Afrobeats: A musical genre that conquers the world by storm

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A musical genre from Nigeria is shaking up the global music industry.

Afrobeats, the popular African musical genre, contains a 21st century fusion of Western rap influences and contemporary Ghanaian and Nigerian pop music.

The term Afrobeats should not be confused with Afrobeat (without “s”). Afrobeat is a Nigerian music genre dating back to music icon Fela Anikulapo Kuti and is categorized by a fusion of juju and highlife music infused with funk and jazz beats.

Although the Afrobeats genre has grown since the early 90s, it really took off on the international music scene in 2016. From there, other American artists, such as Tory Lanez and Major Lazer, incorporated Afrobeats sounds and featured African artists in their music.

The Calgary Journal traveled to Pulse Studios to explore the Afrobeats dance scene in Calgary.

Amanda Okafor is a born and raised Canadian Nigerian. She draws her inspiration from her love for art, culture and life experiences. When life is not in its path, Amanda takes this opportunity to get out and explore the world several times a year. She believes that by exploring, she maintains herself as a creator through a stable life and constant learning. Amanda enjoys teaching Afrobeats as it gives her a chance to connect with different types of people through more than just conversation. She also mentions that dancing comes naturally to her.

“It makes me feel good and really brings me joy,” she said.

She explains that there are three dance styles from Afrobeats that you will notice the most in clubs: Zanku, Shaku Shaku and Gwara Gwara.

Shaku Shaku is a dance style that originated in Nigeria. This is done by moving your legs rhythmically from side to side, while your hands are usually crossed forward as if they are handcuffed.

Zanku dance, also known as footwork, is usually done by repeated tapping or pounding of the foot with the hands held up in the air and ends with a stylized push of one foot as if trying to knock down a door. The dance is accompanied by different variations of a faster footwork, ranging from mimicry of slicing and screwing hand movements to waving a white handkerchief while tapping your foot. All of this is usually done with attitude and vigor.

Dance Gwara Gwara is from South Africa and the dance’s popularity increased after Rihanna performed it during her performance at the 2018 Grammy. Childish Gambino also featured an appearance of the dance in her popular music video “This” is America “. Find out how to learn the dance step here.

The success of Afrobeats continues to grow and it looks like the style is here to stay. Afrobeats derive their distinct sound from several different influences. The style is rooted in West African musical styles, particularly highlife music. American jazz and funk are also added to the mix, creating a hybrid sound from all continents.

For those new to Afrobeat, three acclaimed artists to start: Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy.

Davido, otherwise known as David Adeleke, began his rise to fame in 2011, when he released his album Omo Baba Olowo. He soon followed with a second album, The Baddest. His talent and growing fan base led him to win the Best International Act award at the BET Awards in 2014 and 2018.

Wizkid, or Ayo Balogun, is a name recognized around the world. His success as an artist began with his debut album titled Superstar, which was released in 2011 and won him significant recognition. He has become an Afrobeats fan favorite and is commonly known as the “Star Boy”.

Burna boy, born Damini Ogulu, is a Nigerian reggae-dancehall singer and songwriter who released his debut studio album, LIFE, in 2013. His second effort in 2015, On a Spaceship, delivered an even more diverse record than His first. In 2017, a slew of singles followed throughout the year, including “Streets of Africa”, “Calm Down” and “Sekkle Down”. In early January 2018, Ogulu released their third album, Outside. He returned a year later with the single “Killin Dem”, a collaboration with Zlatan.

One of the perks of taking Amanda’s class is the attraction of music. One of her students, Jenai Lieu, said she is taking the class because she believes Afrobeats dancing is the basis for many other styles of street dance. Lieu and another student in the class, Bonnie Boyda, highly recommend the class to others.

Afrobeats: A musical genre that is taking the world by storm thanks to MRU Journalism on Vimeo.

To experience Afrobeats music and dance in Calgary, you can visit Music nightclub, Vault 17, Paranoia, and Fire and Ice, to name a few.

Afrobeats is having fun. The extremely popular and diverse music that is springing from Africa has caught the ears not only of those on the continent, but also of the Diaspora. Cheerful, contagious, and knowledgeable about traditional polyrhythmic rhythms, Afrobeats currently shows no signs of slowing down. The genre has over 200 popular artists on iTunes alone, with many more sure to come out of the continent. If you’re still new to the genre, you can find these playlists at any music streaming site to kickstart your Afrobeats addiction.


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