No! Afrobeats is Not, I Repeat NOT, Going Global!

Lumi Mustapha, Esq.
Dec 9, 2016 · 3 min read

There’s been a lot of talk and hype about how Nigerian music and in particular “Afrobeats” is ‘going global’.

Whilst it is not in dispute that one or two, Nigerian acts have gotten a lot of publicity in the major music markets over the last 18 months; I hate to be the prick that bursts the bubble by informing you all that: “NO! Nigerian music is not, I repeat NOT, going global.

The musical genre that has undoubtedly dominated and is currently dominating the charts in the major global music markets is dancehall.

Since Major Lazer kick started the mania for the new/electro-heavy dancehall vibe on their hugely successful recording “Lean On” featuring MO, some of the biggest artists in the world have been lining up to surf that wave.

From Justin Bieber, who went in full throttle into this new (sub) genre, to Rihanna, Beyonce, and the massively talented songwriter Sia, the stream of Top 5 and No. 1 hits flowed with effortless ease, culminating in Aubrey’s monster jam that is now officially the biggest single of 2016.

The only Nigerian acts that have had any international success (purely on the singles released or on which they were featured) were Ayo Jay with “Your Number”, and the year’s biggest success story, Wizkid with his appearance and credit on the above mentioned “One Dance”.

Both these songs were dancehall (influenced) records and not afrobeats/afropop. Yes of course there are intersections between African and Caribbean drum rhythms and styles, but afrobeats is a more uptempo genre of music more akin to soca than dancehall. Thus, it is only Nigerian acts that have successfully combined our homegrown song and performance styles with a slower jamaican-style sound that have prospered in the current global market. All others will only (continue to) get any significant traction domestically.

For some well known African-American musicians to film themselves vibing to Nigerian music is one thing; but to dominate, or have any significant presence in, commercial music charts in the UK/US (which is technically a definition of “going global”) is a whole other level which we have definitely not reached.

Without a doubt parts of Nigerian culture is, and some Nigerian personalities are, definitely becoming more recognized and recognizable across the globe, primarily due to a significant presence of Nigerians in various countries and the increasing awareness of us a nation coupled with our (in)famous reputation as a country.

However, we have a long way to go (if we can even ever get there) to reach a time when Afrobeats/Afropop (and other genres of Nigerian and African music) really seep into and permeate through popular culture in global music markets; although, with the growing influence that Nigerians (growing up in these markets) are having in the very powerful and trend-setting urban scenes and music industry governance structures, there is some scope for this dream to become reality.

This, along with a sharp increase in the quality and accessibility of Nigerian music content, will likely begin to usher in a day when we can actually claim that Nigerian music is truly going global, and not just cling hard to an untruth that is only a real phenomenon inside our heads.

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