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Essential Afrobeats Albums

The fusion of traditional African rhythms with contemporary influences has taken over the international charts. Learn about 10 artists pushing afrobeats forward.

Closeup of Tems album cover

Emerging from West Africa, afrobeats has transcended regional and international boundaries to capture the attention of audiences worldwide. Though they’re commonly conflated, afrobeat and afrobeats are not the same — that “S” does a lot of heavy lifting.

Afrobeat music developed in the ’60s and ’70s as a genre influenced by fújì music, a kind of Yoruba popular music that was born from the religious wéré music, and highlife — traditional West African rhythms fused with jazz — as well as American jazz and funk. It’s characterized by the big band sound, long instrumental solos, and complex jazz rhythms. Afrobeats, on the other hand, is an umbrella term used to describe popular music from West Africa and the diaspora. The genre, which originated in Nigeria and Ghana, is less of a singular style of music and more of a descriptive word assigned to various styles — like hiplife (a form of Ghanaian hip-hop), jùjú music (pop music derived from Yoruba percussion), naija beats, and dancehall — and the fusion of their elements.

Afrobeats, also referred to as afro-pop or afro-fusion, is characterized by its signature driving drums that are prioritized over lyrics or other instruments. Most afrobeats songs use a 4/4 time signature and commonly utilize a 3-2 or 2-3 rhythm called a clave that is the foundation of all sub-Saharan African and some Afro-Latin and Caribbean musical traditions. Sampling is also used, with several artists borrowing from afrobeat, hip-hop, and R&B musicians. Lyrics are usually performed in English, Pidgin, or other native dialects.

After catching on with Black Brits in London, afrobeats continued its journey to North America, where the sound has inspired musicians from and led to collaborations with artists from the United States and Canada. The fusion of traditional African rhythms with contemporary influences has proved to be both dynamic and captivating — afrobeats has taken the top spot on the Billboard charts, been celebrated on music’s biggest stages, and moved audiences despite language barriers. Artists like Burna Boy, Tems, Wizkid, and more have expanded afrobeats’ reach. Read on to learn more about 10 afrobeats artists pushing the genre forward.


Tiwa Savage

Celia


Burna Boy

Love, Damini


Tems

For Broken Ears


Wizkid

Made In Lagos


Davido

A Good Time


Mr Eazi

The Evil Genius


Yemi Alade

Mama Africa


Sarkodie

Sarkology


Aya Nakamura

Nakamura

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