Fela Is The Only Afro-Beat Doer I Know- Burna Boy
Nigerian afro-fusion star, Burna Boy has done his bit to address how Nigerian music is classified and the repeated mentions of “Afrobeat”, that genre of music associated with the late great, Fela.
In an interview with Radar Radio, the artiste corrected the show’s host who referred to him as the “King of this Afrobeat scene”, responding “First of all, let me correct you, it’s not afro-beat for me, it’s afro-fusion…”
“As far as I’m concerned only Fela Kuti does Afrobeat…”, the artiste added.
Burna was on the show to promote his recently-released third studio album, “Outside”, which we described as “a statement of intent from an artiste who has his eyes set on the rest of the world”.
In recent times, as music of Nigerian origin has gained greater acceptance and commercial success around the world, journalists and cultural commentators have struggled to classify this broad range of sounds into a genre that reflects the spirit and nature of the music.
Reggae, Afro-Fusion or Hip-Hop
Even Burna has fallen victim of this. Despie clearly referring to his music as “Afro-fusion”, the singer’s latest album charted on Billboard’s Reggae Charts, and days later, was reviewed as a hip-hop album by American music publication, Pitchfork.
Most platforms have settled on the term “Afrobeats”, a bastardization of the original “Afrobeat” that suggests the music under the former tag have anything to do with Fela’s militant sound beyond the
fact that they are made by Nigerians.
The most familiar term, one which almost every fan of African music seems to have settled on is “Afrobeats”.
As the host of the Radar Radio show said, “some people say Afrobeat”.
But as Burna’s response captures, “those people are wrong”.
The solution is simple. Let Burna tell it.
Afrobeats or Afro-Pop?
“Most of what the things they call afrobeat these days is actually afro-pop”, Burna said during the interview.
The term “pop music” refers to music that has transcended genre classification to a level of popularity that seems to make it exist all of its own.
In a sense, this is the case with the music of Africa’s biggest artistes; Davido and Wizkid, who merge genres to create songs that transcend the continent’s borders.
In describing these sounds, Afro-pop is the term that seems most germane.
In other cases, traditional genres will suffice. In Nigeria, highlife, juju, wobe, fuji, R&B and soul enjoy widespread following and are identified for what they are.
It is difficult to discount the void created by commentary that is not propped up on insight and a deep knowledge of the subject, in this case, african music.
So, maybe that’s what it is. We can either as commentators to delve and listen more or ask the musicians what they want their music to be called and hope for the best.