Afrobeat was pioneered by Fela Kuti, a Nigerian bandleader and instrumentalist whose musical ideas and political ideals formed the core of Afrobeat's aesthetic as it appeared in the 1960s. Kuti's experience with Highlife music in the Koola Lobitos Band moved Kuti to include the African pop-jazz hybrid as one of the primary influences upon the new style.
Some common elements of Afrobeat:
Afrobeat evolved during the 1960s in southern Nigeria and drew some of its inspiration from the free jazz movement. Fela Anikulapo Kuti took African harmonic and rhythmic concepts and surrounded them with the musical trappings of Highlife, free jazz, and other contemporary musical genres to create the sound.
As is often the case with Afrocentric genres of music, politics play a role in the subject matter of many Afrobeat songs, which in turn serve as part musical expression and part social commentary. Fela Kuti, in his songs, adopted a stance opposed to the contemporary African political climate of the 1960s, broaching topics as diverse and military corruption and national sovereignty, which resonated across much of the continent. This resonance spurred a blossoming number of Afrobeat performers throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and although much of this music was recorded, evidence of those performances is now scarce.
Afrobeat's influence extends beyond the genre itself, with jazz musicians paying particular interest to the sound. Notable musicians who have drawn inspiration from Afrobeat include Roy Ayers, Randy Weston, Branford Marsalis and Brian Eno. The music has experienced a resurgence as DJs continue to discover Afrobeat source recordings and incorporate them into their work in modified or original forms.
After his death in 1997, Fela Kuti's musical style has continued to find willing performers and audiences, aided in part by Afrobeat's prominence on the World Café. Current practitioners are as geographically dispersed as are the musical influences which led to Afrobeat's birth. Femi Kuti and the Positive Force, and Ayetoro (a musical project of Funsho Ogundipe) are entrenched in Afrobeat's Nigerian heritage. Prominent groups are also rooted in Los Angeles, Brooklyn (Antibalas), and Chicago (Chicago Afrobeat Ensemble).
All links retrieved February 16, 2016.
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