Afrobeats is gradually becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Thanks to its superstars and a coalition of incredible talents in the African music community. They include those in the field of sound production and engineering, record label personnel, video directors, Disc Jockeys, club hype men and women, show promoters, the media, and millions of fans all over Africa and the diaspora. Everyone has a vital role to play in the movement and together, they form a coalition with one objective: Taking Afrobeats to the world.
Although everyone has a part to play, Afrobeats artists are the cross-bearers of this crusade. Their music and character all merge to paint a picture of Africa to the world. These pictures will eventually become pieces of literature in years to come. In the 60s and 70s, African music was proverbial in lyrics and traditional with fashion. The music was original, inspirational, and wise. Veterans like King Sunny Ade, onyeka onwenu, and Commander Ebenezer Obey sang about love, peace, and other important societal values, and less about money and consumerism. Fela Kuti, the Afrobeat legend, used his songs as a means to elevate the political consciousness of Africans in his day. He further went on to say that: “As far as Africa is concerned, music cannot be used for enjoyment…it has to be for revolution”.
Modern African music has now become a contrast to what it used to be. Music today is hardly ever about important societal values or political upliftment. It is mostly about now about lust, money, and sex. The success of Blaqbonez’s Sex Over Love LP in 2021 exemplifies this change in societal value. Blaqbonez made it clear in lyrics and melodies that he prefers casual sex to romantic love, and he also went on to have a concert the following year with the theme: ‘Breaking the Yoke of Love Crusade’. Another example is the viral clip of Burna Boy’s braggadocios rants on his Instagram live about being the most paid artist in African history.
Asking if these pop stars are role models shouldn’t even be up for question. They are role models and are responsible for setting the trend for what is popular and what is not. They are influencing a generation, whether they realize this or not. For example, Davido’s constant public display of his diamond chains, private jets and luxury cars on his social media and music videos has created a consumerism mindset in the minds of young Nigerians, whereby diamonds and luxury cars are now seen as a must-have if they are to be considered as elites in the society.
Afrobeats artists must also start to do better with the lyrics in their songs. Too often, this is overlooked by the mainstream as just art, but the effect can be far-reaching. Olamide’s verse in his featured track with rising star, Portable makes for a good reference. When he said “kala, wuwa ika” which translates to “be rigid, be wicked”, he was unknowingly kindling the spirit of apathy in the minds of young Nigerians.
Many countries in Africa are regressing by the day, and Afrobeats artists who want to see a change must now begin to see themselves as political figures. They have the biggest platforms, their voices are the loudest, and they must start to think beyond the music. It will lead to great upliftments in the minds of their fans if they make a conscious effort to sing about love, unity, and political consciousness.