The genre of afrobeat music has subtly made waves in China’s music market. While Asian music lovers and afrobeat don’t seem like they go together, the genre’s rhythms and melodies have been inspiring for Chinese audiences and followers.
Its versatility has led to a rising popularity in afrobeat music across the world. The Nigerian Label and CEO of SouthNice records Agbaja Emeka Augustine even suggested that afrobeats would spread to Asia.
The sound reflects a wide range of styles and musical influences. Here’s a look at how afrobeat music got its beginnings and its popularity with Chinese audiences.
The music genre began around the 1970s with a blend of Yoruba music, jazz, West African music, and funk. The credit to the creation of afrobeat music is attributed to Nigerian artist Fela Kuti, who opened a nightclub called the afro-Spot.He took his band Africa 70 and developed big music that he dubbed the afrobeat name.
Kuti’s influential genre made a big impact in the Nigerian music scene, and has reached people from all over the globe. The music has Black American influences and creates a compelling mix of both culture and sound.
Kuti was inspired by the Black Panther Movement, words with political critique and Nigerian-style proverbs. He used the music to mock the dictatorship within Nigeria at the time. He is now considered one of the most influential musicians in the world.
The music movement known as Afrobeats grew, and Nigerian artists who work to develop and put their own unique spin on afrobeat music are becoming more prominent. It shares a similar momentum to house music, but features a 3–2 or 2–3 rhythm called a clave. One such artist, Burna Boy, is selling out in massive venues like Madison Square Garden.
Afrobeat began making its way into China subtlety. It’s still infiltrating in smaller steps rather than giant ones, the professional dancer and choreographer Yoofi Greene started introducing the afrobeat music genre in his dance lessons and classes to his Chinese students.
International radio stations have also worked to promote the afrobeats sound. The beat is a mixture of multiple elements that are similar to Electronic Dance Music (EDM), but samples original beats also. The house music sticks to the 4/4 time signature and doesn’t have the clave of the Afrobeat style.
Afrobeat influenced China as early as 2010 with artists like Mariatu Kargbo performing at an afrobeat festival right in Beijing . DJs, musicians and other bands like Afro Koko Roots were also featured at the festival, making an impact on its Chinese audiences.
Mainstream Chinese music artist Wu Bai used afrobeat in his album Ding Zi Hua in 2016, he was the first mainstream Mandarin market musician who brought more attention to the genre for audiences in China.
He made his fame as one of the biggest rock stars in the Mandarin music territory which encompasses areas including Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia along with China. The album also achieved success with its mix of genres; it won the Golden Melody Award for Best Taiwanese Album at the 28th Golden Melody Awards.
There are plenty of Chinese fans for afrobeat and afrobeats music; creators with channels are featuring it and obtaining music licenses for YouTube, also finding ways to customize and create their own afrobeat-influenced tracks.
In 2019 a band in Hong Kong erupted called The Afroseas due to their love of the genre. They worked with the famous rapper in the area JB on a single “To The Boat,” which received over 270k viewers on YouTube. Later they got an invite to perform it at Hong Kong’s hip-hop awards.
Vinida Weng is another well-known rapper in China who took a break from mainstream sounds and focused entirely on afrobeats in the album One Life Only. She started listening to the music and liked it so much that she combined the genre and sounds with her native Fuzhou dialect. The album was successful, and later won the Singer-Songwriter Award in 2022 from IFeng News.
The future of Afrobeat music in China isn’t necessarily huge, but it definitely is making an impact on audiences, like the Reggae movement. The popularity has caused many Chinese musicians to take note and incorporate it within their original music. The annual ISY music festival in Sanya featured a stage dedicated to Afrobeat.
Asian audiences have shown much interest, and use Afrobeat intermingled within songs and full albums for future releases, so there is a big opportunity with the music to reach more within the Chinese music market. Fela Kuti started a movement that has been influential across other countries and making an impact on audiences from varying backgrounds, promoting unity and understanding.
As a marketing professional with the passion for audio production, Donna has always had a deep love and passion for all kinds of music. From a young age, she was drawn to the power of the written words and the way it could be used to capture the essence of the world around. She spent years honing their craft, immersing herself in the works of their favorite music writers, music production, and learning everything there was to know about the industry.
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