Feb 8th, 2019
Tonight show is all Afrobeats music, which is a music genre that involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles such as fuji music and highlife with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion.
The term was coined by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who is responsible for pioneering and popularizing the style both within and outside Nigeria. It was partially borne out of an attempt to distinguish Fela Kuti's music from the soul music of American artists such as James Brown. Afrobeat began in Ghana in the early 1920s. During that time, Ghanaian musicians incorporated foreign influences like the foxtrot and calypso with Ghanaian rhythms like osibisaba (Fante). Highlife was associated with the local African aristocracy during the colonial period and was played by numerous bands including the Jazz Kings, Cape Coast Sugar Babies, and Accra Orchestra along the country's coast. Nigeria later joined the Afrobeat wave in the late 60s led by Fela Kuti who experimented with different contemporary music of the time. Upon arriving in Nigeria, Kuti also changed the name of his group to Africa '70. The new sound hailed from a club that he established called the Afrika Shrine. The band maintained a five-year residency at the Afrika Shrine from 1970 to 1975 while afrobeat thrived among Nigerian youth.
Although the term Afrobeat was coined as early as 1968, after making a trip to the United States, Kuti wasn't really making music in the category of Afrobeat. The name “Afrobeat” shows the significance of groove to the music, as opposed to Afrofunk.
In 1969, Kuti and his band went on a trip to the U.S. and met Sandra Smith, a singer and former Black Panther. Sandra Smith (now known as Sandra Isadore) introduced Kuti to many writings of activist such as Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Davis, Jesse Jackson, and his biggest influence of all Malcolm X.
Being that Kuti was interested in African American politics, Smith would inform him on the current events. In return, Kuti would fill her in on African culture. Since Kuti stayed at Smith's house and was spending so much time with her, he started to re-evaluate his music. That was when Fela Kuti noticed that he was not playing African music. From that day forward, Kuti changed his sound and the message behind his music.
Prevalent in his and Lagbaja's music are native Nigerian harmonies and rhythms, taking different elements and combining, modernizing, and improvising upon them. Politics are essential to Afrobeat, since founder Kuti used social criticism to pave the way for social change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1970s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination. As the genre spread throughout the African continent many bands took up the style. The recordings of these bands and their songs were rarely heard or exported outside the originating countries but many can now be found on compilation albums and CDs from specialist record shops.