West Africa’s Booming Afrobeats Musical Export

West Africa’s Booming Afrobeats Musical Export
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Afrobeat’s is the music on everybody’s lips. We travelled to Ghana to attend West Africa’s biggest gathering of current and future Afrobeat’s superstars to experience the scene at its source.

Backstage, it’s comparatively quiet. The muffled sounds coming from the main stage blend with the gentle rumble of the ocean just metres away. A few people sit on wooden benches, sipping beer and chatting about the live acts they’ve just seen, while artists get ready in green-room tents. The air smells of fried chicken and jollof rice, prepared in a food truck close by.

Suddenly, there’s shouting and around 30 young men and women in flashy clothes, gold chains and designer sneakers fall upon the area. The excited group are drinking Hennessy cognac and champagne straight from the bottle and they arrive accompanied by men in military uniforms, with machine guns. Bystanders with smartphones surround them in the hope of catching the man at the centre, who’s setting the scene on fire. His name: Davido

The 27-year-old Nigerian is tonight’s headlining artist at Afro Nation in Ghana – billed as Africa’s biggest urban music beach festival. Last January, Davido sold out London’s O2 Arena, where he was introduced onto the stage by friend Idris Elba.

The video for his 2017 hit Fall recently surpassed 158 million views on YouTube and his critically acclaimed new album, A Good Time, gained him the title ‘King of Afrobeats’, which seems fitting – as the son of a billionaire businessman, he loves to make a grand entrance. Last night, when Davido arrived in Accra, a presidential SUV motorcade escorted him from the airport, and the star waved to astonished passers-by from the sunroof of his Range Rover Evoque.

Afrobeats (not to be confused with Afrobeat, a blend of jazz and funk popularised by Nigerian music Fela Kuti in the 1970s) is an umbrella term for contemporary pop music from West Africa, predominantly Nigeria and Ghana. Its artists mix rap and R’n’B with syncopated dancehall rhythms and local genres such as highlife and jùjú to create sweet, lighthearted songs that make it hard to stand still.

Numerous raps and R’n’B artists, from Snoop Dogg to Chris Brown, have experimented with the sound and collaborated with the likes of Davido, Burna Boy and Mr Eazi. In July last year, Beyoncé predominantly picked Afrobeats artists for her soundtrack album The Lion King: The Gift, saying, “I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa.”

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