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Afrobeats

You may have noticed a couple of rather unknown features on Drake’s One Dance earlier this year. One of them is UK Funky’s Kyla, the other is afrobeats artist and Nigerian pop star Wizkid. You may also have heard and read about afrobeats in the last few months, with features in online magazines like Dummy and Thump appearing, but the genre has actually been about for quite a few years, both in London and Nigeria and Ghana.

Initially being a mixture of hiplife, a Ghanaian off-shoot of hip-hop, Nigerian Naija beats and a sprinkling of pop music, it grew out of Nigeria and Ghana, and quickly traveled to London, where it was infused with the sounds of UK Funky ad Grime. A key player in this process was artist Fuse ODG. Born in London to Ghanaian parents and spending parts of his childhood in Ghana, he went back to London for his education in 2009. He recounts in an interview with the Guardian, that he couldn’t really find the sound he wanted stuck in a rut with African flavored hip-hop, so in 2011 he made his return to Ghana. During a visit to a club, he witnessed the people going crazy to the Azonto dance. Influenced by this and the growing popularity of West African pop and Naija beats, he returned to London with an all-new sound, afrobeats, coupled with that signature influence of UK Funky and Grime. In 2012 he made success with his hit single Antenna and he still is a major player in the Afrobeats scene.

Afrobeats is now solidified as a London sound, as well as a distinctly African sound. In contrast to other London born and bred dance music like grime and dubstep, Afrobeats is upbeat and soaked in autotune, African rhythms and big bright synth sounds. Previously the largest influences in UK dance music has been American music like hip-hop and house and caribbean music like dancehall and reggae, giving UK dance music, like drum & bass a dark edge. Though Afrobeats is not easily confused with contemporary dancehall, the way it twists big room sounds and pop is similar to that of dancehall, utilizing the same sounds as pop music, coupled with their signature rhythms and percussion. The closest cousin of Afrobeats in the UK dance fauna is very clearly UK Funky, a short-lived but hugely influential genre that is mostly known for its imaginative and heavy focus on percussion and rhythm. UK Funky in many ways utilized similar rhythms and inspirations, but mostly with a darker tint than Afrobeats. The cross-pollination between the genres also occurs among artists. Donae’o, the producer and vocalist behind UK Funky classics like Party Hard and African Warrior, still travels Ghana, collaborating with Ghanaian rappers like Sarkodie.

vibble x Loopmasters: Afrobeats

We have partnered with Loopmasters to give you an Afrobeats sound pack that let’s you add that afrobeat vibe to your vibble sessions. The pack contains essential percussion hits inspired by the afrobeat sound. Check it out in vibble for iPhone.

Afrobeats is gaining popularity and more and more artists from the scene are getting signed to larger labels, but it’s still retaining its signature sound. It is a sound geared towards pop, but using the sounds of that pop music in a very distinct way, just like dancehall has done for so many years. Here’s a small selection of tunes and artists you should be on the look out for, to explore afrobeats further we recommend DJ Abrantee’s Afrobeats show and the accompanying monthly afrobeats charts on CapitalXtra (http://www.capitalxtra.com/radio/afrobeats/), and you can also download out our afrobeats sound pack to get that afrobeats vibe yourself.