Thursday, November 22, 2012

Is 'Afrobeat' Dancehall's Biggest Competitor in London?

Move Over Dancehall.....Afrobeat is Taking Over!

Juliana Lucas says Nigerian music is becoming more popular than Jamaica's beloved dancehall

From the likes of Fela Kuti, Shina Peters and Krazy Kulture, to the more recent introduction of PSquare, M.I., Wizkid, Don Jazzy, D'Banj, 2Face Idibia and many more, the Nigerian music scene has certainly evolved over the years.

This evolution has, in recent years, seen the music gain greater acceptance and more prominence in the UK-perhaps so much so that it is now rivalling or even exceeding the popularity of Jamaican dancehall.

On The Rise: D'Banj )left) was recently signed to Kanye West's (right) Good Music record label
Popularly know as Afrobeat, which is a fusion of fuji, RnB, hip-hop and reggae, Nigerian music has gone through various stages, evolving into a new sound at each junction.  But it's been in the last three or four years that the music has really found its way to prominence in mainstream culture.

Like its Nollywood film counterpart, Afrobeat is truly spreading like wild fire, earning airplay in clubs and on radio.  And what is particularly notable is, as here! reporter Tola Onigbanjo noted last week in her article, "The evolution of Afrobeats," the music is not only being embraced by African audiences, but Caribbean audiences too.

Success: 2Face Idibia scooped the best African act prize at the 2005 MTV Europe Music Awards
There was a time when many people of Caribbean heritage were offended by being associated with African culture.  I remember back when I was in secondary school over 10 years ago, myself and my friends who were also of Nigerian heritage, were often ridiculed by pupils of Jamaican descent.

They would often tell me and my friends to go back to Nigeria and eat fufu.  Strange really, as I've never eaten the stuff.  I'm sure fufu is a dish eaten in Ghana, far more than it is in Nigeria!

Nonetheless, my heritage earned me plenty of teasing.  And were it not for my strong Nigerian accent, I may have been tempted - like many other British Africans did at that time - to pretend I was Jamaican, to spare me from the teasing.

Heat Faded: Elephant Man
Just as Jamaicans seemed to rule the playground, as the years rolled on, I discovered they ruled the music scene too.  Songs like Elephant Man's Pon De River and artists like Sean Paul were earning huge attention on the club and radio scene.  And people of all backgrounds were enjoying dancehall, particularly getting into the countless dances (signal the plane, rockaway, higher level, etc.).

But soon enough, things started to change.  The day makosa music was played at Jamo Rock, a monthly festival held at my university, all the African students went crazy! And as this love affair with African music began, for the first time, I saw the people from other countries embracing music from the motherland.

Since then, moves like radio station Choice FM dedicating a show to the genre (Afro Beats with DJ Abrantee), African music is steadily being woven into the fabric of mainstream society.  Even with some of the songs' lyrics being delivered in the artist's native language or even in pidgin English, people of all backgrounds can now be heard singing along to African songs in UK clubs.

"Afrobeat is rising fats," Femi Amusan of Bright Entertainment Network (BEN) tells here! "With the rise of artists like D'Banj and 2Face Idibia, Afrobeat is going further into the mainstream."

Amusan who presents The Magazine Show for the popular African TV channel, accredited the genre's success to "the hard work of the artists.  It is the artists themselves working and improving their music, their lyrics and also the entertainment industry in Nigeria.

"I must also give kudos to stations like BEN TV, who have been pushing Afrobeat from the beginning.  Now, Afrobeat is here and making waves in the mainstream."

Meanwhile, it could be argued that dancehall has hit a bit of a malaise.  The heat that Sean Paul and Elephant Man enjoyed in the early noughties seems to have faded.  And while Vybz Kartel might be the genre's man of the moment, right now, that has more to do with his personal antics - namely, his skin bleaching - than his music.

Behind Bars: Buju Banton
And then there's Buju Banton.  Having recently been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in setting up a cocaine deal, clearly, he'll be struck off dancehall's radar for the foreseeable future. 

In stark contrast, with an abundance of African acts flooding the music scene, Afrobeat will continue to grow. The recent news of hip-hop star Kanye West signing D'Banj and Don Jazzy to his Good Music record label is further evidence of African music's far-reaching appeal.

"There are so many African artists coming up," Amusan says.  "Look at Wizkid, look at M.I. - they are really up there."

Move over dancehall - Afrobeat is here to stay!

Written by: Juliana Lucas
Source: The Voice-Online UK