Afrobeat has been dominating African pop charts since its inception, spurred by Fela Kuti in the 1970’s. The Afrobeat genre originates in Highlife, a Ghanian musical style that adapted traditional musical elements for performance on foreign instruments, such as electric guitar. Recently, a new genre appeared poised to take hold of Afrobeat’s place on the charts – Afro EDM.
Africa is no stranger to EDM. The rise of kwaito as a protest genre in Johannesburg in the 1990s certainly serves as one example. But, developments technology since the ’90s have made the music more accessible than ever. Afro-EDM encompasses a variety of highly percussive EDM genres, including trance, house, drum and bass, as well as techno. As a whole, the genre breaks away from the ever-dubious “World Music” genre, which has previously sought to encompass all music originating outside of North America and Western Europe.
This year’s Sónar Festival in Barcelona places the Afro-EDM genre center-stage for the European audience. The artists set to appear include DJ Black Coffee, Mr. Eazi, Kampire, KOKOKO!, and DISTRUCTION BOYZ. These artists all span a wide variety of genres, with Mr. Eazi holding down the fort for more traditional Afrobeat, and KOKOKO! leading us down the rabbit hole with Afrobeat-infused trance.
Of course, other artists who are not appearing on the Sónar lineup are also contributing their unique innovations to the genre as a whole. Keyzuz, a Ghanian DJ, produces music utilizing the sounds of dubstep and trap. She’s attempting to move the genre further away from its Afrobeat roots and more into purely electronic sounds. The genre certainly remains open to both worlds, with room to grow in multiple directions.
Afro-EDM is becoming increasingly popular in Europe, but no similar signs have appeared for U.S. consumers. Regardless, the genre is well worth taking the time to explore for its unique take on music we all know and love.
What do you think about Afro-EDM? Let us know in the comments!