In a year that the creative arts achieved a major rebound, after a debilitating 2022 caused by the covid19 pandemic, contemporary music turned out to be Nigeria’s loudest, most celebrated creative arts in 2021. Highly evident based on its dominance in the local and international market, the two artworks of Afrobeat, the genre created by the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and its more contemporaneous hip derivative, afrobeats – now popularised by virtually all the leading lights in Nigeria’s pop music culture – have led the way, putting Nigeria firmly on the global music map.
For 2021, both music styles did not slow down. Rather they demonstrated resilience, competitive edge and unparalleled acceptability, both locally and globally, thereby informing the choice of the Editorial Board of The Culture Newspaper (TCN) to unanimously chose the genre(s) as its Culture Icon for the year 2021.
There is no gainsaying that Nigeria is blessed with array of talents who are the envy of other countries on the African continent. In 2021, this reflected positively in Afrobeat with the full arrival of Made Kuti, Femi Kuti’s son (and Fela’s grandson) unto the scene with his debut solo album; debut solo concerts – at his father’s African Shrine and Terra Kulture Arena, his overseas tour with his father, Femi, and a crowning glory of Grammy award nomination for 2022 together with his father for their work in ‘Legacy+’.
If anybody was in doubt about 2021 being the year of afrobeat, Femi Kuti earned another Grammy award nomination for his solo work in ‘Pa Pa Pa’, his sixth over 15 years and of course the Felabration initiative, which is one of the biggest platforms celebrating the unique sound created by Fela, celebrated its 17th edition in October 2021.
The new crop of fast rising contemporary hip-hop stars in the Nigerian music industry, artistes and producers alike, are also wasting no time cashing in on Afrobeat’s acceptance within and outside Nigeria. It is almost a case of ‘it is not music if it is not Afrobeats.’
These artistes have also become the toast of their international counterparts as far as collaborations are concerned with several Nigerian artistes featuring British and American stars and vice versa.
They may not have followed stricto senso the pattern created by Fela which is being sustained by his clan – Femi, Seun Kuti and Made. But the Fela influence is all pervasive around the hippy, funky Nigerian sounds that are now broadly referred to as Afrobeats.
2021 was a special year for them too.
And Burna Boy comes first to the fore for celebration having won his first Grammy award for his ‘Twice As Tall’ album earlier in the year thereby becoming the country’s first home-based musician to pick a Grammy for a solo, non-collaborative album. He has been nominated for 2022 too to earn a 3rd nomination in a row. Wizkid’s name feature glaringly too having also won a Grammy for his collaboration with American singer Beyonce on hit song ‘Brown Skin Girl’ in 2021 and like Burna earning yet another nomination for his Made In Lagos as an album and ‘Essence’ at the 2022 awards.
For Wizkid, his iconic stature in 2021 is legendary. First is his iconic hit single ‘Essence’ (featuring Tems), which, arguably may be considered as the biggest song out of Africa this year. Then there was his unprecedented 3-day sold-out shows at the O2 Arena in London as well as his breaking several records in online streaming successes in the course of 2021. Davido’s role in making 2021 exemplary is also noted by TCN’s Board of Editors. In particular was his fierytale charity cause of ₦250m donation, from a sum raised with the power of stardom towards his birthday, was a testament to the fact that Afrobeats has brought the most honour to Nigeria’s creative space in 2021.
There are several other names that added verve to the afrobeats glorious year. For Fireboy, Tems, Ckay, Rema, Joeboy, Omah Lay and even fresh faces from the streets like Portable, who broke into the scene with a phenomenal oral prowess fame with Zazoo (Zazu), the Afrobeats genre has created limitless possibilities for Nigerian musicians.
It’s for these reasons that TCN is naming both the original beat that Fela created Nd has been sustained by his sons, grandson as well as his memorial band, alongside its hip-hop derivation of today the Culture Icon Of 2021.