I’ve written about the afro-beats explosion quite regularly in the last few years and while Drake’s flirting with the sound a few years ago helped throw a lot of light on the music, the new Beyonce soundtrack for the Lion King is set to make it even bigger.
In an ideal world, the great artists like Yemi Alade, Burna Boy, Wizkid and Mr Eazi would all be global stars already, and in many ways they are. There is a new level being reached now though, and some of these amazing young artists are about to become genuine household names in the next few years. As mentioned in my last article on afro-beats and modern-day African pop music, the music is massive around the world not only due to the African diaspora but also from the sheer joy of the music coming out right now.
This is a musical movement taking hold of big European cities like London and Paris, and now you can even feel the music penetrating the United States. The power of big stars such as Beyonce and Drake is certainly gonna help things in this regard, and to its credit, “The Lion King; the Gift”, goes deep into the modern afro sound. Beyonce and her team have chosen a who’s who of the most relevant and exciting new artists from the continent and mixed it with big hitters such as Pharrell, Childish Gambino, Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar and Tierra Whack.
From Africa Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Shatta Wale, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, Tekno and more take part, and overall it’s a fairly decent attempt at a soundtrack for this very culturally significant Lion King Remake. It’s quite an ambitious soundtrack but on tracks like “Don’t jealous me”, “My Power” and “Brown Skin Girl”, the tone is just right and the tracks hit hard. You will be hearing a lot of them all summer. I really enjoyed the “Black Panther” soundtrack and original score too a few years ago, but I did feel that the Kendrick side of things would have benefitted from a little bit more of that authentic afro flavour. Whether you like it or not, this music is coming and it will be heard way beyond the African communities these next few years.
In Ireland, there’s a fairly decent selection of afro-beats club nights and quite a few artists now too. Most are located in Dublin but there’s other sprinkled around the country aswell and nights like Taboo have been pushing it forward in Cork. This Friday my own Good Music night welcomes RTÉ 2FM’s DJ Wax for a pre-Trenchtown Electric Party in Cyprus Avenue. Among the performers will be Andrea Williams and the Hot Sauce dance crew, one of a number of dance acts who are bringing the African and Jamaican vibes to the dancefloors at festivals and other events. Trenchtown itself is one of the highlights of the Electric Picnic every year, and it always has a first-class line-up of reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, afrobeats, soul and drum n’bass. The big artists such as Mr Eazi and Burna Boy have visited Ireland too and Burna Boy, who is currently touring off the back of his huge global hit “Ye”, plays Dublin's Vicar Street this October.
The global progress can also be tracked by the success of some of the afro trap/bashment sound that comes from huge cities such as London. Giggs, J Hus, NSG, Dave and many more UK artists have mixed up hip-hop and grime with afro and dancehall and it’s one of the things which excites most of the British scene at the moment. In Portugal, there is a huge festival next week called Afro Nation, mixing the best afro grooves with dancehall and more, and the line up is incredible. Wizkid, Davido, Femi Kuti, Buju Banton, Burna Boy, Busy Signal, Stefflon Don, Distruction Boyz, Ms Banks and Adekunle Gold are all gonna be there, and that’s only a few of the names. Some of them are penetrating more mainstream line-ups on the European and US festival circuit but the best is definitely yet to come.
It’s a vibrant and accessible music full of hooks and great melodies, and the dance element cannot be under-estimated either. I work with dance choreographer Andrea Williams and a bunch of cork teenagers in the migrant centre here and it’s great to see how this music is shaping a new generation of Africans all over the world.