whatever the debate really is, we surely appreciate every single contribution of all musicians to the industry. They feed our souls daily and we indeed are grateful; after all, what is it they say; music is food for our souls.