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Afrobeat is a combination of Yoruba music, jazz, and funk rhythms, fused with African percussion and vocal styles, popularized in Africa in the mid to late 1960s.

Afrobeat's most famous artist was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who coined the term Afrobeat, constructed the musical structure and shaped the political context of the genre. He launched afrobeat in Lagos in 1968.

Afrobeat also has influences from high-life music, a style of African pop-jazz. Kuti had earlier played this type of music with the Koola Lobitos band.

Characteristics of Afrobeat are:

  • Big bands: A large group of musicians playing various instruments (Fela Kuti's band in the 80s Egypt 80 featured 80 musicians);
  • Energy: Energetic, exciting and with high tempo, polyrhythmic percussion;
  • Repetition: The same musical movements are repeated many times;
  • Improvisation: Performing without set music;
  • Combination of genres: A mixture of various musical influences.

Afrobeat originated from the southern part of Nigeria in the 60s, influenced probably by the American free jazz movement. Fela Anikulapo Kuti went through experimenting different forms of music - first by highlife jazz, and then other forms of contemporary music of the time and local African harmonies and rhythms, taking different elements and combining, modernizing and improvizing thoae rythyms.

Politics is essential to the genre of Afrobeat, since the founder Fela Kuti was deeply concerned in social criticism to pave way to social change. The message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 60s, which dealt with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from the colonial governments to self-determination.

As the genre spread throughout the African continent, many bands took up the style in the 60s and 70s. The recordings of these bands and their songs were hardly heard or exported to outside the originating countries and can be classified rare.

Jazz musicians have always been attracted to afrobeat. From Roy Ayers in the seventies to Randy Weston in the nineties there have been collaborations which have resulted in albums like africa centre of the world by Roy Ayers released on the polydor label in 1981. In 1994 branford marsalis the American jazz saxophonist would include samples of Fela's "Beast of No Nation" in his Buckshot le Fonque album.

Afrobeat has profoundly influenced important contemporary producers like Brian Eno who credits Fela Kuti as an influence.

New generation DJs of the 2000s who have fallen in love with both Kuti's material and other rare releases have made compilations and remixes off of these recordings, thus re-introducing the genre to new generations of listeners and fans of afro-pop and groove.

Post-Fela, the Afrobeat scene is spreading and the music seems to have taken root on the global music scene. There is a diverse group of bands influenced by the music operating out of different countries. A list of Acts to watch would definitely include Femi Kuti (Fela's first son and a saxophonist) and the positive force, Ayetoro (a group led by Nigerian piano player/composer Funsho Ogundipe), Antibalas (Brooklyn, New York based multiracial afrobeat band formed by baritone saxophonist Martin Perna) and finally, Tony Allen the man who held the drum chair during Fela's productive Africa 70 phase.


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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.