News, reviews and commentary on afrobeat and related music from Africa, The Caribbean and The Americas

Friday, April 21, 2006

The United States of Afrobeat

By David McDavitt
Although Afrobeat is a decidedly Nigerian musical form, it is intrinsically linked with the USA. Afrobeat incorporates drum-kit (an American invention) & other electrified Western instruments as the chosen vehicle of presentation. Also, Fela emulated the band organization & soul stylings of James Brown’s band due to its sheer power, funkiness, and popularity/success. Afrobeat compositions have Western structure (distinct support & solo sections, strict song forms). Afrobeat is harmonically rooted in modes of US jazz, classical, & soul. Perhaps most importantly, America put the protest, politics, & anger in Fela’s music (and really, who isn’t enraged by the US). Fela stated he “discovered” Africa in the USA (i.e. consciousness of protest politics & Black pride/power), studying Malcolm X and the civil rights movement with Sandra Izsadore (an active Black Panther). Fela was inspired to promote pride in African heritage, encourage pan-Africanism, & fight colonialism. And finally, the current renaissance of Afrobeat music is most ubiquitously represented in America. This includes two of the great pioneers of the Afrobeat resurgence (the Daktaris, & spinoff, Antibalas), and over half of the 40 actively performing Afrobeat bands. Ifa bless the good ole United States of Afrobeat!

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