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Afrobeat is a combination of Yoruba music, jazz, highlife, and funk rhythms, fused with percussion and vocal styles, popularized in Africa in the 1970s. Its main creator was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti who used it to revolutionise musical structure as well as the political context in his native Nigeria. It was Kuti who coined the term "afrobeat" upon his return from a U.S. tour with his group Nigeria 70 (formerly Koola Lobitos).

The new sound hailed from a club that he established called the Afro-Shrine. Upon arriving in Nigeria, Kuti also changed the name of his group to Fela Ransome-Kuti & Africa 70. The band maintained a five-year residency in the Afro-Shrine from 1970 to 1975 while afrobeat thrived among Nigerian youth. Afrobeat is now one of the most recognisable music genres in the world and has influenced as many Western musicians as it has African ones with its exuberant style and polyrhythms.

Contents

Origins

Afrobeat originated from the southern part of Nigeria in the 1960s where Kuti experimented with many different forms of contemporary music of the time. Prevalent in him and Lagbaja's music are native African harmonies and rhythms, taking different elements and combining, modernizing and improvising upon them. Politics are essential to afrobeat, since founder Kuti used social criticism to pave the way for social change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1960s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination. As the genre spread throughout the African continent many bands took up the style. The recordings of these bands and their songs were rarely heard or exported outside the originating countries but many can now be found on compilation albums and CDs from specialist record shops.

Influence

Many jazz musicians have 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 such as Africa: Centre of the World by Roy Ayers, released on the Polydor label in 1981. In 1994 Branford Marsalis, the American jazz saxophonist, included samples of Fela's "Beast of No Nation" on his Buckshot leFonque album. The new generation of DJs and musicians of the 2000s who have fallen in love with both Kuti's material and other rare releases have made compilations and remixes of these recordings, thus re-introducing the genre to new generations of listeners and fans of afropop and groove.

Afrobeat has profoundly influenced important contemporary producers and musicians like Brian Eno and David Byrne, who credit Fela Kuti as an essential muse. Both worked on Talking Heads' highly-acclaimed 1980 album Remain In Light which brought polyrhythmic afrobeat influences to Western music. More recently, the horn section of Antibalas have been guest musicians on TV On The Radio's highly-acclaimed 2008 album Dear Science, as well as on British band Foals' 2008 album Antidotes.

Instrumentation

Big band (15 to 30 pieces: Fela-era afrobeat) and energetic performances

  • Lead vocals (may play sax/key solos as well)
  • Chorus vocals (may include horn players)
  • Rhythm guitar(s) (plays funk strumming pattern)
  • Tenor guitar (plays a finger-picked osinato groove)
  • Bass guitar
  • Drum set, generally in the form polyrhythmic percussion
  • Saxophone(s)
  • Trumpet(s)
  • Trombone(s)
  • Organ/keyboards
  • Rhythm conga #1
  • Rhythm conga #2
  • Solo (lead) conga
  • Akuba: a set of 3 small stick-hit congas (play flourishes/solos, and ostinatos). Also mistakenly called "gbedu" (gbedu is the name of a large ceremonial drum).
  • "Sticks"/claves (plays ostinato)
  • Shekere

Today

There are several active afrobeat bands worldwide today.

Modern afrobeat bands/artistes include:

  • EMEFE (band), New York City Afrobeat group formed by Miles Arntzen
  • Kokolo (band), New York City Afrobeat group formed by songwriter/producer Ray Lugo
  • Odu Afrobeat Orchestra, Detroit based group led by Adeboye Adegbenro, who used to sit in with Fela Kuti when he lived in Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Nomo, Ann Arbor based group that weaves various styles into a primarily Afrobeat sound.
  • Chicago Afrobeat Project Chicago based collective that uses afrobeat as a springboard and has an incendiary live show.
  • Afrodizz, an eight-piece band from Montreal, Canada formed by jazz guitarist Gabriel Aldama
  • The Afromotive, an Asheville, NC based multiracial seven-piece afrobeat band featuring thirty-third generation djembe player Adama Dembele from Cote d‘Ivoire, West Africa.
  • Tony Allen, the man who held the drum chair during Fela's productive "Africa 70" phase, and whose drumming was, according to James Brown's autobiography, the influence behind his 'discovery' of funk.[citation needed]
  • Antibalas, Brooklyn, New York based multiracial Afrobeat Orchestra formed by baritone saxophonist Martin Perna
  • Aphrodesia, San Francisco based group, first American group to perform with Femi Kuti at The Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Ayetoro, a group led by Nigerian pianist/composer Funsho Ogundipe
  • Bebe cool lives in Uganda famous for his reggea mixed with luganda pop and English making an Afrobeat rhythm in Uganda known as Luga flow.He also lives in kampala.
  • Chopteeth, an international 14 piece outfit based in Washington D.C., with former members of Busta Rhymes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Gladys Knight & the Pips.
  • Femi Kuti (Fela's first son and a saxophonist) and the Positive Force
  • Seun Kuti (another of Kuti's sons, saxophonist now fronting his father's last and late band)
  • Dele Sosimi's Gbedu Resurrection Dele is a former keyboardist and musical director of Fela's band. He cofounded Femi Kuti's Positive Force.
  • Zozo Afrobeat A thirteen-member group based in NYC, founded by Kaleta, former Fela guitarist.
  • Baba Ken and the Afro-Groove Connexion Oakland based multiracial afrobeat ensemble led by Nigerian bassist, Baba Ken Okulolo, founding member of the seminal 1970's afrofunk/afrorock band, Monomono.
  • Jose Chameleone famous in East, central and South Africa.He stays and live is Uganda in kampala city.He sing pop and Afro beat music.He is one of the most famous artists of Afro beat in Africa and the whole world.
  • Afrobeat Down Los Angeles based Afrobeat ensemble (est. 2002) working with former Fela Africa '70 member and catalyst of entire afrobeat movement, Sandra Izsadore.
  • Weird MC Rap artiste who occasionally experinments with Afrobeat rhythm.
  • Vibe Squad A Ghanaian music crew formed by EaZZY Da Opemfour made of Prego, Culchar, Wizzy Wii and Richie.
  • Gnl zamba rap artist in Uganda one of the most successful rap afrobeat star in East Africa and central Africa.He is known for his rhythm of 2 pac shakur
  • Mr. Something Something Canadian afrobeat group
  • Crime Scene Infunkstigation A 10-piece Afrobeat/Funk/Hip Hop group based out of Calgary, AB
  • K'naan Born in Mogadishu, Somalia. He currently resides in Toronto, Canada

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