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Afrobeats: Global Status for the Nigerian Music Genre

Music, they say, is a universal language. That remark could not be more accurate, given the current global popularity of Afrobeats.

Originating in Nigeria and spreading to parts of West Africa, Afrobeats seamlessly integrates other music genres yet maintains its distinctness. Today, it transcends the shores and borders of Africa to reach international audiences, becoming a global pop phenomenon.

The world’s constant search for the next big thing led it to Afrobeats, making it the rave of the moment. The genre waltzes through various emotions to take its audience to euphoria with unmatched versatility.

In this blog post, we will cover what Afrobeats is, and analyze the distinction between “Afrobeat” and “Afrobeats,” its evolution, what makes it unique, and its current global status.

What is Afrobeats?

Afrobeats is one of the few music genres capable of expressing different sounds and emotions. The significance is that listeners can choose from its other subgenres and niches, including reflective, spiritual, soulful, gritty, rap, love, and dance music.

It is a fusion of different continental and Western music genres with Nigeria’s traditional ones. A genre is a contemporary approach birthed from the Afrobeat of the 1960s.

It is a fusion of traditional West African musical styles, instruments, and rhythms, such as high-life, Apala, and Fuji, with American pop, rap, R&B, soul, trap, high-life, reggae, dancehall, and even South Africa’s Amapiano. Merging with diaspora music culture, the resulting rhythms are then laid over percussion and soulful, rich, and lush instrumentals.

The name was coined in the early 2000s as an umbrella term to describe the dynamic surge of pop music from West Africa, largely Nigeria and Ghana. Nevertheless, Nigeria and Lagos are the genre’s hubs. Consequently, Pidgin English, standard English, and Yoruba are the primary languages used in Afrobeats’ music.

Unique sounds and lyrics characterize the genre. This includes chanted vocals, uplifting melodies, complex rhythms, percussion, the use of different languages, and catchy hooks and choruses.

Furthermore, the genre’s perfect blend with other music cultures while maintaining its distinctness has left audiences bewildered and intrigued, resulting in increasingly high demand. The genre has local and international audiences and spectators in a spell that shows no sign of waning.

The resulting hybrid sounds created from Afrobeats mean that there are a plethora of subgenres to choose from. The key ones include Afropop, Street-Pop, Afrofusion, Afrolife, Afroswing, and Alte.

Is Afrobeat the Same as Afrobeats?

Some distinctions have been made between “Afrobeat” and “Afrobeats,” which are often blurred but exist nonetheless. At its core, “Afrobeat” is the fusion of traditional music culture and styles with diasporan ones, forming a complex but cohesive sound that is both African and cosmopolitan.

With this definition, some argued that the eclectic genre began in Ghana in the early 1920s, when calypso and foxtrot were infused into Ghana’s rhythms. However, this doesn’t make it "Afrobeat,” considering the term has yet to be coined.

“Afrobeat” was coined, named, and popularized by Fela Anikulapo Kuti. As a result, he is the rightful king or father of Afrobeat, immortalizing him. He was born in Abeokuta, a city in Ogun State, Nigeria, but spent much of his later life in Lagos.

The Nigerian music genre, Afrobeat, combines African music with American blues, jazz, and funk. Afrobeats, or the contemporary sound born from Afrobeat, also draws from African musical tradition and infuses it with Western music cultures such as pop, soul, and R&B, as well as other international sounds like reggae, high-life, and dancehall.

While Afrobeat and Afrobeats both incorporate traditional and international sounds to create a unique sound, there are some essential differences. Afrobeat is characterized by big bands, complex jazz rhythms, extended instrumental solos, and activism.

On the other hand, the current sound, which most call "Afrobeats," is somewhat different. Besides the evolution in the production of sounds and execution of the music, Afrobeats largely avoids political topics and focuses more on everyday phenomena like love, money, hustle, street life, women, and other life pleasures. Nevertheless, Afrobeat also covered most of the topics covered under Afrobeats.

The Evolution of Afrobeats

Afrobeats started with the imagination and creativity of a man, Fela Kuti, who popularized the genre within and outside Africa, albeit as Afrobeat. After he died in 1997, the future of Afrobeat depended on his contemporaries and younger generations.

Afrobeat remains a robust global genre, but none would have imagined the local and international success of Afrobeats, not even Fela. Its success today is due to the contribution of every generation of Afrobeats artists since the 2000s. They all played their parts adequately, with the “youngins” now building on the laid legacies.

What makes Afrobeats Unique?

Afrobeats are the topping that adds flavor and beauty to different music cultures and genres. This “topping” is unique, evident in the catchy hooks and choruses, signatory drum beat rhythms, use of percussion instruments, accented English, Pidgin English, local dialects, and slang.

The infusion and seamless integration of various music styles and genres with traditional Nigerian music genres make Afrobeats stand out. Furthermore, its adaptability to other genres to create a new yet familiar sound makes it a fan favorite. The eclectic genre brings diasporic influences into its culture and reinvents them.

Furthermore, the energy and vibe in the genre’s signatory percussion rhythms are infectious, uplifting, and meaningful. The body naturally and effortlessly sways to it.

Besides the genre’s danceable rhythm and lyrics, different emotions are expressed through it. With diverse sounds and other niches, from melancholy to introspection to love to humor to friendship to feel-good vibes, there are a plethora of feelings offered by the genre.

The Global Status of Afrobeats

Afrobeats is one of the best things to come out of Nigeria and Africa as a continent,  besides jollof rice and pounded yam. Through it, Nigeria and West Africa are cementing themselves on the world map, with artists gaining unprecedented recognition and African culture being transmitted.

The acceptability of Afrobeats within the continent and beyond is marveling. It's merging of genres from both sides of the Atlantic with the traditional West African sound made the genre receptive to a global audience. Hence, it is mainstream and has attained global status, influencing pop music and fashion.

It comes as no surprise that Afrobeat is one of the fastest-growing genres in the world. According to Stears, an international business publication, the Nigerian music industry is the second-best-performing entertainment and media consumer market in the world. It is expected to generate $73 million this year. It is important to note that Afrobeats comprise the most significant chunk of the Nigerian music industry.

Furthermore, there are also reports of how the Nigerian music industry generates over $2 billion in revenue every year. This claim is currently making the rounds; however, it is mainly unfounded as there are no available facts to back it as far as we can tell.

The global status and reach of Afrobeats are evident in the exponential demand for them around the globe. Besides tapping into uncharted waters and reaching new markets, there is an ever-increasing number of collaborations with international acts yearly.

Furthermore, its influence can be seen in international acts releasing Afrobeats singles and albums and collaborating with Afrobeats artists. The genre is currently mainstream, infiltrates the airwaves, and charts on various international music charts across Europe, North America, and other parts of the world.

Its global status is also apparent in its stars selling out shows, concerts, arenas, and stadiums internationally. This is a testament to the reach and popularity of the genre worldwide. In addition, there are now different Afrobeats festivals held internationally. Miami's and Portugal's Afrobeat festivals are anticipated for 2023.

Afrobeats is recognized worldwide, evident in international nominations and award wins, including Grammy, Oscar, and BET. Its influence transcends international movies and awards to appear as soundtracks in popular international films and TV series.

Furthermore, the current Afrobeats rave means companies do not want to be left out of the boom. As a result, record labels, publishing companies, streaming services, and investment companies are trooping into the market to cash in. Music labels such as Sony, Warner, and Universal Music have presences on the continent to latch onto the growing market.

Afrobeats owes its current global status to its predecessors, who paved the way, and the current generation, who worked relentlessly. It would be a disservice, not to mention the 2005 launch of MTV Base Africa as one of the breaks Afrobeats needed to enter mainstream music

In addition, record labels and publishing companies assisted and helped cement the genre’s global status. Further, it has also grown significantly and attained lofty heights thanks in part to music streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, Boomplay, and Audiomack.


The ease of integration with other music genres and cultures makes Afrobeats a popular choice globally. It comes as little surprise that it is one of the fastest-growing genres in the world today.


In conclusion, with this trajectory, the sky's the limit. Afrobeats already have global status but are still poised to take over the world completely. History will be kind to the unprecedented heights this generation has taken Afrobeats to and the solid foundation laid by its predecessors.

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