This time last week Ice Prince made a fan out of me because of his verse on Di’ja‘s ‘Yaro Remix’ and in the same week he was close to losing me as a fan after he released ‘N-word Remix’ featuring AKA ~ let me just *side-eye* the song and the video.
If it isn’t apparent already, I hold a soft spot for the genre of music otherwise known as AfroBeats. From old skool *Styl-Plus and their ‘Olufunmi’ saga and 2Face‘s ‘African Queen’ classic that had my 16 year-old self ask my friend to “bluetooth” the song to me; or the Christmas my aunt and I SCREAMED Lagbaja‘s ‘Never Far Away’ to each other in attempts to recreate the melodious duet (we failed). Today we appreciate Asa‘s Yoruba one-liner in her song ‘Be My Man’ while we connect iPhones to car stereos nodding our heads to the likes of Burna Boy‘s “island-influenced” flow. I have also suddenly found myself caught in the Wizkid fan-trap (still trying to understand how I got here ~ darn that ‘Pakurumo’ song) and oh there’s dimpled-faced Davido with his small-boy romance tunes.
I enjoy the sound of AfroBeats because of culture, there’s something about hearing someone sing, rap or rap-sing in your native tongue/Pidgin English over some some RnB/HipHop beats, with the addition of a Gangan being beaten as seen in season 02 episode 11 of Moesha (The Regulations Of Love). A day rarely goes by where I haven’t listened to AfroBeats; I’m constantly on the look out for the newest (or at least new to me), most experimental, indie sounding thing out of Africa or associated with Africa – I mean, I’m still hopeful that Dipo will release a full length album – in fact Omolara nko?
I’m also hopeful that this already global industry will do well and that I won’t get bored of it BUT I have a bone to pick with AfroBeats.
dearAfroBeats – your lyrical/content substance is nearing repetitive and sadly, almost WHACK! Yes I said it. In your bid to attain a Western standard of basic content, I’m finding it harder to really enjoy you without feeling somewhat uncomfortable.
Sex. Money. Girls. (and some females telling us what they want to do to a guy or have a guy do to them – “YE! ETI MI OOOO! YE!” (YE! MY EARS OOOO! YE!).
I’ve said it before, Africans love singing about love – which is all well and good, but I have an issue when traditions and culture becomes sexualised in order appease a Western craving/standard – it’s not everyday a girl’s hips must rotate in directions that have people lost, what happened to the good old fashioned art of a komole? It’ll be refreshing to hear you sing, rap or rap-sing about other topics that don’t involve a night-club, your girl, his girl or some girls, the flashing of [monopoly] money and cars
that needed renting with invoices overdue. You’ve been creative with video production and sound these past few years, how about doing so with the actual content? Omawumi did it well with her song ‘If You Ask Me’ & ‘Megbele’ – culturally conscious music (as did Ayo with her song ‘Life Is Real’).
One song that comes to mind when hitting-the-nail-on-the-head, is Blackmagic‘s ‘Repete’ – yes his name is questionable and yes it’s a love/friend song (think Musiq Soulchild‘s ‘B.U.D.D.Y’), but the song didn’t make me feel uncomfortable and the video had class. I can watch the video with my parents without them saying “what is this rubbish?” – it has happened before.
Other people/songs that come to mind include: Ghana’s M.anifest; I may not understand everything he is saying but when I do his wordplay is creative. There’s Brymo (post and pre Chocolate City) – listening to his ‘M, D, S’ (Merchant’s, Dealers & Slaves) album I really have to think about what he is saying – in a good way. We have Cobhams Asuquo producing quality family friendly music and giving TEDx talks; I wish I had more access to his music/sound. Some ladies doing it well include Somi – the Ugandan-Rawandan-New Yorker and vocal stunt woman who sings about wanting to be gingered and Layori with her ‘Rebirth’ album, which focuses on doing good and the joy of being a mother AND the list is endless, but for the most part it is hard [for me] to find such artists on heavy rotation (in my case on BellaNaija.com).
I would love for you, AfroBeats to be conscious of your content more often, while pushing the bar with audio and visual production and really good story lines, think Temi Dollface ‘Pata Pata’ meets Tiwa Savage‘s ‘Eminado’ some Brymo ‘Omoge Campus’ or ‘Down’ plastered with Bez‘s 7mins film, I mean his video for ‘Say’.
So in essence I, a fellow [financial] supporter of AfroBeats (yes I buy AfroBeats from iTunes) would like to see the following:
- More creative and thought provoking content – there’s only so much a$$ shaking one can bear to hear in ONE verse (and I ask this of my more popular artists – you don’t all have to sound the same).
- Increasing creative visuals to support your creative wordplay and awesome culture.
- Continue singing love songs because Africans get married everyday and the DJ/Live Band always needs the hottest anthems. Nobody wants to attend a lifeless wedding.
- Most importantly – BE YOU. BE AFRICA. You’ve made awesome progress, but I’m concerned that if all you can sing about is the booty of a girl or the cars you have, in a continent where much more serious issues are at hand, then you’ve reached your absolute height and I may have to turn to K-Pop for comfort (I know Nigerians who’d be happy to put me on K-Pop).
That being said, you have done well to make conscious music on a few occasions, let’s work on making these occasions more frequent.
YouTube Playlist containing the songs mentioned in this post (including a few others):
10 hours of AfroBeats for your pleasure.
*It’s their actual website lol I can’t believe it.
2 thoughts on “Music: The Vibe According To… Afro-Beats”
You totally encapsulated my thoughts on the afro beats industry. And as much as I hate the lyrical content, I am ashamed to say that I love the music. Bit hypocritical considering I cannot stand new age hip-hop for the exact same reason.
But something about Wizkid’s Caro or Ginger makes me just so excited to get up and dance lol.
Love the songs you put up as well! Dipo’s Be Your Man was my favourite song in 2010. Waiting for more!