Is there a face of Afrobeats? That might prove difficult to answer. But we can surely acknowledge certain names including Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Mr Eazi, for their immense impact in the success of the sound.
I was busy trying to come up with ideas for articles to write about when my flatmate showed me a video on Instagram. My first reaction to the video was ‘What the hell is this person talking about?’. I refused to dissect (and digest) the things he said. I felt obligated to defend the names of our Afrobeats stars to the very end. How dare anyone downplay our very own Wizkid?
But because logic always wins and I cannot escape looking at issues from different perspectives, I was able to reason with what the guys in the video said. According to one of them, nobody knows Wizkid in the United States. They mentioned that Wizkid would not have had any international acclaim without Drake, stating that there is no face of the genre. Sean Paul was cited as an example to buttress their point; he’s recognized globally.
It would not be unnatural to think that the commentators don’t regard our Nigerian acts. After all, foreign media have always found ways to understate many of our achievements and only seem to celebrate our successes when they’re benefiting from them. I wouldn’t call anyone disparaging names simply because they’re outraged at comments that might easily be misconceived.
However, the truth remains that some of the statements the guys made were accurate. And I don’t think it’s coming from a place of discrimination. They were facts. We need to face reality and that reality is that Afrobeats is not quite as big as we like to believe, especially in the US. Don’t get me wrong, Afrobeats is on a steady rise and is gaining recognition in the American and European markets but Nigerian acts are not so popular there.
Chances are that if you walk up to people randomly in different cities in the USA and ask if they know Wizkid or Davido or Tiwa Savage, they’d respond in the negative. The likelihood that they’ve heard an Afrobeats song is slim as well. Maybe Nigerians (Africans in general) in the diaspora might be familiar with the names of prominent Nigerian musicians. But Lil Baby will sell out a show faster in the US than Wizkid or Davido can. It’s just how it is.
This is evident in streaming numbers of songs and views of music videos on YouTube. Nigerian artists don’t come close to other international artists. It can be easily misconstrued as an insult but it’s the unadulterated truth. It is important that we remain aware of the true state of things. That way we can evaluate where we truly are and how much work still needs to be done.
Also, I must mention that it is different in Europe. Afrobeats is so big in the Europe that acts like Kojo Funds, J Hus, Skepta, MHD, and many more have tapped into its glory. Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, are all popular names in Europe. They have all shut down numerous shows and have headlined their respective concerts. Wizkid headlining at the Ends Festival is one of the many proofs that Afrobeats has seeped into the European market.
Just recently, Davido brought Amsterdam to the ground with his performance. So yes, Nigerian artists and Afrobeats are popular in Europe. That is an unquestionable fact.
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Moments like this are priceless! Last night bro destroyed Amsterdam! He closed his first festival outside of Africa! Too proud of @davidoofficial and the whole team for the work that has been put in to get to this point! Through all the madness, arguments and stress the goal has never changed! Now let’s drop some new music! It’s about to get even crazier! Thank you God! #30BG #ThePlug
While I find the tone of the commentators quite unsettling and believe some of them could have passed the information in a better way, I don’t see why Nigerians on social media are making outrageous comments like Nigerian artists not needing to penetrate into the international market. It is counterintuitive to think that way, considering that it’s a potential market for Afrobeats. Yes, we have a long way to go to push our sound to the mainstream in the US and Europe, but does that mean we shouldn’t give it a try?
Sean Paul is unarguably more popular than Wizkid and Davido. But that’s simply because reggae has since gone mainstream in the global music industry. Right now, there are no other musician asides Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, that can be regarded as the face of Afrobeats. Who says that Wizkid can’t be the face of Afrobeats? Who says he already he isn’t? I don’t think the statement of Afrobeats not having a face is valid.