The African orchestra that begins with the light clashing of the cymbals, complied by the beating of the omele, conga and talking drums, the deep melody of the plucked strings of the bass guitar, the soft sound of the piano notes, the harmonic blow of the trumpet and saxophones, followed by the political and distinctive vocals that linger in the mind subconsciously defines the genre of music called Afrobeat.
The Afrobeat sensation engulfed the Nigerian music scene in an era (the early ‘60s) when music was a popular means of expression. Most of the musicians of this genre, in this era, used Afrobeat as an efficient tool for activism, and to address various societal ills. However, this did not affect the pure aesthetic enjoyment that this genre aroused in millions of its fans. From the inception of this genre in the 1960s, the lyrics have remained relevant decades after, causing the “Godfather” Fela Anikulakpo Kuti to be renamed a prophet.
It is alleged that the name, Afrobeat was created to portray and convey Fela’s critique of African performers whom he felt had turned their backs on their musical roots in order to emulate the American pop music trends. The combination of traditional Yoruba music, jazz, highlife, and funk fused with percussion, chants, call-and-response vocals, complex but interacting rhythms and the quasi-rapping Pidgin English, including the much emphasised “Ahaaaaaaaaaaa, Hmmmmmmmmm and Oooooooo” is the masterpiece of the outlaw, irredeemable sexist, political, radical, the one who is till date Nigeria’s greatest showman par excellence.
Fela, the controversial legend and musical rebel, was instrumental in placing our nation on the international music scene. And since then, the world has remained hooked on the immense quality that has flowed ceaselessly from Africa. Despite the various ills associated with the continent, the talent that continues to spew forth from Africa aptly qualifies Coca-Cola’s “a billion reasons to believe in Africa” campaign. The campaign celebrates the African can-do attitude characterized by a desire to succeed and a passion to be unique.
It also celebrates the rich African heritage, which thrives on and the peoples’ optimistic approach to unearthing the positive realities of our great continent. Going beyond borders, breaking grounds for new grounds, it is no surprise to see that various individuals championed Afrobeat across the globe, country by country. One of which is Adegoke Odukoya popularly known as Ade Bantu. The half German, half Nigerian identifies himself as Yoruba-Prussian and is a founder of Afro-German musical collective.
A musician, an activist against xenophobia and racism, and a champion of Pan-African unity, Ade played with his band at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany and earned two Kora Awards (the Pan-African equivalent of the Grammy) for his 2005 album, Fuji Satisfaction. A disciple to rise in the strides of Afrobeat is Leon Ligan-Majekodunmi, also known as Kaleta, who was born in the Republic of Benin. Kaleta’s music pays homage to the greats, and yet has its own distinctive sound and energy.
Like Fela Kuti, who used his music to challenge corrupt Nigerian government, Kaleta has written songs that are socially and politically provocative. At the same time, his lyrics reflect a keen sense of humour and a message of hope. Bisade Ologunde with stage name, Lágbájá, is another modern day Afrobeat musician. His music is purely instrumental, interplay between traditional Yoruba percussions, drums, chants, and western instruments, especially the saxophone, while depicting anonymity of the “common man”, the voiceless in the African society.
The messages he sends across address serious social issues, while others simply entertain. Taking the entertainment characteristics of the Afrobeat to another level is modern day sensation, Dapo Oyebanjo popularly known as D’banj; who masterfully achieves a fusion of Afrobeat and electronic dance steps. With breathless enthusiasm, as well as a good dose of humour, D’banj has placed Afrobeat firmly on the international scene.
It comes as no surprise that Fela is his mentor as his music is a blend of Yoruba, English and Pidgin English which is based on his life, from a hilarious point of view, and with a deeper meaning that documents the struggle of a young African trying to achieve his dreams. The achievement of dreams, despite the many hurdles associated with the continent, has remained the core of the African spirit. One by one, these great men have, in one way or the other, been reflected as a reason to believe, placing the African continent in the limelight and contributing to the Coca Cola’s “a billion reasons to believe in Africa” campaign.
This spirit, according to Olufemi Ashipa, Brand Manager, Colas, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited, is one that should be applauded and that is why the beverage giant has commenced this campaign. “In the midst of hard times, you would find that our people are able to make the best of the situations they find themselves,” he said. “The key drivers of happiness: Being Together, Being Active and Being in the Moment, amongst others, are expressed in our everyday living.
We implore all Nigerians to key into this vision and celebrate our own despite the many challenges.” Just like Afrobeat, which evolved from a unique quest to define the African rhythm in the international scene, the campaign is a unique manifestation poised to celebrate the ability to overcome and embrace a positive mindset as the continent and the nation at large is developed by the contribution of every individual, young and old, male and female.
A billion reasons to believe is a campaign that will bring about a celebration of the positive realities in Africa, as it is poised to help Africans see the brighter side of Africa, encouraging them to turn things around and be proud of who they are and the continent they live on.