The early origins of what would later evolve into Afrobeat can be traced back to Ghana in the early 1920s. During this era, a musical foundation was established that would eventually contribute to the development of the Afrobeat genre.
At that time, Ghanaian musicians were engaged in a creative process that blended external musical influences with their intrinsic traditional rhythms. This fusion gave rise to a distinctive and forward-looking sound that would undergo transformation and maturation over the passing decades.
It’s important to note that while Afrobeat as a genre formally originated in Nigeria, Ghana’s contribution was instrumental in shaping its formation. The Ghanaian Highlife music style exerted a significant influence on the eventual evolution of Afrobeat, serving as a precursor and a source of inspiration.
In the 1920s, prominent musicians such as E.T. Mensah and the Tempos , and several other bands held pivotal roles in shaping the musical landscape of West Africa. These visionary artists paved the way for the subsequent development of both Highlife and, ultimately, the emergence of Afrobeat as a distinct and globally celebrated genre.
An iconic figure in the Afrobeat narrative is Fela Kuti, often regarded as one of the most exceptional African musicians in history. His influence reverberates worldwide, highlighted by productions like “Fela! The Musical” that celebrate his musical legacy and legacy. Fela Kuti’s impact transcends borders, resonating deeply with audiences across the globe.
Fela’s pioneering work in the 1960s and 1970s laid the groundwork for Afrobeat.
With his band Afrika 70, he seamlessly melded traditional African sounds with modern Western influences, creating a musical tapestry that resonated with both local and international audiences.
Fela’s compositions featured intricate polyrhythms, extended instrumental sections, and his signature saxophone melodies.
With popular releases like Lady ( Which sampled a proverb from Ghana), Gentleman and the critically acclaimed Water no get enemy which opined according to Afrobeat drumming as quoted “Fela suggests that, if the Nigerian political opposition work with nature, their ultimate victory is assured.”.
Currently, most of the chart-topping billboard African artists are from Nigeria, and most of the songs that are on these charts are termed Afrobeat inspired.
One dance is described by Pitchfork as “ the natural next step—a buoyant tune that reunites Drake with Wizkid and samples Crazy Cousinz’s UK funky mix of Paleface and Kyla’s “Do You Mind.” It’s a cultural Inception: an Afrobeat pulse inside a UK funky sample inside a dance-hall gyrator.
Numerous international artists have directly incorporated samples from or featured Afrobeat artists in their songs. However, it’s worth noting that Nigerians tend to be sampled more frequently than Ghanaians.
WHY is this?
There are varied reasons why Ghanaian artists cannot do as well as the brothers from Nigeria, the top among them may be a lack of capital.
In the realm of music, the capital factor often plays a pivotal role in achieving visibility. If your desire is to be heard and recognized, the reality is that financial investments are often essential.
In the vibrant Ghanaian music scene, a significant number of artists have taken on the responsibility of managing themselves, especially the established ones. This doesn’t necessarily imply the absence of a formal manager, but rather a situation where artists themselves hold the reins.
The phrase “speak to my manager” generally comes into play when they are gearing up for a performance. Yet, the role of a manager encompasses far more than fielding calls and performing secretarial duties. A manager’s true value lies in their ability to secure lucrative deals and meaningful partnerships.
Such partnerships might involve engagement with investors who possess not only financial resources but also invaluable connections that can pave the way for an artist’s success.
Collaborating with the right investors could translate to substantial gains, both monetarily and in terms of career advancement.
Certainly, I understand the universal power of music, transcending language. Yet, consider this: between a song you comprehend and one you don’t, which resonates more with you? I’ll let you decide.
Even when Ghanaian artists choose to express themselves in their native tongue, infusing a touch of English can work wonders. The versatility of English is undeniable. It can elevate your reach and impact.
Nigeria has a larger and more organized music industry ecosystem, including record labels, production houses, and distribution networks. This structure can provide better resources, support, and exposure for artists. Ghana does not have such a system, artists need to basically bring themselves from the ground, case in point Blacko.
Nigerian culture, including Nollywood movies, fashion, and lifestyle, has gained international popularity, not to say Ghanaian culture has not reached this height, but the Ghana movie industry is practically dead and now, movie stars need to write books to sell again.
This cultural influence has indirectly boosted the popularity of Nigerian music, Ghanaian artists need to find some common ground with culture, being unique sales, but now the rush to fame is damaging this.
Ghana has some good music but the industry seems deficient, working on plans to make it better is desired but it cannot be done by artists alone.