Before it became the global movement it is today, Afrobeats was a child to an unconventional trio of parents and its history would be incomplete without these key players.
The fourth episode of Showmax’s Journey of The Beats complemented by a Spotify playlist curated by DJ Neptune explores the labour, sweats, and resources that made Afrobeats a phenomenon.
Starting its parentage is the Disc Jockeys popularly called DJs. It is doubtful anyone in the early years of music would have guessed the amount of impact and influence a regular man or woman twirling pieces of vinyl on a plate resembling a gas stove would have on any genre. But that is the case of some Nigerian DJs in the baby years of Afrobeats.
Local songs first became popular among the youths thanks to the early set of Nigerian DJs such as DJ Abbas, DJ Shyllon, DJSose, DJ Xclusive, and DJ Neptune. They can be credited as being some of the first custodians of the genre at the onset.
But like every historical masterpiece, someone leads the way, and for DJs in Nigeria, that man is the iconic DJ Jimmy Jatt. His journey into solo DJ-ing and commitment to promoting local talents at every chance he got in the early to mid-2000s set the tone for upcoming DJs.
DJs were not only instrumental in introducing local acts at parties and clubs, but they also had the talent of discovering uncut gems as was in the case of DJ Howie T, who discovered one of the best duos to ever come out of Nigeria, P-Square
Others like DJ Abbas, DJ Shyllon, and DJ Java were essential figures in sharing Nigerian songs and artists with the outside world starting from the UK, Finland, and Cyprus. Even the Nigerian acts that had “blown” in the European hemisphere wanted to be associated with them.
In summary, they were the heartbeats of Afrobeats and again, no one would have guessed such influence would come out of a turntable and the person twirling it.
Although the DJs got the music to the streets and ears of the listeners, it was obvious that local talents were still struggling. Then came the second partner in this symbolic marriage, independent labels, who gave structure to the goldmine.
By the mid-2000s, independent labels began to spring up and became the gateway for Afrobeats. Their efforts helped give structure to an industry that was full of raw talent but seemed almost baseless. They financed, branded, re-branded and managed these talents.
The efforts of early labels such as Storm Label, Kennis Music, Dove Hits, Mo’hits Record, and Question Mark, among others brewed the current generation of Nigerian superstars. In short, their contributions formed the bone of the child, Afrobeats.
Then came the external organs of Afrobeats, the media. First, the contribution of radio as a medium in the growth of Afrobeats cannot be over-emphasized.
Following the privatisation of radio in Nigeria, independent radio stations such as Rhythm FM, Beat FM, and Wazobia FM, were established and one of their missions was to make Nigerian songs a priority in their programmes. They would give airtime to yet-to-be-known songs and name the artists. It’s fair to say that 50% of artists today started
This movement moved to Television. Local, regional, and then international media formed a partnership to push local songs beyond the borders of Nigeria. This partnership formed version 1.0 of the current Nigerian music atmosphere. The likes of AIT, Silverbird, SoundCity, and later on Channel O, and MTV Base and the rest, as they say, is history.
But what a deep, rich history it is!
The Journey of The Beats explores many rich facets of the Afrobeats genre, and the story continues in the fifth episode of Journey of The Beats dropping on Thursday, 21 July 2022. Visit www.showmax.com and subscribe for as low as #1,200. You can also follow the conversation with the hashtag #JOTBShowmax on social media.