If you’re gonna take away anything from this piece, it’s that culture and influence are inextricably linked. Most music genres today derived from the Blues, Jazz and African Gospels that slaves used to sing on plantations. Over time, the influence of Africans in America and the United Kingdom meant that more and more genres were developing from African based music. Some of these include R&B, Hip-hop, Rock ’n’ Roll and Gospel music. Pop hits were often taken from music created and inspired by Black people, given a mainstream spin and sold to the masses. This is just a bit of history.
Fast-forward to present-day U.K and names like Stormzy, J Hus, Kojo Funds, Skepta, Stefflondon and Giggs are running the urban music scene. Although they each hold forte in different genres, they all have in common genres influenced by beats, rhythms and styles derivative of Africa.
With Grime, a genre that emerged in the early 2000s from British styles such as Garage and Jungle, traces of dancehall, reggae and Hip Hop are observed to form a part of this genre. These styles originated in the Caribbean, from people with ancestral history in Africa. The Caribbean people have long influenced many Europeans since the second world war when many settled in the UK and other European countries. This was due to a diminishing number of labour in Europe and a need for reinforcement. Caribbeans were encouraged to expatriate to Europe to fill the labour gap, despite suffering prejudice and negativity, even from West Africans, with whom they competed for jobs. The existence of Caribbeans in the UK established their culture in the UK and birthed a merger of cultures, with included sound. Classic songs that have become a symbol for this grime are ‘Shut up’ by Stormy and ‘Talking the hardest’ by Giggs. Get the way Culture and Influence works?
Africa’s influence on the UK music scene has not been secondary but also direct. With a large influx of West African expatriates into the UK in the late ’80s for work and study, a west African community was born in the UK, especially in London. With the Ghanaians, Nigerians and other west Africans came the music, such as Burger highlife, Afrobeat and other modern African music forms.
It’s no surprise then that, current big names in African Music such as Wizkid, Davido, Mr Eazi and Burna Boy are just as popular in the UK. Their signature Afrobeat sounds have taken the UK charts by storm and seen them gain rapid popularity over the years. These sounds have inspired artists such as J Hus and Kojo Funds to create their own unique sounds in the United Kingdom which have gone on to dominate the Music Scene for the past two years.
J Hus could easily be described as a major player in pushing British Afrobeats to the forefront. Songs such as spirit ’Spirit’ have hints of African drums and the beats echo traditional African rhythms. The Music video for the song is set in Ghana and captures locals showcasing African Culture while enjoying life and keeping their spirits high. Ghanaians who have seen the video will easily recognise a few favourite spots such as ‘Purple Pub’ in Osu. This highlights just how significant and influential African Culture has been and continues to be in The UK Music scene. From the rhythms of the music to the visuals, the influence is undeniable. On ‘Dun Talkin’ by Kojo Funds ft Abracadabra, the rhythms are a mixture of electronic and base instruments that create a heavy sound that is reminiscent of Afrobeats. Davido sampled part of the song in his hit song ‘Fall’ which further proves the cyclical effect of culture and Influence as artists take inspiration from each other and inject it into their various genres.
Producers such as DJ Juls have managed to come up with sounds which amalgamate Afrobeats, Dancehall and Electronic sounds into a tropical cocktail of Western and African sounds. Songs such as ‘Gwarn’ by Juls and Burna boy give listeners a slower and more sensual form of Afrobeats which have taken the UK by storm. Similarly, ’Skintight’ by Juls and Mr Eazi take us back to traditional Afrobeat with a fresher and lighter Vibe. This was a long-standing hit in Africa, the United Kingdom and America. This not only highlights the influence of African Music in the UK but also across the world. This cultural influence has resulted in the introduction of new genres such as Afrotrap and Afropop which more and more British artists such as Afro B, Not3s, NSG and Yxng Bane are exploring.
African music has undoubtedly become key and influential growth and expansion of Urban British Music. And it is obvious that Culture and influence are inextricably linked and form an endless cycle, especially in Music. A couple of other songs that I think are worth listening to for a similar vibe are ‘Set Good’ by O’deal, ‘Tonight’ by Nonso Amadi and ‘Breeze’ by Tomi Agape.
Discover music from the UK, and the rest of the world in our Africa to the World Playlist