Afrobeat

Afrobeat is a combination of Yoruba music, jazz, Highlife, and funk rhythms, fused with percussion and vocal styles, popularized in Africa in the 1970s.

Afrobeat's main creator was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who coined the term Afrobeat, shaped the musical structure and also the political context of the genre in Nigeria

Nigerians were first introduced to Afrobeat in 1970 when Kuti returned from a U.S tour with his group Nigeria 70 (formerly Koola Lobitos). Kuti's new sound hailed from a club that he established called the Afro-Shrine. Upon arriving in Nigeria, Kuti changed the name of his group to Fela Ransome-Kuti & Africa 70. The band maintained a five-year residency in the Afro-Shrine from 1970-75 while Afrobeat thrived among Nigerian youth.

Characteristics of Afrobeat are:Fact|date=September 2008
* Big bands: A large group of musicians playing various instruments;
* Energy: Energetic, exciting and with high tempo, polyrhythmic percussion;
* Repetition: The same musical movements are repeated many times;
* Improvisation: Performing without set music;
* Combination of genres: A mixture of various musical influences.
* Vocals tend to be sung in Yoruba and Pidgin English as Kuti, who spoke perfect English, regarded this as being the language best understood across all of Africa's borders.

Origins

Afrobeat originated from the southern part of Nigeria in the 60s where Kuti experimented with many different forms of contemporary music of the time. Prevalent in his music are native African harmonies and rhythms, taking different elements and combining, modernizing and improvising upon them. Politics are essential to the genre of Afrobeat, since founder Kuti used social criticism to pave the way for social change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 60s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination.

As the genre spread throughout the African continent many bands took up the style. The recordings of these bands and their songs were rarely heard or exported outside the originating countries but many can now be found on compilation albums and CDs from specialist record shops.

Influence

Many jazz musicians have been attracted to Afrobeat. From Roy Ayers in the seventies to Randy Weston in the nineties, there have been collaborations which have resulted in albums such as "Africa: Centre of the World" by Roy Ayers, released on the Polydor label in 1981. In 1994 Branford Marsalis, the American jazz saxophonist, included samples of Fela's "Beast of No Nation" on his "Buckshot leFonque" album.

Afrobeat has profoundly influenced important contemporary producers like Brian Eno, who credits Fela Kuti as an influence. The horn section of Antibalas are guest musicians on the Foals album, Antidotes.

New generation DJs of the 2000s who have fallen in love with both Kuti's material and other rare releases have made compilations and remixes of these recordings, thus re-introducing the genre to new generations of listeners and fans of Afropop and Groove.

Instrumentation

Big Band (15-30 pieces: Fela era Afrobeat)

*Lead vocals (may play sax/key solos as well)
*Chorus vocals (may include horn players)
*Rhythm Guitar(s) (plays funk strumming pattern)
*Tenor Guitar (plays a finger-picked osinato groove)
*Saxophone(s)
*Trumpet(s)
*Trombone(s)
*Organ/Keyboards
*Bass Guitar
*Drum set
*Rhythm conga #1
*Rhythm conga #2
*Solo (lead) conga
* [http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/2414/2789/1600/Blog_akuba.jpgAkuba] : a set of 3 small stick-hit congas (play flourishes/solos, and ostinatos). Also mistakenly called "gbedu".
*"Sticks"/claves (plays osinato)
*Shekere

Afrobeat Today

There are several active afrobeat bands worldwide.

Modern Afrobeat bands include:
*Femi Kuti (Fela's first son and a saxophonist) and the Positive Force
*Dele Sosimi's Gbedu Resurrection (former keyboardist and musical director of Fela's band and cofounder of Femi Kuti's positive force)
*Tunday Akintan (saxophonist and creator of yorubeat music was influenced by Fela Kuti.
*Seun Kuti (another of Kuti's sons, saxophonist now fronting his father's last and late band)
*Tony Allen, the man who held the drum chair during Fela's productive "Africa 70" phase, and whose drumming was, according to James Brown's autobiography, the influence behind his 'discovery' of funk.Fact|date=July 2007
*Antibalas (Brooklyn, New York based multiracial Afrobeat Orchestra formed by baritone saxophonist Martin Perna
*Ayetoro, a group led by Nigerian pianist/composer Funsho Ogundipe
*Chopteeth, an international 14 piece outfit based in Washington D.C., with former members of Busta Rhymes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, and Gladys Knight & the Pips.

External links

* [http://www.afrobeatmusic.net/ The Shrine: Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti and Afrobeat Music] Fan site with biography's, lyrics, tour dates, forum, gig reviews and Fela Kuti interview.
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/music/musicdirectory/afrobeat.shtml BBC Afrobeat Documentary]


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