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1.1     Background Of The Study

Traditional music is that type of music which is created entirely from traditional elements and has no stylistic affinity with western music. Representatives of such traditional music are Apala, Sakara, Waka and Fuji (Euba 1988:126). Traditional music, in many ways, represents continuity with the past and gives opportunity of learning, in order that the present may be better understood (Euba, 1969: 475).

Therefore, music can be said to form an integral part of life in Africa. It follows the African through his entire day from early in the morning till late at night and through all the changes of his life, from the time he came into this world until after he has left


In a list featuring icons such as Nelson Mandela, Pablo Picasso and the Beatles, Time Magazine, in 2006, named Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (1938-1997) as one of the heroes of the last sixty years. In the article, afrobeat, a form of dance-protest music created by Fela, is described as “revolutionary;” a soundtrack of resistance that gave Nigerians hope during a dark era of military dictatorship. Over the last two decades, a different type of afrobeat revolution has been underway as diverse cities around the world gain new Fela protégés. Once the self-declared “Black President” of a Lagos-based counterculture, Fela has become the iconic center of a worldwide movement.

By the early 1970s, Fela and his Africa ’70 band had taken the city of Lagos by storm with a new sound hailed as “intriguing…one of the greatest achievements by any Nigerian popular musician this century.”3 With widely popular hits such as “Jeun Koku,” “Open and Close,” “Shakara” (Oloje), “Lady,” and “Gentleman,” Fela revolutionized the Nigerian urban soundscape. Afrobeat was distinctive; cosmopolitan yet local, and representing, particularly to the youth, all things progressive.

3 Critic, “Birth of a New Sound,” The Nigerian Daily Times, July 22, 1970

During the 1970s, afrobeat evolved into an identifiable counterculture. The movement—libertine and populist in orientation—drew adherents from a cross-section of Nigerian society. Regular convergences took place at Fela’s communal residence and the Afrika Shrine, where he performed several times weekly. When he was not delivering quirky tunes like “Ikoyi Mentality Versus Mushin Mentality,” “Question Jam Answer,” and “Shakara,” Fela railed against the government, Christianity, Islam and “the West.” Fans, equally charged, provided an interactive audience for Fela’s marijuana inflected diatribes. In 1974, fifty officers of the Nigerian police force raided Fela’s commune and arrested him for Indian hemp possession, an offence punishable by a 10 year prison sentence. Although, Fela got out of jail in a relatively short time, this experience— popularly known as the “Alagbon episode” —radically altered his views on the penal system and its value to society. In 1975, Fela dropped “Ransome,” the name a European missionary had bestowed on his grandfather, Canon Josiah Jesse Ransome-Kuti, and took up instead, “Anikulapo:” he who holds death in his pouch. Following the Alagbon Episode, Fela christened his commune, Kalakuta Republic, after the name inmates called the cell in which he had been detained. Kalakuta, a Swahili word meaning rascal, asserted Fela’s unflinching commitment to dissidence. The postfix, Republic, registered the secession of his commune from the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Beginning with the songs, “Alagbon Close,” and “Expensive Shit”—both derisive denouncements of the 1974 incarcerations Fela’s hallmark wit steadily gave way to a more scathing form of antiestablishment rhetoric that infuriated successive military regimes. Government responded with increasingly violent raids and censorship. By the 1970s, much of Fela’s catalogue had been blacklisted as NTBB (Not To Be Broadcast) by the state owned media. “Alagbon,” refers to the infamous maximum security prison located at Alagbon Close, in Lagos.

Afrobeat inscribes Lagos, a metropolitan maelstrom where the volatile interactions between tradition and modernity, the old world and the new are enacted. Fela’s musical repertoire is replete with songs that narrate life in the city: its vagaries, joys, frustrations and boundless penchant for spectacle. It is easy to read into afrobeat’s jerky rhythms, rambunctious horns, sinuous guitars, and dissonant timbres, the surreal workings of a city where everything is tilted at an angle beyond reality. But more than just a metaphor for the city, afrobeat exudes a Lagosian essence that is neither merely reflexive nor derivative. Afrobeat is Lagos.

On August 18, 1968, Fela Ransome-Kuti announced in the Nigerian media that he was “coming out with a new sound called AFRO BEAT.”  The disclosure, a brief personal statement published in the Sunday Times, was brusquely titled, “Fela drops highlife.” For Fela, who began his musical career playing highlife, the genre had become a meaningless tag, “a lose [sic] term that has no reference to any concrete happening in life.”67 It is not clear if by this, Fela was addressing the somewhat arbitrary application of the highlife label to a broad range of West African popular musics. In any case, “highlife,” a designation coined in celebration of the display of European social norms by colonial West Africa’s black elite, bore little resonance with youth audiences in postcolonial Nigeria. Fela’s announcement signaled the beginning of a reassessment of his ideological trajectory. Professing to shun the colonial discourse, he disclosed that his intention in the early 60s had been to create “an entirely new sound with an African personality,”68 and global appeal. In actuality, Fela’s pan-Africanist vision during these early years of his career was much more musical than political in scope. Stylistically, Fela now considered the heady amalgam of highlife and jazz that he called his “sound” sufficiently idiosyncratic and removed from highlife’s conventional structures as to warrant independent categorization. Though, earlier on in the decade Fela had christened his music “highlife-jazz,” he was now ready to drop the highlife tag completely. To wrest his “sound” from highlife’s subjugating influence, Fela now relabeled his music AFRO BEAT. With the new appellation, Fela hoped to achieve three things. First, he would resolve, once and for all, the sense of ambiguous musical identity implicit in “highlife-jazz.” Secondly, through Afro-Beat, Fela aspired to create a “new trend worthy of emulation,”

 Victor Dorgu, “Fela drops Highlife,” Sunday Times, August 18, 1968 in the Nigerian music scene. He was no longer satisfied with having just innovated a stylistic variant of highlife, nor was he aspiring to create a musical novelty that would continue to alienate audiences. Fela realized that in the popular music sphere, audiences are vital; and in order to generate and sustain mass appeal, he would have to not only introduce original ideas but ensure that such innovations were widely accessible to prospective fans. The catchy new label, “Afro-Beat” heralded a renewed populist outlook in Fela’s artistic growth, one that would be realized in subsequent years through the appropriation of various indigenous and foreign musical texts and conventions. Thirdly, by calling his music “Afro-Beat,” a contraction of “African” and “Beat,” Fela was unequivocally renewing his commitment to a pan-Africanist musical discourse. His music would constitute a source of cultural pride, not just to Nigerians, but to the generality of Africans, and “the black race.”70

Beyond the lofty rhetoric, however, Fela’s 1968 afrobeat manifesto provides no hints on the aural character of the anticipated sound. To reinvent musical identity, to “create a brand new sound,” more would be required than simple nominal change. It remained to be seen how Fela Ransome-Kuti would translate ideological rhetoric into musical practice. What musical texts would Fela harness in creating his avowed new sound? Particularly, given the fact that Fela “dropped” highlife because it appeared to him to have lost its social and cultural relevance, how did he intend to imbue his “new sound” with contemporary relevance? How would he situate aesthetics and ideology to the cultural history and the everyday life of his locale?

In 1969, Fela embarked on his (in) famous ten-month tour of the United States, a journey which ultimately landed him in Los Angeles at a time when the flames of the Civil Rights Movement were far from smoldering and the Black Power Movement was very much active. His intention was to bring his music to entertainment’s global capital, where he hoped to gain international recognition.

In Nigeria, Fela continued to consolidate his various musical influences, adding to his jazz and highlife background a wealth of Yoruba traditional musics and lore, and a smidgen of soul. The vibrant new sound that emerged was enthusiastically received by audiences and critics alike. Beginning in 1971 with the monster hit, “Jeun Ko Ku” (“Chop and Die”), Fela produced hit after hit. On songs like “Yellow Fever,” “Roforofo fight” and “Gentleman,” Fela offered satirical commentary on social vices: while songs like “Buy Africa,” and “Why Blackman Dey Suffer” preached cultural pride and Afrocentrism.

1.2     Statement of the Problem 

Over the years, the gap in the existence of afrobea and performance as well as sustainability of the afrobeat by some Nigerians and musical groups across the nation. This problem can be better appreciated with the help of history of afrobeat in Nigeria. Under the assumption that some cultural groups could not continue d in the afrobeat music as a result of inability to understand the philosophy of the masterminded, Fela Ransome-Kuti. It is against this background that this research work is conducted to examine history of afrobeat in Nigeria

1.3     Objectives of the Study

1.          To examine the ideology behind the evolution of Afrobeat music

2.          To examine the effect of Afrobeat on Nigerian Society

3.          To examine factor constraining against sustainability of Afrobeat music

1.4     Research Questions

1.          What is the ideology behind the evolution of Afrobeat music?

2.          What is the effect of Afrobeat on Nigerian Society?

3.          What are factors constraining against sustainability of Afrobeat music?

1.5     Research Hypotheses

1.              There is no significant impact of ideology behind the evolution of Afrobeat music

2.              There is no significant impact Afrobeat on Nigerian Society

3.              There is no significant impact of factors constraining against sustainability of Afrobeat music

1.6  Significance of the Study

The significance of this study can be viewed from the following perspectives. One main significance of this study is that when completed, it would serve as a bridge for the gap that have been created between where previous works on this subject area stopped and today.

This study is significant in the sense that it’s finding would serve as a base and framework for future researchers to carry out further studies in the field of knowledge under study.

The masses would benefit from this study in view of the fact that they would learn the history and philosophy behind afrobeat music.

The outcome of this research is hoped to be of immense use to students of music since it contains information on afrobeat. The significance of any research lies in its contribution to the improvement of life by way of possessing the potential or application to problems. In doing so, this study proposes a better, more reserved and classic form of afrobeat heritage that does not involve a lot of human strength or endangering a lot of lives and property physically.

The study afrobeat music proposes an intellectual approach (dealing with the brains and mind) to solving both political and social problems faced in modern day Nigeria.

1.7  Limitation of the Study

       It was also difficult to gather materials especially relevant and current information related to the study variables, since the study is not common. This caused scarcity of relevant research materials from local journals, the researcher had to rely greatly on the foreign materials in order to put up this work.

       Another difficulty faced was limited time given to researcher to complete the study. Limited fund was also a constraint to this work.

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