The Americas embraced African music in a tight hug in 2019
From Coachella mainstages, breaking into American radio, doing top-rated TV shows and numerous sold-out shows, Afrobeats and African music made its mark on the American music scene this year.
However, this would not be the first time in modern pop culture that African artists would be owning American airwaves. In 2000, Nigerian musician D’banj broke into the American market with his hit song Oliver Twist. Landing himself a remix with Latino rapper, Pitbull, and co-signs from musicians.
The only difference is now, America is not trying to shape African music to fit its mould; American music is adapting to the rhythmic beats and kicks of afrobeats.
In January 2019, Davido’s Fall made its way to become one of the top 100 most Shazam’d song in the USA, according to Rolling Stone magazine. Surprisingly, Fall was released in 2017. Only showing, that America has been late to the wave.
In the months following, we have seen a boom in Afrobeats and other African genres in the Americas. From collaborations with top stars, collaborations with brands, participation in shows and events, the Afrobeats storm doesn’t seem to be ending now.
This seems to have changed the trajectory labels once took towards African musicians. From Wizkid and Davido’s previous works with RCA, it seems labels wanted to make African artists conform to their sound. We spot a difference now with Tiwa Savage and her recent signing with UMG. It seems the world’s largest music label has given the Afrobeats sweetheart, creative control when it comes to her sounds, and it is working exceptionally.
Burna Boy took over 2019 with a performance at Coachella and followed up with an impressive album African Giant, and a marketing plan that looped in the USA, UK and Africa. The Nigerian took over airwaves and concerts that earned him a Grammy nomination in the 2019 Grammy Awards.
With many of these artists having label support, it is interesting to witness independent artist Mr Eazi make the same strides. The Nigerian superstar played Coachella 2019 and topped it with a feature with South American artist J Balvin.
The afrobeats flu left America in high spirits. From their biggest stars such as Drake and Beyonce, collaborations and experimentation are happening with afrobeats and African music. In 2019, Beyonce released an album for The Lion King film which she featured African musicians, producers and songwriters. The album featured artists from Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa, and was highly anticipated by her fans.
2019 laid the pathway for Africans and African music to flourish. A deep appreciation for the African culture shined through with this flux.
Even emerging acts such as Santi, who rules the alternative sound of Nigeria gained their due from African music’s popularity in the USA. The Rapid Fire hitmaker, signed with label Love Rennaissance (LVRN) which is the home of R&B stars 6lack and Summer Walker. Crooner, Tay Iwar also followed through by joining the independently run, Soulection family.
The question however remains: Will Africa be able to hold on to this fad and thrive beyond this season.
A cue can be taken from Caribbean music which was just as influential and marketed as Afrobeats and other African genres is now in the USA, back in the early 2000s. Superstars like Beenie Man, Elephant Man, Sean Paul and more pushed the Caribbean sound globally. Yet, due to lack of internal structure and system in the Caribbean music industry, that boom took off and sputtered into an end.
For Afrobeats and African music to live gloriously beyond these times, there needs to be a reinforcement of structure and system. However, beyond that, there needs to be a sense of pride, unity and collaboration. Showing up and out for ourselves as Africans, before anything else.
Check out our curation of some of the most fire collaborations between African musicians and producers with North and South American artists.