Music
(Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage)

What Does the New U.S. Afrobeats Chart Mean For the Perception of African Music?

There's a lot of confusion about what African music is considered "Afrobeats" and whether the chart will take into account the vastness of African music.

On March 29, Billboard published the debut edition of its new weekly chart ranking the 50 most popular Afrobeats songs in the United States. The legacy publication made the announcement alongside Afro Nation, who serve as partners, a week prior. This development is coming nearly two years after Afro Nation partnered with the UK’s Official Charts Company to launch a 20-song chart spotlighting the most popular Afrobeats songs in the UK.

Just before that UK chart became operational, immediate reactions set-up another round of reckoning for the term ‘Afrobeats’, and what it means as a catch-all descriptor for music with African roots or, just generally, music being made by African artists. Coined in the late 2000s by UK-born and raised DJ Abrantee, Afrobeats first became an umbrella tag for the range of urban pop music emanating from West Africa, predominantly those from Nigeria and Ghana. In the following years, and as varying styles of African music trudged across the Atlantic to grab the ears of international audiences, the term was lazily applied to any and every sound regardless of sonic distinction.

Prior to its debut week in late July 2020, that UK chart shared a list of the top 20 Afrobeats songs in the preceding week, and the appearance of musically disparate songs like J Hus’ “Must Be,” Wizkid’s “Joro” and Aya Nakamura’s “Djadja” underlined the ambiguity and flattening effect of Afrobeats. Billboard didn’t publish a similar precursor list, nor did the announcement of a U.S. Afrobeats generate that much conversation on social media beyond celebratory remarks, but it’s worth wondering what the effect of this new chart will be on the very perception of music being made and pioneered by Africans.

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Music
(Photo by Joseph Okpako/WireImage)

Billboard & Afro Nation Are Launching a U.S. Afrobeats Chart

The first-ever United States afrobeats chart follows the massive stateside popularity of songs like "Essence," "Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah)," and many more.

Billboard and global music festival Afro Nation are set to go live with the Billboard U.S. Afrobeats Songs Chart on March 29.

The 50-position chart will rank the most popular afrobeats songs in the United States through "a weighted formula incorporating official-only streams on both subscription and ad-supported tiers of leading audio and video music services, plus download sales from top music retailers," the companies explain.

The implementation of this new Billboard afrobeats chart follows several years in which artists like Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Ckay, Tems, Fireboy DML and many more have registered hundreds of millions of plays in the U.S. market, and in which mega stars like Beyoncé and Drake have used the sound in their own songs.

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