African musicians have long led the way in reinventing pop, from the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti to the Mbalax of Youssou N’Dour and the fusion of Angelique Kidjo. Now a new wave of artists is again challenging preconceptions of African music.
One of the hurdles African musicians face is overcoming the broad label ‘Afrobeats’ to describe their work. First popularised within Nigeria and the UK club scene, the term is now used widely in the media as well as on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. But some artists say the label is reductive and that it fails to encompass the plurality of styles, influences and personal aspects inherent in their music. While artists including Cassper Nyovest and Anatii are inspired by hip-hop and trap, other musicians such as Simi and Davido draw on R&B and soul. Although these artists often fuse indigenous music to Western styles, the catch-all ‘Afrobeats’ is used as a convenient and none-too-sophisticated genre term for their music.
In the concluding show of our week at SXSW we’ll meet artists aiming to reinvent pop music while rejecting labels, some of whom are preparing to perform in Austin. Join the conversation.
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