The pounding drums and catchy guitar riffs of afrobeat unlock something deep within Biniam. The rhythms pulse through his body, transferring a message only he can decode.
For too long, streaming services overlooked African music. But now, realizing Africa is culturally taking off, major platforms are hosting the genre, helping ignite a revolution.
When Biniam first heard afrobeat emanating from African nightclubs, it seemed hidden, tucked in dark corners. But now streaming services spotlight how afrobeats became one of Africa’s biggest cultural exports.
On June 22, Spotify launched a website dedicated to afrobeat’s “Journey of a Billion Streams.” The genre dominates playlists everywhere, with over 13 billion streams in 2022. Countries like the US, UK and Nigeria remain biggest consumers, but France, Netherlands and Mexico cannot get enough of Rema, Ayra Starr and Burna Boy.
Global media outlets sign African artists at record pace while “Tik Tokers” spread the vibes across borders. Internet penetration on the continent remains relatively low yet culturally, Africa is taking off worldwide.
The rhythm triggers something in Biniam, unlocking a revolution long overdue. Afrobeat pulses through his veins, breathing new life and joy. The catalyst has begun. The afrobeat revolution spreads its infectious beat across the globe, as the rhythm calls to us all.
The story of how afrobeats became an international phenomenon is one that highlights the creative blending of musical influences and collaboration across cultures. The genre’s origins can be traced back to Ghana in the late 1980s but it was in Nigeria where the genre truly took off, evolving and fusing with other musical styles.
Early afrobeat hits blended highlife and juju music with Hip Hop and R&B, capturing the youth culture of Nigeria at the time. The genre soon spread across Africa and to the Afro-diaspora community, driven by the internet and music streaming services.
Afrobeats’ emphasis on vocal hooks and catchy rhythms have made it the perfect template for remixes and collaborations with artists around the world. Rema’s 2021 hit “Calm Down” featuring Selena Gomez became the most streamed afrobeats song ever on Spotify, exposing millions of new listeners to the genre.
Other collaborations like Davido’s “Skelewu” with Amapiano producer Focalistic show how African artists are forging global partnerships that cross linguistic and cultural boundaries. The new African category at the 2023 Grammy Awards recognizes the immense popularity that afrobeats and amapiano now enjoy worldwide.
Beyond the music itself, afrobeats has exported broader aspects of African culture to a global audience, from fashion and food to slang terms and Pidgin English. The genre’s journey from Ghanaian highlife to international phenomenon reveals the power of African creativity to influence pop culture on a global scale.
The rise of afrobeats has been meteoric, propelled by artists like 2Face, P-Square, D’banj, Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, and more. They have helped make afrobeats a global phenomenon through collaborations with Western artists and chart-topping singles.
Artists like Wizkid and Davido have seen major success breaking into the US market, with hits topping the Billboard charts. Wizkid’s “One Dance” and “Essence” and Davido’s “Fall” exemplify afrobeats’ growing international appeal.
However, some argue afrobeats’ rise has come at the expense of other genres like Reggae. Data shows Reggae’s global market share has declined from 1.7 percent in 2018 to 0.85 percent in 2022, a drop of 85 percent. In contrast, afrobeats’ market share has grown from 0.75 percent to 1.2 percent over the same period, an increase of over 60 percent.
Overall, afrobeat artists generate more streaming at 832 million (53 percent more) Spotify streams, Youtube views at two billion (35 percent more) and radio spins at 180,000 (85 percent more) than Reggae artists. But determining causality is complex, and many factors influence the evolving global music landscape.
Still, it is undeniable that afrobeats has emerged as one of the world’s most influential new genres, spearheaded by African artists embracing pan-African sounds and themes. Afrobeats’ global ascent reflects Africa’s growing cultural and economic influence worldwide.
The rise of young Nigerian singer Ikubor Divine also known as Rema has been exceptional. Within a short time, he has gained international fame for his unique music style that blends elements of afrobeat, pop and R&B.
His breakout hit “Dumebi” put him on the global map in 2018 and since then his growth has been phenomenal. Songs like “Iron Man” and “Beamer” have cemented his position as one of Africa’s brightest new musical talents.
Rema’s 2019 single “Calm Down” featuring pop star Selena Gomez took his profile to an even higher level. The remix version of the song achieved massive success, grabbing the attention of the world.
Afrobeat’s popularity in Ethiopia mirrors trends seen elsewhere in Africa. The genre is taking over not just nightclubs but also the playlists of those who rock out with headphones.
Liyu Alem, an Ethiopian student and avid Afrobeat fan, wishes local musicians would fuse the sound with Ethiopia’s own unique music to achieve global success like artists from Nigeria and Ghana.
She said, “Ethiopian musicians should blend Afrobeat with our own distinct music and conquer the global music market like their fellow Nigerians or Ghanaians.”