by Fennella Miller for Urban Mindz
Over the last decade, not only has high-end African fashion been on the rise in the U.S., but African music has been growing in popularity as well. From the tribal drum sounds, classic beats, griot-like lyricism and even integration of rap bars, there is something very beautiful about the unique sound of African music. This genre of music is on the come up in the United States and has no signs of slowing down.
When it comes to the recent popularity of African music in the States, Afrobeats is one of the most popular genres under this belt. Afrobeats is the musical child of the Afrobeat genre started by the late Nigerian artist Fela Kuti back in the late 1960’s. It is just one of the many genres that are categorized under African music. High life, Soukous, Fuji, Gqom and Bongo Flava are all distinct genres of music from the motherland that are in this category as well. These genres have distinct sounds and birthplaces such as Ghana and Nigeria, making them unique from each other when it comes to not only the sound, but even the dance styles associated with the music.
The American music industry has been taking note of the popularity of African music as hip-hop, R&B and pop artists have opened their arms to invite African artists to collaborate on chart-topping songs. Hip-Hop artist and music mogul Jay-Z signed Nigerian Afrobeats artist Tiwa Savage to his managing label Roc Nation in 2016. Tiwa Savage has been coined as the “Queen of Afrobeats” and has written music and performed as a backup singer for artists like Mary J. Blige, Monica, Fantasia and others. For the 2019 Lion King soundtrack, mega star Beyonce was seeking authentic African music for the project and collaborated with top West African artists Shatta Wale, Yemi Alade, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage and Mr. Eazi. The album has a soulful yet upbeat African sound and received amazing reviews. Songs like “Brown Skin Girl” went viral on the internet with everyone singing the lyrics on social media.
Years before the Lion King soundtrack was released, other big names in American music like Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Drake all had successful hits with African artists as well. Drake and WizKid’s collaboration on the songs “One Dance” and “Come Closer” resulted in the hottest songs of summer 2016 and 2017, and did very well on the Billboard charts. Davido and Chris Brown also had a successful collaboration on their song “Blow My Mind”, which was a big hit this summer. Needless to say, these collaborations have resulted in groundbreaking moments for African music artist who have since garnered large fan bases in the States, which continues to grow.
As for two of the top African artists currently heating up the American charts, London-born Ivorian artist Afro B’s juggernaut “Joanna” has been, without question, the biggest Afrobeats song played between 2018-2019 in every club, radio station and cars passing by. Afro B describes the sound of his music as Afrowave, which is a mix of Afrobeats, hip-hop and dancehall. Then there is the reigning Nigerian king, Burna Boy, whose “African Giant Tour” led to sold-out shows throughout 2019. The tour took place worldwide and was so successful that the artist did the tour twice, first in the spring and then mid-summer throughout early fall. Burna Boy’s music is also a mix of different genres of music described as Afro-fusion that incorporates pop, dancehall and hip-hop. Songs like “Ye” is a banger in American clubs and everyone seems to know the lyrics. From winning the BET award for Best International Artist to being a featured artist at this year’s Coachella Festival, Burna Boy has been living up to his name.
Overall, African artists are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve in the U.S. and music listeners are loving the good vibes and rich history behind African music. With so many great new artists on the rise and successful collaborations with American artists, African artists and their varying Afrobeats/Afrowave style of music, have brought a new sound to the States that the mainstream can’t get enough of. With the fashionable styles of African artists; deep, cultural history behind the music; and beats that get everyone on their feet, African music has the potential of being as powerful in the U.S. as hip-hop and R&B in the near future.