6 Fascinating Reasons Americans Love (& Hate) Afrobeats
I assume you’re here because…well, let’s be honest, who hates Afrobeats? Like wait, have you actually heard African music!? As founder of Jwompa, a music company that shares the magic of African music with diverse communities all over the world, I’ve got a bone to pick with anyone hating on the movement.
There are over 20 million Africans living outside of Africa, a thriving global black diaspora, and an increasing number of non-Africans all over the world whose interest in African music is at an all-time high.
There is no question that Afrobeats has seen an unprecedented global boom in the last 4-5 years, literally taking over the world by storm. Almost everyone is talking about it, dancing to it, or listening to it. Afrobeats artists are selling out concert venues in New York, Paris, and London, and performing at major music festivals. So knowing all this, who are these people who aren’t talking about Afrobeats? And why?
Let’s start with reasons why some Americans (and others) might experience a slight learning curve getting on the Afrobeats wave. But I promise we’ll end on a good note.
Reasons they “Hate”
1) New fans looking to discover more immersive listening experiences are largely disappointed by existing music streaming apps.
Listeners are constantly seeking a deeper connection with the music they listen to. Unfortunately, one-size-fits-all streaming apps (like Spotify, Apple, Tidal etc.) are not able to deliver culturally-specific content in ways that reach, resonate, and appeal to diverse audiences. Yes, language can be a barrier. But people need more context beyond just the lyrics. They want to know about the story behind the music, the life of the artists, the countries they come from, and the overall cultural relevance of the music.
2) Some listeners worry about “doing it wrong “— appropriating the culture that is so inextricably connected to the music.
Everyone knows African music is not just about music. It’s also about the Jollof war banter, it’s the colorful Kente and Ankara patterns, it’s the slang. (And if you’re reading this and asking what the Jollof War is, then this point is especially for you). Music is intricately woven into our traditions, our festivals, and our within communities. So as you can imagine, participating in the culture could be a little daunting for some. But fear not! Everyone is invited to the party, no matter where you’re from. No judgment, just dancing.
3) There’s a good amount of confusion surrounding the naming and categorizing of various African music types.
So the general consensus is that “Afrobeat”, a classic genre popularized by music legend Fela Kuti, generally has a makeup of organic instrumental grooves, with political commentary and messages of civic consciousness. “Afrobeats” (with the s) is generally considered an amalgamation of Ghanaian “hiplife”, Nigerian “Naija” beats, and other African pop music — all rooted in hip-hop and British grime. Let’s not forget the confusion around “Afropop”, “House vs. Kwaito”, “Afrotrap” etc…The list goes on and on.
At Jwompa, we have a different perspective on categorizing African music. We truly embrace the evolution and fusion of African music genres. We believe that to make music relatable to a global audience, we must adapt our nomenclature as the music itself evolves.
Reasons they “Love”
1) African music is largely driven by rhythm, and rhythm is arguably the most universal element of music and thus relatively easy to adopt.
If you know anything about American music, you’ll know that it has a strong African component, for obvious historical reasons. And if there is anything close to a common currency throughout the world (especially the black world), it is music. Afrobeats is becoming that modern currency.
2) Our favorite American (and UK) artists are collaborating with African artists.
In recent years, we’ve witnessed African artists collaborate with major global pop/rap artists such as Drake, Migos, Ed Sheeran, Major Lazor, Popcaan, Chris Brown, and many others. More than ever, artists are looking to generate new sounds for their audiences. International collabs are the new wave, and American listeners love it!
3) Afrobeats is taking the Dance/Fitness industry to new heights.
It started with the Azonto dance, then it was Skelewu, the Shoki, the Kupe, the Zanku, and many more. Do you follow Instagram pages like @Chopdaily? Well, you should. Folk from all walks of life are coming together through Afro-dance and fitness. Now if you don’t believe the hype, check out these pages: @hooliboy94, @ggbdancecrew, @dwpacademy, @house_yoda, @petitafro.
BONUS (Love) Reasons
4) Afrobeats is the new sound in the West, and everyone likes new. It’s fresh and full of interesting cultural and historical discoveries.
Everyone likes new stuff, especially new music. And Afrobeats is kinda like the newest thing on the block. There is so much education within the music itself — from a social, cultural, and historical lens. Have you read about the revolutions in South Africa and Nigeria? African music is and continues to be influential on a global scale. African music offers many interesting learning opportunities for new and old listeners.
5) Americans love being entertained. And Afrobeats is really good at entertaining people.
It is no secret that Americans love to have fun. Do you remember when Dancehall first hit the scene? What about the fairly recent explosion of Latin pop music on the American scene? Remember Despacito? Well, Afrobeats is the new sheriff in town. It’s perfect for dancing and partying, and Americans love to party. Not to mention, it’s also perfect for playing in the car and on the radio. Our music experts predict that Afrobeats will ultimately double the success of Latin pop music in North America. Need I say more?
Don’t be late to the party.
African music has the potential to educate, and unite all of Africa, including the global black diaspora. Through music, we can elevate the pride of Africans and the prominence of Africa as represented globally. We must work to grow the value of African music far beyond local markets, where creators can benefit monetarily from international reach and exposure. Platforms must contextualize music in ways that reach, resonate, and appeal to diverse audiences irrespective of their level of prior familiarity to our sounds. Jwompa hopes to make this possible.