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Afrobeats: Ghana’s silent influence on the world

March 06, 2019 at 09:00 am | Entertainment

Nathalie Mensah

Nathalie Mensah | Contributor

March 06, 2019 at 09:00 am | Entertainment

With Afrobeats experiencing international success, it has become essential for those invested in its longevity and prosperity to maintain its accuracy and authenticity as its expansion abroad continues.

As the genre and its well-known key players such as Davido, Wizkid, Mr, Eazi, and Tiwa Savage continue to be mentioned in the Western press for breaking barriers and creating many firsts for African artists, it’s important to mention the elements of the music that audiences abroad may not be aware of. One of them being, the role Ghanaians have played and continue to play in the genre.

To provide a new perspective, I spoke to Ghanaian artists, Fuse ODG, Pee on Da Beat, and Dellasie, who shared their personal outlook on the nuisances surrounding the Afrobeats movement, the Ghanaian music industry, and the country’s influence on the genre.

When people think of the contemporary Afrobeats scene, the name Fuse ODG is often looked at as an artist who has reintroduced the genre to audiences abroad.

“At the time, we were trying to bring Afrobeats to the world,” says Fuse. “Back then [in 2011], the scene was more experimental. We were mixing Western sounds with our African roots, mixing Western dance synths with African percussion. During this time it was difficult to get radio stations to believe in the music as they didn’t know how to classify it so there was a constant fight.”

Fuse believes that Ghana’s influence is so integral to the current scene that it isn’t possible to discuss Afrobeats without speaking about Ghana’s popular music known as highlife.

“Highlife is the seed out of which Afrobeats was created, even Fela Kuti came to Ghana to learn the music to mix jazz and the highlife sound when he created the original Afrobeat.”

Legendary Fela Kuti and his band in Ghana

Pee on Da Beat, a young producer who has worked with artists such as Shatta Wale, E.L, and Wisa Greid, believes that the Ghanaian sound is heavily embedded in the Afrobeats music of today. However, due to factors within the industry, maximizing on that sound and talent becomes difficult.

“Most of the [Afrobeats] songs you hear out there are Ghanaian influenced,” says Pee. “The sound, the drumline, the melodic tones, the pattern of the snare/claps/ kick drums, and the overall groove are elements that are known to the Ghanaians who listen.”

Back in 2017, Mr. Eazi stated on Twitter, “Ghana’s influence on present day “Naija Sound” cannot be overemphasized.” Mr.Eazi, who began making music in Kumasi continuously attributes much of his musical success to the Ghanaian sounds that allowed him to make an impact in Nigeria and ultimately abroad.

Although this influence is evident and acknowledged by some, the question often comes up as to why Ghanaian artists aren’t receiving the same recognition as their counterparts. Some have referenced the vast population difference, with Nigeria being at 190 million and Ghana being at 28 million. There have also been murmurs regarding the lack of musical credit Ghanaian producers receive when collaborating with bigger named foreign artists.

Pee also mentions the shortage of services such as record labels, digital promotions, radio airplay, distribution deals and a solid royalty system as elements that need to be fixed to motivate artists to put in more effort in promoting their music and ultimately push Ghana into different territories.

Dellasie

Dellasie, a Hip-hop turned Afrobeats artist, has pointed to the the lack of government support in the arts as an area that prevents its artists from being properly acknowledged.

“Ghana needs to work on getting into the arts space and recognize the importance of investing in music and what opportunities that can potentially mean for the country. Ghana has a lot of authority on the arts and music but we can’t leverage it because we don’t have the capital.”

Dellasie continues, “Ghana is a leader in the movement and once we start understanding that, and what we are capable of, we will be able to lobby together and capitalize on our talent. We have contributed so much to music and even in dance, it’s time to find a way to use that to our advantage.”

”Our talent is world class,” said Fuse ODG. “As someone who has traveled the world, I know and I applaud Ghana for having the impact that we’ve had. Ghana is powerful, we are a small country but have managed to influence the world.”

Success for one African artist is a success for all African artists, through collaboration and staying true to the culture, Afrobeats has been able to stand on its feet and make a loud enough noise for people to take notice.

Here are some of the top Afrobeats songs you won’t miss at an African party.

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