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The new wind of change means future looks bright for Africa

PIONEER: Afrobeat star D’Banj

I REMEMBER as a youngster it was not cool to be African.

I recall being asked by one of my Caucasian classmates, Joseph McNamara, where I was from. I paused, looked at him with a convincing look and said “I am an American.” He was like “Wow! You’re American! Same place as Mr T (of the A Team).

Word quickly spread on the playground; Gabriel the unassuming quiet black boy was an American.

Looking back on why I said that, all I could remember was watching ‘Tarzan’ on television and the depiction of Africa as a jungle just didn’t look cool for school. How times have changed.

Increase

There has been an accelerated increase of African migrants into Great Britain, according to the UK Border Agency. 2008 alone saw an increase of 500,000 migrants, this is a substantive number compared to a mere 5,000 back in 1980.
In 2011 the disposable income for ethnic minorities in the UK was a staggering £300 billion.

The days of Africans being the butt of jokes is well and truly over. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), seven out of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. Another recent study by the African Development Bank predicts that much of Africa will attain middle class majorities and consumer spending will explode from $680 billion to $2.2 trillion by 2030.


FASHION: High Street stores are embracing Ankara fabrics

This new wind of change is now becoming apparent in various walks of life. Female summer dresses are made using African fabrics and sold by British high street brands, urban menswear is in on the act incorporating denim jackets with Ankara (African fabric).

In the clubs the latest dance craze is Azonto, an African dance from Ghana that incorporates complex co-ordinated body movement and non verbal communication.

And Nigeria’s film industry, affectionately called Nollywood, is one of the world’s biggest behind Hollywood and India’s Bollywood.

In the world of music, African artists like D’Banj have won over a whole new army of fans to African music. And the likes of P-Square, Sarkodie and Wizkid are now teaming up with international stars such as Snoop Dogg, Akon, Rick Ross to make hits. These artists are also performing to packed out venues, something that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago.


POPULAR: Nigeria’s Wizkid

Young Britons of African descent looking for an alternative to the British pop culture have created their own unique sound which is a fusion of rap, funky house and African urban lyrics and they’ve dubbed it Afrobeats, not to be confused with the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Afrobeat origination.

The UK Afrobeats scene has a certain British urban sound about it. If you listen to Fuse ODG’s Azonto, Mr Silva’s Boom Boom Tah or Big Tizzy’s Fenuse you hear those key ingredients that make quintessential UK Afrobeats i.e. fast tempo beats and African inspired percussion patterns.

Response

Felicia, a 23 year old Londoner recounts the first time she heard May7ven’s Ten Ten.

She said: “I remember being in the club and Ten Ten came on, I asked my friend who the artist was and before she could utter a response I was in the middle of the dance floor trying to learn how to do the Azonto with another group of revellers. There’s something about UK Afrobeats music that makes you just want to dance.”

In America the emergence of this genre is slightly different. Whilst major radio stations in London scramble to include Afrobeats songs as part of their playlists because their and young audiences have embraced this new sound, the story has not been the same in America. Music industry observers say that the buzz for Afrobeats has mainly been a UK affair.

History

History shows that London has been the mecca for all things Afrobeats.

The legendary Nigerian star Fela Kuti created Afrobeats when he was a student back in 1967.

When he created the genre he was influenced by the music around him at the time in just the same way that today’s Afrobeats artists are. Listening to the current generation, you ca sense an evolution.

Africa is undergoing a renaissance. By 2030 it is believed that the continent will experience huge growth economic growth.

If this is anything to go by then these are the signs of things to come - watch this space!

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