Despite the rich and varied musical heritage of Africa, her music been less celebrated and (obviously) sampled in the UK and US than its more famous cousin, the Caribbean. Recently, however, there has been a notable increase in the use of Afro vocals, beats and rhythms and here I’m going to talk a little about that and outline a very brief history of Afro music in the UK and US.
One of the first genres of Afro music to become famous worldwide was Afrobeat. It’s loved throughout the world for its fusion of African rhythms, high life, Juju and other traditional music with Jazz and Funk and is often sang in Yoruba pidgen English (a language derived from a mixture of English and Yoruba).
The Godfather of Afrobeat, Fela Ransome Kuti, and his sons Seun and Femi and band member and drummer Tony Allen, did, and still does much, to draw attention to the rich musicality of the African Continent, especially Western Africa and Afrobeat. Many saw Kuti celebrated in the recent world wide smash hit musical Fela!
Before Fela, Sierra Leone’s Afro Soul and Funkster Geraldo Pino made some great music, whom Kuti admitted influenced him considerably in creating is Afrobeat sound.
Western commercial artists since the 70s have been influenced by African music. Paul McCartney’s Band on The Run album featured Afro rhythms (much to Fela Kuti’s annoyance). The Brian Eno produced Talking Heads album ‘Remain in Light’ was heavily influenced by the likes of Fela Kuti. Damon Albarn is also well know for his passion for Malian music.
Recently, in clubs and warehouses of London there has been a surge of nights that pay homage to African music. On the forefront of these was Hugo Mendez’s Sofrito parties and Rita Ray’s and Max Reindherts nights the ‘Shrine London’. Of course, Giles Peterson has championed Afro music for many years, especially Afro Cuban.
Producers like Osunlade and his Yorbua records imprint and Jerome Sydenham and his Ibadan Records label have championed Afro inspired Afro House and Techno since the 90’s.
Jerome Sydenham/Ibadan Records
Osunlade and Jerome continue to influence other prolific producers and labels that continue to mix Afro rhythms and beats into House and Techno.
The prolific AtJazz..
the up and coming South African producer and DJ, Culoe De Song…
and label Tribe Records, shown here using Arabic Afro samples heavily.
Afro rhythms and drum patterns have also been studied, sliced, sampled to form the basis of beat patterns in a large number of other music genres. The raw loop of an African style poly-rhythm or beat pattern, as below, or an Afro vocal less rarely so.
There are examples in Jazz. Miles Davies uses them here, in a drum solo.
Techno Pioneer Richie Hawtin aka Plastikman created a Afro/percussive heavy track featuring soley African drum patterns and poly rhythms and a number of African instruments. It doesn’t have the same flow of most of Plastikman’s Techno tracks and its release is confusing for many. For such a leading light in the Techno world to do use Afro poly-rhythms in such a raw way pays homage to Techno’s use of African drums.
Recently the use of African drum rhythms are coming to the forefront of modern underground music. Funky (or Funki), Tropical and Bass is loaded with Afro rhythms and drum patterns.
Tickles – Call For Backup E.P…
Zed Bias – Trouble in the Streets.
Check out the beat heavy Afro style drums of UK Bass pioneer Blawan.
It’s not only the beats or snippets of vocal that are becoming more widespread. Full Afro vocals are being used and they’re now finding their way into commercial tracks much like Reggae, Ragga, Ska and other Caribbean music has done since the 70s.
Check out Sway..
and Afrikan Boy.
During a visit to Lagos in 2006 I noticed that a lot of new music from the area was merely an imitation of their American and Caribbean counterparts and recorded, more often than not, to poor effect. More recently however, many African artists have mixed their unique sound with Hip Hop, Ragga and R’B instead of imitating them, to create a hybrid sound. This is finding success in Western markets in much the same way as Fela and Co did when they developed Afrobeat. Recently Nigerian star D’banj, for example, has been signed to Kayne West’s label, GOOD Music.
Music lovers now travel thousands of miles to party in and amongst African artists in the continent itself. The Lake of Stars festival in Malawi celebrates the continents rich musical heritage as well as bringing over European and UK artists such as the Foals.
It’s refreshing to see the increasing influence of African music in underground scenes and increasingly so, in the mainstream. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing where it might go in 2012. Viva Africa!