AFROBEAT AND AFROBEATS: THE ‘S’ FACTOR

The first time I was ever at the ‘New Afrika Shrine’ was the night of my sister’s wedding in January 2014. Back in UNILAG, I’d heard people say all sorts of things about the shrine. This was six years later and of course my imagination of what I’d get there was still very lit! Scantily clad women in cages, shaking, twirling and turning to the loud sounds of Femi Kuti’s voice and an incredibly heavy band dishing out unbelievable instrumentation which would be quietly but surely assisted by the gentle sounds of beads clanging against each other and softly brushing against the dancers’ bodies. I’d been told about how there was usually literally no space to keep one’s feet at Afrika Shrine whenever Seun or Femi was playing; about how crazy the crowd went from the sounds of the music.

That Saturday night was quite an interesting one. Interesting activity at the entrance *wink*. Those guys don’t play! Lol. By the time the show started, I could swear I’d never seen that number of grown men on one stage before! Yes, it wasn’t exactly what I had always imagined it to be but it was a fun night out.

Rewind… Probably to the early ‘70s when I was not even born. Almost the same setting in the former Afrika Shrine somewhere in Allen, Ikeja which was later burnt down. The man, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti in all his glory, almost as scantily dressed as the dancers and sending his listeners to a different level of sound with his eccentric performance style. In that nightclub began a genre of its own: Afrobeat! Fela’s music had a lot of foreign influences stemming from having lived, studied, learnt and played in various countries including Ghana and the United Kingdom. The Afrobeat sound was different and special; an interesting mixture of Jazz, traditional Nigerian Music and highlife, American funk music among many other different styles of music. Characterized by call-and-response and rhythmic chanting, something else that made Afrobeat music different is the instrumentation. Fela was a band-leader and a multi-instrumentalist and the Afrobeat band would usually consist of loads of instruments such as the trombone, conga, trumpet, and saxophone, drums, bass and lead guitars, shekere among others. Fela was arguably a very interesting personality and used his then unconventional style of music as a weapon to transform the Nigerian music space and also to speak about the Nigerian socio-economic and political space.

Now let’s add an ‘s’. Afrobeats! I honestly have never been able to understand why the names have to be so similar and why there cannot be a clear distinction. Joey Akan of Pulse Ng refers to Afrobeats as ‘a reductionist neologism fed to the international media, and providing a foreign and convenient narrative to classify the African popular music which contains a 21st-century fusion of western rap influences, and contemporary Ghanaian and Nigerian pop music’. I think I agree! Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate Afro-pop sounds. I can’t deny how Wizkid’s ‘Ojuelegba’ makes me (and most other people) sway and nod my head, and how 2baba can do no wrong with his sound. I’m a sucker for Sarkodie, his voice and his style of rap. I mean we went from the days where having a party without ‘jamming’ foreign (American) songs was a taboo, to now when even the cool kids can get away with grooving to Afro-pop music. There’s definitely nothing not to love about that. That said, I dare say that Afrobeats is not a genre of music.

You see, contemporary African music comes in various forms and styles. The sounds of a man like Olamide (in my opinion) can in no way be compared to what you will get from a Timaya or Davido and there’ll all afro-pop. Afro-pop music consists of all genres of popular music ranging from rap to Afro hip-hop, to soukous to even African trap music. We Africans produce these amazing pop sounds with our pop beats and even create our own unique dance steps. We should own it. If anyone should be telling our stories, it should be us! Adding an ‘s’ to a genre which stands on its own already is a very confusing narrative that someone else is telling on our behalf, totally downplays the growth that African music has experienced and the versatility of our African artistes. I always wonder, ‘Why was Afrobeat picked on to be pluralized?’. Why not ‘Juju’ so we can have ‘Jujus’ or ‘Soukous’ so we can have ‘Soukouses’. If we need one name for every popular music out of Africa, then I think ‘Afro-pop’ suffices.

Fela (and those who have stuck to that sound) ’s iconic genre of music is Afrobeat, and then we have all the other numerous popular music genres which our African artistes have been able to excel at which have all been lumped up and called ‘Afrobeats’. Confusingly so!

Cheers,

Yemisi!

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A Review of the Lagos International Jazz Festival 2016.

So if you read my blog late last month, you’d remember we talked about three places you could celebrate the International Jazz Day. Well, I was at two of the events. Got a couple of free tickets for the Runway Jazz (thanks to Smooth Fm). So I attended that on Friday evening, and then I did Lagos International Jazz Festival on Saturday.

lagos international jazz festival

High Points
Let’s start like this; the event was fun for me! Like most events in Freedom Park, there was space to stroll around, less ‘paparazzi’, and it was all free (Of course I loved that!) Loads of bands and artistes were also there to perform, so there was a wide variety of activities. The performances were also very ‘LIT’. In the usual fashion of the Lagos International Jazz Festival, there was more than one stage and I was mostly at the bigger stage which was somewhere around the second gate end of Freedom Park.

This stage was where most of the action was happening as most of the crowd was here. The event kicked off really well with ‘Tonie the Emperor’ as he delivered an awesome solo acoustic session. It then continued to gain momentum with various bands coming up the stage to perform live. Anyone who knows me already knows that my heart is sold out to live music, and any show that encourages artistes to perform live already has my heart. This event has my heart 100% for this. From the ‘Empress’ to the 15-man band called ‘JAYA BAND’, down to ‘Tayo Konga’ and his band, all the performances were very lively and energetic. I would say it was an enjoyable show!

Low Points
The thing about it however, is that I expected more! I believe since it was called ‘Lagos International Jazz Festival’, there should have been more jazz than what we had there. A lot of the acts that featured there were afro-beat acts.

Now, I know someone would say to me that afro beat is a ‘baby’ of jazz. Yes, I agree. Jazz is a major influence on what afrobeat has become today but I do also think that there is a clear distinction between both genres and for an event that was a celebration of jazz, the afrobeat could have been a lot more downplayed. I had to take a little stroll to the second and smaller stage to which less attention was paid to begin to experience some jazz. There was this amazing three (or four)- man band whose name I didn’t get that was really amazing and the drummer totally killed it. The Survival band who performed on the larger stage were also very awesome and they gave us good jazz too.

Sometime last year also, I listened to a radio show last year where I learnt that Lekan Babalola (the legendary percussionist) was supposed to curate the event. Apart from the music, the event was supposed to delve deep into the culture of Lagos; the food, the dance, the art etc. All these heightened my excitement and expectation. Well, I didn’t see any of these. Everything I was looking forward to was nowhere in sight and I wasn’t very impressed about this.

If you were at the event in 2014, you probably remember what the event was like. There were like 6 different stages or so (named after various veteran artistes) with various jazz artistes and bands, and even the other genres were well blended into the program, such that no one genre was pre-dominant. That year, I was somewhat confused on what stage to watch from because there was great music coming out of all stages. I also hear (even though I wasn’t there), that the 2015 edition was like that as well. Even though the show had a very beautiful and dramatic end with very spell-binding performances from ‘Tari-Guitari’ and the opening act ‘Tonie the Emperor’, I would describe it as a watered-down version of the 2014 and 2015 events.

All in all, I do love the idea of the ‘Lagos International Jazz Festival’. It is a fantastic innovation and it should definitely continue. But not without a few necessary improvements. Thumbs up Inspiro Productions on the success of 2016 edition. Thanks for giving us this great show. Would I be there again in 2017? Oh yes! Definitely!

#OldSchoolFriday: Sir Shina Peters Afro Juju

Hey guys,

Been a minute… I’m sorry (again) I couldn’t bring you the #OldSchoolFriday song of last week. It just so happened.. Apologies again!

So guys.. This week Sir Shina Peters gets the #OldSchoolFriday jam of the week..

Shina-Peters-Afro-Juju-BellaNaija-September-2015

January edition of Afropolitan Vibes held like a couple of Fridays ago and Sir Shina Peters headlined the show! This show brought back memories of my 90s childhood when no birthday party was ever complete without Afro Juju on the playlist.. Y’all will agree with me that this song is a JAAAAAM!! So as you begin to prepare to turn up tonight, start of by shaking your body to AFRO JUJU

Have a great weekend y’all!

TGIF..

Love, Yemisi!