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What is Afrobeats Music?

Updated: Jan 13


With the global popularity of Afrobeats and its direct influence on Afro-dance, we think it's a great time we dive into what Afrobeats is and how it came to be.

Afrobeats is a music genre that defines the culmination and evolution of sub-Saharan African musical styles over the years. It focuses on percussion, complex and upbeat rhythms. Within the umbrella of Afrobeats, there are Sub-genres that make it up. These include Afro-fusion, Afropop and Afro-house.

The genre has played a significant role in the diversification of African culture and the reach of once niche African artists. Where artists were once confined to petty clubs and local venues. Flagship Afrobeats artists such as Wizkid, Diamond platinum and black coffee now sell out arenas across the world. The genre has continued to hit international levels and has now earned its place as one of the main global music genres.

If you are a music lover interested in musical history, this article is a timely read. We will discuss different versions of Afrobeats within various African countries and how they have formed Afrobeats as we know it today. From South Africa to Nigeria, keep reading for I interesting facts about afrobeat.

South Africa

South Africa is one of the leading contributors to the creation of Afrobeats, especially with Afro-House. The country boasts a diversified music culture from blues, jazz, and the irresistible Zulu rhythms. This explains why tourists continue to flow in the country to taste the catchy and thrilling South African music and have a first-hand experience with the artists whose talent in Afrobeats is incredible.

The country has different types of music. One of the most widely known is South African house music which has contributed significantly to Afrobeats music. The characteristics of this music genre include long track lengths of up to 4 mins or more, consistent melody as well as an electric and upbeat rhythm.

South-African also has Amapiano music which has been in existence since 2010. Amapiano translates to, “the piano.” From its English translation, you might think that this type of music is about pianos. On the contrary, Amapiano features basslines, percussions, thrilling piano solos, rattling drums, and heart-warming harmonies. All these characteristics, including the uniformed feet, dance, fit the Afrobeats music genre. Amapiano has a way of drawing you in with incredible instrumental music followed by beautiful harmonies that literally capture you and keep you coming back. Just listen to Banyana or Bopha to confirm this.

A few of the Key artists in South Africa include Prince Kaybee, Master KG, Black Coffee, DJ Cleo and DJ Mazohista.

Another afrobeat music in South Africa is the Gqom, whose other name is electronic house. It is characterized by heavy bass beats aligned with a low, original, repetitive sound and some dance steps like bhenag, gwara gwara, and vosho. Some of the artists who pioneered this music in 2010 include Rudeboyz, Dominowe, and Griffit Vigo.


Tanzania has its spot in the music world, and its artists have made the country dominate in music to some extent. Bongo Flava is the signature of Tanzania’s afro beats music, and it has made the country known to the world. This music is so popular and this is highlighted with artists such as Bongo Flava artists filling stadiums when performing. Diamond Platnumz, Ali Kiba, and Afande Sele are a few local artists who have taken Bongo Flava to unmatchable heights.

The other type of music in Tanzania is rhythm and blues (R&B), whose best artist is Lady Jaydee. She has given the R&B a new definition in the country. Her music life started in a church where she was a choir member and scooped several awards. Churches also contributed to the growth of this music genre because most choirs produce R&B music. A good example is Rose Muhando, the first Gospel artist in East Africa to work with Sony Music Entertainment.


Congo has for a long time been Africa’s music and dance heartbeat. Its capital has been a significant music production centre in the country. Due to ethnic differences, the country for a long time stuck to traditional music since communities were separated from each other. This left the nation without a flagship genre, but things took a turn in the 1940s. Musicians later came up with rhumba music and combined it with some locally made instruments as well as guitars that characterized the sound.

Feruzi was among the artists who made rhumba famous in the early 1930s. One of the things that made the natives like the music was that it wasn't tribal and appealed to a range of ethnicities. Rhumba exceeded the Congolese borders, with most parts of the world loving it.

The other type of music in Congo is Soukous. Soukous is a genre of African music from the Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville. It is inspired and derived from Congolese Rumba in the 1960s and gained wide popularity in the 1980s in France. As a blend of Congo-Brazzaville and Congo-Kinshasa, It is characterized by longer sequences of dancing and a high tempo.


There has been a significant transition in Nigerian music since the year 2000s. This has seen the appreciation of Afrobeats in the country, with the popularity of artists such as Plantation boys, P-square and Tuface. Nigeria has had different types of music, some of which have been in existence for decades, including Afrobeat, Juju, and Highlife.

One thing that stands out about Nigerian music is its tradition, with its functionality confirmed by how it is performed in special events such as weddings.

Mention Yoruba in Nigeria, and everybody will be telling you about the afro-beats music genre. The drumming tradition among Yoruba people has never lost its taste years down the line. The drums and brass instruments are played resembling some Yoruba utterances. Naturally, there is a lot of spirituality in Yoruba music, and this is translated beautifully in their music.

Yoruba music has been an essential part of Nigerian music. You will hear this music saturating the streets of Ibadan and Lagos as you walk around. Also, Yoruba music has birthed other modern artists who perform with the afro-beats style. The artists include Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido, Yusuf Olutanji, Salawa Abeni, and Ayendi Barrister. It would be okay to say that Yoruba music has matured and is being generously embraced by the new generation who sing it in the Yoruba language. You won’t be surprised to find an artist from the east singing Yoruba afro-beats comfortably.

The other type of music is the Igbo music found on the Southeast side of Nigeria, and several folk instruments including udus, flutes, lyres, xylophones, and slit drums, all of which make the afro-beats element flow well in the genre. However, the list of instruments can’t be complete without mentioning Zither. The tribe is versatile and will adjust to any foreign style, making their music diversified. This is a 13-stringed instrument, and it is the most widely spread in the region. The natives also have brass instruments which they import from Brazil to complement their type of music. This music is cultural, and sometimes the people will use the slit drums to pass important information, wake the chief, and announce mealtimes. If you are in the Igbo region and hear the drums and bells sounding, they signal the chief's time to return to his village. Igbo afro beats music is an experience that will leave you with lasting memories.


Ghana is another major contributor to Afrobeats. With Nigeria as its neighbour, it has continued to evolve, birthing various styles in the country. Burger highlife music is one of the core types of music in the country. Coincidentally, it also has some German roots. It began after some highlife musicians attended German schools.

A good example was techno-pop. Some elements that characterize the Burger highlife music include funk, disco, reggae, guitar, rhythms, and reggae. During the start of the music, the artists based the songs on an issue like migration, but that has gradually changed with most of them producing love songs in the burger highlife style. Some artists who did the traditional version of this Ghanaian afro beats music included the Lumba brothers, McGod, Lee Duodu, and George Darko. However, other artists have come up, and they have turned the music from traditional to contemporary. They include Day Lumba, Kwabena Kwabena, and KK Fosu. Do not be surprised to hear loud highlife music in every street or homestead of Ghana. The music genre has taken the youths by storm.

Almost every Ghanaian will be dancing to soothing beats of the Afro music when the radio is switched on. The emergence of this music genre came after the country gained its independence. It came about due to the Ghanaian locals being exposed to the jazz, rock, and funk music genres. Several subgenres fall under afro music. One of them is the Afro-rock, like rock bands, but the only difference is Ghanaian drums and rhythms. The afro-rock genre was started in London by Osibisa. The other subgenre of this music type was created in the 1940s by an artist known as Kofi Ghanaba, whose music was characterized by African instruments. As time went by, Fela Kuti emerged with the Afrobeat music genre, a funk, highlife, and African rhythms. Although the music was Nigerian, it spread like bush fire in Ghana, with the locals embracing it fully.


There are several types of music in Zimbabwe, with most artists shining in their musical skills. One of them is Sungura music, which has existed since the 1980s and has dominated the music arena. The artists whose prowess in sungura music is unmatchable includes Sulumani Chimbetu and Alick Machose. This music has maintained its authenticity among the Zimbabweans and significantly contributed to the afro-beats music through its consistency.

Hip hop is a common music genre in Zimbabwe and mainly among the youths and has taken Afrobeats music in the country to higher levels. Artists like Ten, T.Ngozi, and Takura fill stadiums when they have a hip-hop event.

The Imbumbwe music genre has a close link with the Zimbabwean culture. The originality of this music and the acapella style have made afro-beats appreciated in the country. The genre was developed by men who spent most of their time in the mines. They would sing Imbumbwe songs together to kill loneliness and pass the time.


Afrobeats in Cameroon can heavily be felt through hip-hop music and is a growing new popular area. Since was the pioneer of the music genre in the country in 2010, Krotal, a Cameroonian rapper really popularised music here. The rapper brought Cameroon hip hop to the limelight when he did the football world cup compilation in South Africa. Since then, more hip-hop artists have continued to emerge in the country. However, there is a crush between the artists since the competition has been stiff.

Ivory Coast

There has been a lot of pressure on the Ivory Coast artists from outside, but they have managed to resist it and own their music culture. However, some artists have borrowed some foreign elements and rhymed them with their local rhythms, which has led to the popularity of afro-beats music in the country.

Most of the reggae music in the country was made in French. This was introduced by the young upcoming musicians, most of whom were students. Their influence at the time was significant; it led to the founding of the Orchestra of the University of Abidjan.

The coupe Decale music genre was formed after the 1999 military coup in Ivory Coast. Congolese music was the main inspiration of Coupe Decale, while DJs drove it, making it the best for entertainment in the country. Among the most famous Coupe, Decale artists were DJ Mix and DJ Arafat. However, people greatly blamed them for killing Ivorian music.


Music in Ethiopia started as a way of expressing religious elements. The churches in Ethiopia have been for a long time the owners of the musical styles. Yared, an Ethiopian church father, created some of the best sounds that remained one of people’s favourite up to date. One of the things that Ethiopian music is known for is the long-intervened notes. There are three types of Ethiopian music and including monophonic, heterophonic, and polyphonic styles.


It is safe to say that Afrobeats music is a diverse genre. You can find its reflection in a lot of today’s most popular music genres. Ever since it first came into the picture, it has become the most popular genre of Africa that gave birth to many other sub-genres.

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