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A look into the origin of Afrobeats |

While there’s no codification of the history of the word “Afrobeats”, especially when it was created, and by whom it was created, the term came to be in the 2000s when it was first used to describe West African pop music.

Afrobeats is said to get its name from Fela Kuti‘s Afrobeat, which according to the documentary “Afrobeats: The Back Story,” was coined in the 1970s. Fela Kuti‘s Afrobeat was an accomplished blend of Jazz, Funk, and West African Highlife music.


According to the Afrobeats documentary “Journey of the Beats”, when Nigerian Pop artists like Weird MC in the 90s began borrowing elements from hip hop and this style of music was called Afro-Hip Hop. Afro Hip-Hop was also the term used to describe the music of bands like The Remedies, Plaitainshun Boiz, and Trybesmen who were the early originators of current-day Nigerian pop music. When the likes of 2Baba FKA 2Face, Paul Play, and P-Square began blending Western R&B music with Nigerian percussive arrangements and local languages, their music was called Afropop.

According to Nigerian entertainment executive Obi Asika in the “Journey of the Beats”, a desire to take Nigerian pop music into the Western mainstream led to the creation of the tag “Afrobeats”.

The tag “Afrobeats” was derived from Fela’s Afrobeat with the “S” added to capture the multiplicity of genres. Afrobeats thus became a tag to describe Pop music coming out of Ghana and Nigeria.

There’s no record of who created the term Afrobeats. According to Obi Asika, the term just came around in the 2000s and it played a big part in helping to move Nigerian pop music from being tagged world music into the western mainstream circle.

One of the controversies on the origin of the “Afrobeats” tag was the attempt to credit its creation to DJ Abrantee. According to the article “The Rise of Afrobeats” in The Guardian written over 12 years ago, British OAP DJ Abrantee was said to be the first person to have used the word “Afrobeats” on UK Radio in an episode of his half-hour Afrobeats Show on Choice FM However, Abrantee has denied being the originator of the “Afrobeats” tag. According to Abrantee, the “Afrobeats” tag was already in use and he only deployed it to describe his mix that promoted West African pop music.


Today, Afrobeats as a movement has designated charts in the UK and US as well as inspiring African award categories at the EMAs, Grammys, and AMA.

In all of this, what is clear is that it was never about the sound, or the musician, or the nationality, or the themes. Afrobeats is more than just the music. It’s a cultural movement that West African music has adopted to get its seat at the table.

It’s THE collective term they use to describe the pop music that carries the modern sonics of Ghana & Nigeria.


This broad context in which the Afrobeats tag is used was recently explained by Nigerian superstar Davido. The Grammy nominee explained to TMZ that Afrobeats is not necessarily a genre of music but a tag used to describe the Pop music made by African artists.

When the term Afrobeats is used, it rarely describes the music. Instead, it describes the African roots of the artist behind the music and the presence of African elements in the music.

Readers who wish to understand more about the evolution and history of Afrobeats can watch the contents below.


Afrobeats: Culture of Genre – Facts Only Episode by Motolani Alake

Afrobeats: The Back Story by Ayo Shonaiya available on Netflix

The Journey of the Beats available on Showmax

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