Don’t you ever dare. I repeat, don’t you ever dare! If for whatever reason or at any point in your earthly existence you have cause to listen to, enjoy, hum to, sing, dance to, or shake any of your body parts to the rhythm of any song from Africa…. oh then, you better heed the warning, don’t you ever dare to die without watching the educative, entertaining, informative, thrilling, thought-provoking, inspiring, and insightful documentary, 𝘼𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙗𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙨:𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮 produced by Ayo Shonaiya.
If you do without watching the documentary, that may be your unforgivable sin in the world beyond. 𝘼𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙗𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙨:𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮 is by R70 Media Generations in collaboration with Film One Entertainment, produced by Ayo Shonaiya while Tosin Sorinola is the Supervising Producer. It is written by Ayo Shonaiya and Jide Taiwo, while the executive producers are Ayo Shonaiya and Moriamo Shonaiya. The Theme Music is “Sweet Like Fanta” by Babz.
Bill Nichols in his book, 𝙄𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙤𝙙𝙪𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 𝙩𝙤 𝘿𝙤𝙘𝙪𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙧𝙮 𝙁𝙞𝙡𝙢 states that “Every film is a documentary…. In fact, we could say that there are two kinds of film: (1) documentaries of wish-fulfillment and (2) documentaries of social representation. Each type tells a story, but the stories, or narratives, are of different sorts.” 𝘼𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙗𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙨:𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮 is beyond wish-fulfillment and social representation. It is the first Nigerian and African documentary film on Afrobeats to make it to Netflix.
It was released on Wednesday 29th June 2022. The 12 episodes, 40 minutes each part documentary series was powered by Boomplay. It was sponsored by Techno and premiered on Friday, April 2nd, 2021 at the Filmhouse Cinemas, Imax Theatre, Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria.
Through the script written by Ayo Shonaiya and Jide Taiwo and footages recorded over the past 20 years, 𝘼𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙗𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙨:𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮 dissects the etymology, relationships, and interrelationships of the words “Afrobeat” and “Afrobeats” from highlife to Afro-fusion. It highlights the explorative processes and the traditional, transitional, transnational, transpositional, and transformative phases and paths navigated by “Afrobeat” to becoming “Afrobeats”. It provides various perspectives and lenses to see through the histories of the friendly rivalries between Ghana and Nigeria, particularly regarding the origin, nomenclature, rhythms, beats and all that concerns the developments of Afrobeat and Afrobeats. It traces the contributions of the exponents, producers, and promoters of Afrobeat and Afrobeats while using Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and his music as the focal point, rallying point, fulcrum, source, mirror, parameter, and comparative yardstick and standard of measurement of the degrees of relativeness, affinity, departure and distance to the original source.
It establishes the significance of the African five-beat pattern/bounce, its origin, its appropriation in western pop music, and its variations in contemporary Afrobeats and Afro-fusion beats.
Justin Wells in 𝑯𝒐𝒘 𝒕𝒐 𝑭𝒊𝒍𝒎 𝑻𝒓𝒖𝒕𝒉: 𝑻𝒉𝒆 𝑺𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒚 𝒐𝒇 𝑫𝒐𝒄𝒖𝒎𝒆𝒏𝒕𝒂𝒓𝒚 𝑭𝒊𝒍𝒎 𝒂𝒔 𝒂 𝑺𝒑𝒊𝒓𝒊𝒕𝒖𝒂𝒍 𝑱𝒐𝒖𝒓𝒏𝒆𝒚 notes that Wesley Kort identifies four basic narrative elements; plot, character, atmosphere, and point of view”. From these narrative elements, four different techniques of making documentary films are identified. They are: Plot-driven documentary, Character-driven documentary, Atmosphere-driven documentary, and Point-of-view-driven documentary. All these narrative elements and techniques of making documentary films are mixed in a melting pot to produce 𝘼𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙗𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙨:𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮.
The plot is arranged in chronological order but spiced with backstories, flashbacks, and flashforwards (prolepsis) with the opening performance of “Aye” by Davido. In terms of characters, almost all the major players (from Fela to Burna Boy) in the ‘Afrobeats’ music industries in Nigeria, Ghana, the UK, the US, and other parts of Africa are interviewed and showcased or talked about in the documentary.
The atmospheres (from Pre-1990 to post-millennium) that gave birth, nurtured, guided, guarded, freed, and still shaping the growths and tentacles of Afrobeat and Afrobeats are used in driving the accounts of the documentary. Lastly, the point-of-view is passionately midwifed by Ayo Shonaiya with interviews with DJ Abass, DJ Abrantee, Obi Asika, JJC Skillz, OJB Jezreel, Awilo Longomba, Sound Sultan, Wasiu Ayinde, Eldee, Weird MC, Kaffy, Banky W, Tiwa Savage, Ayo Animasaun, Davido, Simi, Adekunle Gold to elders like late Tony Allen and Benson Idonije (Burna Boy’s grandfather) to other music personalities, promoters, managers, and policy makers.
To coordinate the point-of-view, each episode is given a title;
Episode 1: “OG before IG & The 3 Boy Bands”
Episode 2: “1999 & the 5 Beat Pattern”
Episode 3: “The UK Scene @ D’banj/Don Jazzy”
Episode 4: “Music Video & Music Stations”
Episode 5: “American Dream & Local Rappers”
Episode 6: “Record Labels & the Queens”
Episode 7: “DJs, Producers & Dancehall Music”
Episode 8: “The New New Sound & the Fusion of African Music”
Episode 9: “Wizkid & Davido and Yoruba Language in Afrobeats”
Episode 10: “The Big Concerts”
Episode 11: “Afrobeat & Afrobeats, History & present”
Episode 12: “Afrobeats to the world”
One recurring theme throughout the episodes is the discourse on the definition of the terms, ‘Afrobeat’ and ‘Afrobeats’. This discourse extends to issues surrounding the composition, rhythm, dynamics, texture, pitch, timbre, and forms of ‘Afrobeat’ or ‘Afrobeats’. Opinions are divided on the relationships and interrelationships between ‘Afrobeat’ and ‘Afrobeats’. While there seems to be a consensus on the Ghanaian origin of the term, ‘Afrobeat’ (watch the interview granted by Tony Allen where he mentioned Raymond Azeez) and the “five-beat pattern” as well as the position of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti as the progenitor of ‘Afrobeat’, there are different perspectives to the definitions and scope of the term ‘Afrobeats’.
To this writer, ‘Afrobeat’ is the classic fusion of hip-hop, pop, reggae, highlife, African rhythm, and African languages while ‘Afrobeats’ is a melting pot and assemblage of complementary and opposing afro-western tunes, beats, and rhythms spiced with African idioms, slangs, and languages.
It is a potpourri of tunes that can be traced back to the Afrobeat of Fela. It includes subsets such as Afro-highlife, Afro-house, Afro-hip-hop, Afro-fusion, Hip-life, Naija pop, etc.
It is in its seventh developmental stages; Pre-1990; 1990 to 1995; 1996-2000; 2001 to 2006; 2007 to 2014; 2015-2021 and 2022—.
The term ‘Afrobeats’ can also be defined as a postmodern Afrobeat, with avant-garde composition combining African rhythms/instruments with western modes. Important to point out is the unnecessary and hubristic personalization of the discourses on “Afrobeat” and “Afrobeats” by Seun Kuti. Referring to the sufferings faced by his grandmother, his dad, and the family without referring to the benefits that accrue to him due to the clout already created by the great Fela leaves much to be desired. Fela remains the messiah as far as Afrobeat or Afrobeats is concerned and there is no prophet from Adam to Muhammed who effect social change without going through the crucible.
Other interesting discourses in 𝘼𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙗𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙨:𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮 include the episodes on the significance of African/Yoruba languages in Afrobeats from AY (London, UK) to Lord of Ajasa, Jazzman Olofin to Dagrin and others; the talents and determinations that produce the likes of Don Jazzy, 2face, Dbanj and Nice; discourses on music and moral, influence of music/lyrics on the youths and society from Olu Maintain to Olamide Badoo and from Zlatan to Naira Marley; the accounts of the incidences that inspired some of the popular music from Kcee’s Limpopo to the young Wizkid not knowing the energy drink Redbull is non-alcoholic; and to the inspiring humble beginnings of most of the musical icons from ID Cabasa to Joeboy; to female afrobeats legends like Tiwa Savage, Asa, Yemi Alade, Chidinma, Simi, and the contributions of legends like Kenny Ogungbe, Dayo Adeneye, Ayo Shonaiya, DJ Abass, DJ Abrantee, Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde, DJ Jimmy Jatt, Shina Peters, Paul Play Dairo, Mr. Eazi, Don Jazzy, JJC Skillz, Ropo Akin and new legends like Smade; and lastly to promoters and sponsors of music festivals, concerts, Mainland Block, Island Block, Star Beer, MTN, Techno, Boomplay to Felabration.
Finally, 𝘼𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙗𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙨:𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮 is a story of resilience, perseverance, conviction, commitment, dedication, and inspiration from Fela to Burna Boy and Wizkid, from Accra, Ghana to Lagos, Nigeria, from London, the UK to Atlanta, US and above all, from The Headies to The Grammys.
What are you waiting for? It’s an unforgivable sin…the 11th Commandment, “For verily, thou must not go back to The Father until thou behold, 𝘼𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙗𝙚𝙖𝙩𝙨:𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘽𝙖𝙘𝙠𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙧𝙮.