The Age of Afrobeats Editor’s Foreword: The Republic V7, N4

Afrobeats has come of age, demanding as much celebration as it does introspection. Despite its growth and international success, however, Afrobeats is still mostly recognized as an offshoot of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat and engaged with as a genre that lacks distinguishable artists. Who are these artists and what are their stories? Our latest issue, The Age of Afrobeats, invites audiences into the lesser known histories of some of their favourite Afrobeats musicians. Purchase the issue here. We ship worldwide.

Earlier this year in January, the artist, Burna Boy, held the ‘Lagos Loves Damini’ concert in Lagos. Although the concert was billed to start by 8 p.m. (some reports claim it was meant to start as early as 6 p.m.) according to attendees, it failed to start until around 3 a.m. According to Burna Boy, the concert’s organizers had failed to properly set up the necessary sound equipment, which meant he could not perform on time. To fans, however, with such delays being common and not exclusive to Burna Boy, the delay was another example of the Nigerian music industry’s failure to translate its ongoing international success to local development.  

Burna Boy’s incident stands out even more, when you consider that a decade ago, fans had similar complaints regarding Afrobeats veteran, D’Banj’s Koko Concert. It was December 2012 and D’Banj had organized the concert on Eko Atlantic, the then-newly developed coastal city which had yet to develop proper public infrastructure such as roads. This meant fans had to embark on long, poorly lit treks to arrive at the venue. Nicholas Ibekwe reported in Premium Times at the time, ‘From tiresome trek along the sandy beach, inadequate parking space, to Dbanj’s fake American accent, the general perception was that the overpriced concert was a failure.’ 

The foregoing experiences could suggest that, by and large, Afrobeats has not made much progress over the last decade. Combined with recent tragedies such as MohBad’s death in September 2023, some could even argue the industry is regressing. Such claims would be wrong, of course, but not entirely. Nigeria’s music industry has evolved into a billion dollar industry that has gained the attention of global ‘superstars’ like Beyoncé. But the persistent lack of infrastructure points to the fragility of Afrobeats’ growth, its international bias and local neglect. What makes the connection between D’Banj’s and Burna Boy’s experiences even more noteworthy is that Burna Boy (who performed at the Koko Concert) went on to release his debut album, L.I.F.E, in 2013. A decade since, Burna Boy, who is arguably Afrobeats most successful ambassador—a Grammy award-winning artist, who has sold out international venues including Madison Square Garden—but who also has a fragile relationship with his local audience thus gives us a window to consider and possibly even question the growth of Afrobeats.  

The purpose of this issue, however, is not simply to criticize Afrobeats; criticism being necessary to affirm Afrobeats’ proper place in cultural discourse. We mean, ultimately, to celebrate the genre; to venture further than thematic study into the lives, stories, worldviews and meaning of the very artists that make up the genre. As such, we have invited writers to zoom in on Afrobeats and spotlight key artists that represent the genre’s beginnings, its current trajectories and future possibilities.  

From Asa to Wizkid, the artists covered in this issue and the writers who cover them, reveal Afrobeats to be more than an offshoot of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat. They show that Afrobeats is more than a series of homogenous acts, and invite us to consider the various ideas, dreams, creativity, tensions, challenges and hopes that have given rise to perhaps the most infectious music genre present in the world today.  

Our final issue of 2023, this issue features: Saratu Abiola on Asa; Dami Ajayi on Asake; Emmanuel ESomnofu on Ayra Starr; Olasubomi Olumofin on Burna Boy; Jide Salawu on Davido; Carl Terver on M.I; Ernest Nweke on P-Square; Zainab Kuku on Tiwa Savage; Patrick Ezema on Wizkid.  

By no means exhaustive, this issue serves as a starting point for chronicling new, varied, individual and thus more specific and more human histories of Afrobeats. The issue also includes a first draft interview with Chris Adofo, the author of A Quick Ting on Afrobeats.

Since our previous issue, The Republic has received funding and capacity-building support from the Open Society Foundation, Africa No Filter (ANF) as well as an award from the Google News Initiative’s Innovation Challenge. ANF’s support contributed towards the production of this issue. Additionally, Google’s award has gone towards helping us to build ATLAS, a photo discovery and licensing platform.  

As usual, we encourage our readers to engage with our essays and articles and to provide insightful comments. Readers may send their views directly to the Editor by addressing emails (of no more than 700 words) to wale@republic.com.ng, with the subject, ‘Comment on Xyz Essay’, or ‘Letter to the Editor’ as applies. Comments and letters will be archived and, depending on the quality of the arguments presented, we may reach out to assist in developing your letters and comments further for publishing in the magazine.   

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At The Republic, we will always prioritize the meaningful exchange of ideas. We commit to pressing forward: on the most critical of social, political and economic issues; by innovating through knowledge gaps; and by providing guidance through thickets of opinion, ignorance and misinformation—three key features of our time—in search of glades of insight.  

From all of us at The Republic, thank you for an exceptional 2023! Happy holidays! 

The views, thoughts, and opinions published in The Republic belong solely to the author and are not necessarily the views of The Republic or its editors. We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editors by writing to [email protected].