Afrobeat: the Nigerian musical genre that has triumphed in 2022

More than Nollywood films, Afrobeat is arguably Nigeria’s most important cultural export since the turn of the millennium. It is a hugely dynamic music category that incorporates various existing moods, languages, styles, and genres.

As has been suggested, the essence of Afrobeat is festive pop music originating in Nigeria and West Africa. Throughout 2022, Afrobeat artists have been household names on the world stage, winning awards, being featured on Hollywood soundtracks, selling out stadiums and even landing their own UK and US charts.

The exhibition Fela Anikulapo-Kuti: Afrobeat Rebellion in Paris it opened with a pilgrimage by the Afrobeat community to the French capital to pay tribute to the Nigerian musician who helped create Afrobeat, which spawned the current trend.

In Nigeria, some Afrobeat artists became politically aware, while big names competed for landmark albums. The movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever celebrated its African premiere in Lagos with an Afrobeat-infused soundtrack highlighting the talents of Nigerian singer-songwriter Tems.

election season

In the Nigeria of 2022, Afrobeat music has been linked to the general elections that will take place in February 2023. In my study on the relationship between pop music and electoral awareness, I broke down a number of ways in which popular musicians influence elections and vice versa. Among them, the positive evolution that occurs when pop stars promote certain issues in the programs of political parties by speaking about social problems.

Take, for example, Pheelz and Davido’s “Electricity”, one of the biggest singles of the year. He tackles the burning issue of Nigeria’s poor electrification. In a subtle but forceful way, it puts the ball in the court of the political class so that they solve the problem and improve living conditions. It’s a nonpartisan hit that resonates with the public while drawing the attention of politicians.

In 2022, several Afrobeat stars sought the attention of the political class by being inspired by it or simply appropriating slogans and songs popularized by politicians. Ruger’s “Asiwaju”, Timaya’s “Sweet Us” and Qdot’s “Emi lo kan” are some examples. None of these singles necessarily have electoral value or prescribe solutions to society’s problems. However, each of them offers benefits to the interpreters and politicians mentioned.

In “Sweet Us,” Timaya, a veteran of the genre, echoes a triumphant cry popularized by the Governor of Rivers State. The song was a national hit after the governor lost a bitter presidential primary. Although it resonated with underprivileged audiences, it still reached more people after Timaya made a sexy version of it. On the catchy but corny “Asiwaju” (Leader), the emerging Ruger makes a subtle reference to Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of Nigeria’s ruling party, almost craving the attention of the party’s campaign team.

Several Afrobeat and Nollywood personalities, such as P-Square and Kenneth Okonkwo, have endorsed presidential candidate Peter Obi, popular with Nigerian youth.

But not all music coming out of Nigeria in 2022 has an electoral or political bias.

Featured Stars: Kizz Daniel and Asake

2022 is the year of “Buga”, a viral hit by singer-songwriter Kizz Daniel whose choreography has been danced in public by personalities such as George Weah, President of Liberia.

Daniel did not stop there. He added “Cough” to an already spectacular body of work. “Buga” and “Cough” highlight the artist’s mastery when it comes to applying phrases from the entire West African coast to achieve pan-African effects. Buga is a Yoruba term that means “flaunt what you have”.

Undoubtedly, 2022 is also the year of breakthrough artist Asake, whose hit “Terminator” is reminiscent of the Hollywood film of the same name. Asake demonstrates the extent to which Afrobeat is trans-artistic and transnational. While abroad, some of Nigeria’s leading presidential candidates posted videos of themselves dancing or working out to “Organise,” Asake’s fan-favorite song.

The “Queen of Afrobeat”, Tiwa Savage, 42, teamed up with Asake for the hit single “Loaded”, in which she talks about her own experience following the leak of a sex tape. The singer Oxlade also triumphed on the airwaves with “Ku lo sa”. Other notable mentions include Ayra Starr’s “Rush” and MohBad’s “Peace,” which deals with unsatisfactory deals with local record labels.

album year

2022 was also a big year for Afrobeat stars looking to cement their legacy with full length works.

The first album as an artist from producer and singer-songwriter CKay, Sad Romance, contained the song “Love Nwantiti”, which achieved worldwide success and won awards. Other famous releases are Boy Alone from Omah Lay, Rave and Roses of Rhema, Playboy by Fireboy DML, Catch Me If You Can by Adekunle Gold and love, damini by Burna Boy (the most played album in Nigeria in 2022).

Afrobeat pioneer Wizkid presented More Love Less Ego in a year that confirmed him as an exceptional artist who increasingly relies more on the freshness that Tems and Ayra Starr give to the genre. There is also, of course, Asake’s debut, Mr Money with the Vibe.

embrace rap

There is evidence of the impact of rap music as it becomes more and more integrated into Afrobeat: almost all successful Nigerian rappers have learned to make pop music.

In 2022, the Show Dem Camp duo released Palmwine Music Vol. 3. MY Abaga pulled The Guy and the veteran Vector published The Energy Still Lives In Meinvoking Afrobeat as a mirror of the tireless Nigerian spirit.

Topics: face of the future

This impressive year for Afrobeat music was also the year of the soundtrack for Wakanda Foreverwith CKay, Fireboy DML, Rema, Burna Boy and Tems.

Along with her rendition of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” 2022 belongs to R&B fusion singer and producer Tems. In Nigeria she won two Headies Awards for her EP If Orange Was A Place and then it took the United States by storm, where it won a BET Award, the award for Best New Artist at the Soul Train Music Awards, and two American Music Awards. She is nominated in three categories for the 2023 Grammy Awards. Tems has performed at some of the biggest music festivals on the planet in 2022 and she is the cover star of the winter issue of the magazine. Dazed Magazine.

The future of Afrobeat may not lie in Afrobeat itself. The genre will be progressively inspired by western styles and, in many ways, Tems is an example of this. Her association with Afrobeat has more to do with her identity as a Nigerian than the music itself. It reflects the marriage of the fringes of Nigerian music with an amalgamation of outside influences. Before her, similar artists like Asa and Nneka made their forays into the international market, but they didn’t have the impact of Tems.

Tems represents a year in which this ecosystem has experienced unprecedented mobility. Some analysts estimate that the United States will eventually move away from Afrobeat, but this is irrelevant, since nothing is wrong with the genre at the moment, and it will continue to be so throughout 2023.

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