- What is the Afrobeat genre?
There’s Afrobeat and there’s Afrobeats. Afrobeat without the ‘S’ is the music that Fela worked tirelessly to develop over a long period. From his own band Koola Lobitos to finally refining it to where he started Egypt 80 and everything, and it was because he schooled out there in the West, he took in a lot of their sound and all of that. But at some point, Fela felt the need to really stand apart from the music he had learnt and he wanted to make it more African than more make it more authentic.
So Afrobeat is the music today that emerged from the genius who spent tireless time in developing and working on it in the 60s.
So now to the Afrobeats with the ‘S’. A lot of people are going to say to you that unlike Afrobeat that is a distinct sound with elements, Afrobeats music isn’t particularly a genre. It is just the overarching umbrella sound of the music out of West Africa.
Another funny thing is that the word Afrobeat was first coined or used by a Ghanaian-based DJ in the UK called DJ Atlantic. He was on radio at a time, and he had a show on a certain radio station and at that point he introduced a lot of African music. I guess after some time he felt the need to call it something, so that’s where Afrobeat came from. Afrobeat is pretty much a sound from West Africa, the overarching sound of the umbrella music from West Africa.
- It’s impossible to discuss Afrobeats rise without mentioning Davido, a man who recently clocks a decade in the industry. What do you think has defined his career so far in the industry?
Resilience and Passion. At the initial stage a lot of people did not consider David to be the most obviously talented person.
But one thing you could tell from David was that this kid was hungry, this kid wanted this thing, this Kid is going to do anything to get it , as God would have it he seems to have financial support on his path, but why I would not talk so much about that is that before David and even after David, we have seen a lot of rich kid , right? So money is not the only reason David is such a star. As a manager and an administrator, I have run with people who have money but their money is for their lifestyle and it’s not for the music and when it’s time to invest in music they would not, but with David , David realised that okay, I have the wherewithal to do what I need to do, he really put his money where his mouth is and he went all out for it.
So I would say resilience and passion first of all and over time we have seen this guy improve and get better and better. So it’s not hard to say that David has been growing because over time he has shown us that.
- A lot of people say his special sauce is creating monster hits, how true is this? And how easy is it?
His special sauce is recognising monster hit, so when somebody tries to downplay David’s greatness and say he is not talented, I’m like yoo, it takes a lot of talent to spot hit, it was this boy who spotted ‘Gobe’ and he bought it, this guy who spotted ‘Aye’, and he bought it, he spotted even ‘Fem’.
He said some people were working at his studio, the song was not even meant for him, he now pulled up, he heard it and he was like yoo I’m using this work, it takes talent to be able to spot those things you know and the ability to collaborate with very gifted people, all these things are talent, these are things his father’s money cannot afford him. So yeah, Davido definitely has superpower for creating songs that are amazing.
‘IF’ was written by Tekno so you can tell that this guy is actually steps ahead of his peers. He is able to collaborate with the right people and he is able to spot amazing songs and say so you know what we are going to do with this one.
- There’s a difference in delivery even when one buy songs
Definitely, and he does that well. Like ‘Gobe’, he ended up not using the actual beat and he got.bI think he got Chizzi, and David has done so many things like this with his songs. So you can tell that this guy really has something, he knows something, something that can’t just be learnt, something his father’s money can’t buy.
- Davido has amassed over a billion streams so far and I think that’s very rich, how critical is digital streaming to the growth of Afrobeats?
Very critical, and it is not like we have a choice because digital streaming is where the parties are right now. There’s nobody who is trying to engage with your physical products anymore and there’s nobody trying to buy your VHS or anything.
So it’s not like we have a choice but it’s a good thing people think that we were deemed enough to engage in those platforms and we woke up to the right technology and partnership of technology early enough. Imagine that we made all these things happen without our own numbers being registered on platforms like Spotify. Spotify just only came to Nigeria this year. So it just shows that despite all the numbers you have been seeing on Spotify, Nigerians in Nigeria our numbers are not even there.
It just shows how much better these things are going to be, and we have Audiomack, we have YouTube, we have Apple music, we have Spotify these brands have also realised that we Nigerians are an important market. And shout out to Nigerians in diaspora, they continue to push the culture forward. I like to think that they are the unsung heroes of Afrobeats music, because Nigerians everywhere and we can make music everywhere. Maybe that’s the advantage we have over other countries because of the chances that you’re going to find Nigerians everywhere. We are always travelling so It’s easy for our music to travel as well. Hopefully, the internet data can get cheaper and more people can be able to access smart phones and all these gadgets and then stream it down and more people can be able to jam in and help grow this ecosystem.
I like to think eventually, David is going to be on his stage, hold his neck and say ‘E choke’ at some point.
- Would there be any career regret if Davido never wins a Grammy?
No, there will be none. He is an accomplished artiste as it is. It was this year that Nas got his Grammy for the first time and there are plenty of other people that never got the Grammy but we know that these people are some of the finest artistes. Do you know Snoop Dogg never won a Grammy?
So there are plenty of other people like that, so sometimes these things happen. Maybe you dropped a project in a year, well then just so happened to be like a bigger or more popular project and then, you know there are those variables and these things that happen. So in my opinion David is really an accomplished musician, he has traveled round the world, he has met everybody, he has made money, he has made a clout, I mean what else is there to do? At this point he just needs to keep making music because that is what he has feelings for.
- Has Afrobeats peaked with this Grammy win and its present level of influence?
I do not think so. If anything, it’s possible that we’re just getting started. I was recently saying to someone, these days it appears like the producers outside Nigeria are even starting to make better Afrobeats production or songs than us. People like Jay Five, people like P2J, there’s this guy in Los Angeles who does work for Tiwa savage and Seyi Shay plenty of these people, these guys are making incredible stuff. You know how a black American cannot really really say hip hop is our thing anymore because in Asia they now make hip hop, Africans make hip hop, a lot of people make hip hop, so that’s the beauty of your tradition on your product going across. It sort of gets to a place where it feels like it’s no longer yours anymore because a lot of people have now bought into your product and they love it so I see that happening with Afrobeats.
Another thing is that these guys are still young and they’re going to continue making music. Wizkid is a big superstar, look at what he did with Made in Lagos, so projects like that help to reinforce the importance of this genre, people like Burna Boy, Burna Boy is only just getting started, Davido is a young man, he’s just getting started, let’s not even talk about the younger people who are coming behind them, Buju, Joeboy, Fireboy DML, Tems, all these people, so I think we’re only just getting started.
- So there’s no role left for the government now?
Perhaps that ship has sailed, so maybe they should perhaps help us add more event centres, you know just put in laws and regulations that help people to do business more easily. But generally, the success has gone beyond them.
Obinna Agwu is a music executive and talent manager who has had in his clientele MI Abaga amid a plethora of other artistes.