to Olufunsho Ogundipe, an Afrobeat
musician who comes from Nigeria in West Africa. As you listen, try
to answer these questions: Where does Afrobeat come from? What is
the sound like? What exactly is the political message of Afrobeat?
does Afrobeat come from?
It comes from a part of Nigeria, the southern part of Nigeria. It
was a 60's thing influenced by, perhaps, the free jazz movement -
the Americans. The chap who was at the vanguard of this all was Fela
Anikulapo Kuti. He went through different forms of music - basically
starting by playing High-life, which was common to West Africa then.
And then modernising it, evolving it by, I believe, taking different
elements of other forms of contemporary music then… Putting that together
to form Afrobeat. At its best, Afrobeat would be whopping, exuberant,
big band jazz.
What do Afrobeat records sound like?
Afrobeat is a mixture of different forms of music. When you listen
to an Afrobeat band, the first thing you hear probably would be the
jazz influence. Because a lot of times the harmonies are jazzy. And
also there is a lot of improvisation involved in this music. Also,
you hear the funk. Because funk, as the Americans play it, is actually
West African traditional music. Very repetitive, very groovy. Very
exuberant. The electric piano is at the soul of the music. As well,
you hear echoes of classical music in, perhaps, the way the themes
are structured, the arrangements as they are. Afrobeat really is just
a way of putting together all those influences and mixing them with
traditional African harmonies and rhythm. So, it is very powerful
What is the political message of Afrobeat?
Politics is essential to the genre of Afrobeat. More so because the
founding fathers, that is Fela and his like, were into social criticism
as a way of effecting social change. And you know, you cannot do anything
in isolation. Whatever your art form, it really has to reflect on
the times you live in. If you look at the folk music movement in America,
people like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, they also had a lot of criticism
in their music. I remember, when Fela died, one of the visitors to
his house said, 'Here lies Africa's Bob Dylan'. The music is fiery,
it is confrontational because the times he was living in. If you looked
at all the African countries then, there had been this transition
from the colonial governments to self-determination on the part of
most of the African countries. People were now governing themselves.
Well, Africans found out that self-determination did not mean the
eradication of ills in society. So, that was where the fiery and confrontational
attitude of Afrobeat came out.
Babb talks to Afrobeat fans in Sterns Record Shop/Cafe in Central
once again, this is Colin Babb for the Music Directory. I'm in Sterns
Record Shop and Cafe in Central London. And I'm listening to the very
jazzy rhythms of Afrobeat. This is a place in London where a lot of
people come to talk to each other about different types of African
music including Afrobeat, and there's a good atmosphere. Everybody's
having a good chat with each other... Right, I'm gonna get involved
in everything now. I'm gonna find my way around this place and find
out what people think about Afrobeat...'
you listen to Colin's interviewees, see if you can
spot the key
words and expressions people use to talk about Afrobeat