The Rise of African Music

The Rise of African Music

Whether it’s the sound of Fela’s Zombie flowing in the background in a hotel lobby in Shoreditch or a Mr Eazi song blaring out in Topshop, it’s safe to say that African music is crossing borders. Afrobeats, Afro swing, Highlife and Afro-house are all genres with that unmissable African sound.

The world is catching onto the African vibe and we are loving it! But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s do a quick timeline and see how far African music has come.

1969 was the year when Fela Kuti, a legend and pioneer of the Afrobeat genre, took his band to Los Angeles, United States. They spent 10 months there, recording and performing. Prior to this year, he spent time in Ghana, learning about Ghanaian highlife which he used to refine his sound. Since then, many great artists like Burna Boy and Wizkid have either sampled or curated productions likened to the Fela sound. Back to 1969, Osibisa, an Afrobeats band, founded in London by four expatriate Africans and three Caribbean musicians also formed. However following Fela and Osibisa’s time, the rise of African music was yet slow and steady. Highlife was still only popular on the African scene from the ‘70s right through to the 90s with not a crossover in sight.

Fast forward to the 2000s to when Fuse ODG first appeared on the scene with his first hit song, Antenna in 2014 and then went on to feature international artist, Wyclef Jean on his remix. It was one of the defining moments that skyrocketed Afrobeats onto the world stage, finally giving it the recognition it deserves.

2015 then saw the birth of Afro swing. Kojo Funds, Juls, Yxng Bane and many other talented artists, introduced a new sound that quickly caught on in the UK and the world. Afroswing is a cocktail of Afrobeats, UK Rap, Dancehall and occasionally laced with a Trap sound. Juls and Mr Eazi got us bopping to Skin tight whilst Kojo Funds got us feeling like rappers with Dun Talkin’. Three years later, Afrobeats and Afroswing are recognised globally. And it is undeniable that the basis of modern day Afrobeats and Afroswing were derived from the highlife sound.

However it doesn’t just stop at Highlife, Afrobeats and Afroswing. The legendary Black Coffee, Mi Casa and Liquideep from South Africa are prominent artists and groups who introduced the world to Afro-house vibe which is now a globally recognised genre, with them playing shows from Africa to the United States and even Europe.

More and more international artists are teaming up with African artists to bring an “African flavour” to their sound. In 2015 French Montana and Meek Mill jumped on the remix for Davido’s tune, Fans Mi. Drake’s song One Dance with Wizkid, was an instant hit and let’s not forget why - Wizkid co-produced and featured on this big tune which received 3 grammy nominations in 2016. Ghana’s Stonebwoy featured Sean Paul on his song Most Original off his latest album, Epistles of Mama, released earlier this year. These are just a few examples of the endless list of African/International collaborations we have witnessed in the past 5 years. It is truly evident that African music has gained momentum globally and is undoubtedly here to stay!

Which artists or tracks do you feel have been instrumental in spurring on the international crossover for African music, share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.