The Decade In Afrobeats: Top Artists Share the Moment They Knew African Pop Music Would Take Over the World
In this retrospective, we asked Davido, Efya, Sarkodie, Falz, Lady Donli and many more to share their memories of Afrobeats music from 2009 to 2019 and what comes next.
The year was 2009, and the DJ had just gone through a spectacular run of some of the biggest Nigerian songs of the era: 9ice's "Gongo Aso," "Lori Le" by X-Poject and P-Square's "Do Me," to name a few. I was at a family friend's engagement party, and I had to sit down afterwards because my feet were starting to hurt after giving it my all on the dance floor while in heels.
It was a moment. Before then, the only music I had heard and fully accepted as "Nigerian" were the classic "oldies" from King Sunny Adé, Ebenezer Obey, Sonny Okosun or Fela—the staples my mom would play in the car on the way to school and all the other juju, fuji and highlife tracks that seemed to be mainstays at the "African hall parties" we'd frequent. These songs were familiar but they always felt like the music of a different time, of an older generation—especially to a first-generation Nigerian-American teenager like myself. If my friends and I wanted to hear something we felt we could dance to at these parties, we had to wait for the cursory run of "This Is How We Do It," and the "Cha Cha Slide"—if that ever even came.
Around a decade ago, though, this began to change, and in between the typical party anthems, there'd be this newer sound (not yet commonly referred to as Afrobeats) that marked the "young people's" time to hit the dance floor. It was a fairly new experience for most of us, hitting the "yahooze" and being able to enjoy music that felt like it was both wholly Nigerian and wholly for us at the same time. The parents didn't seem to mind it either.
Efya performing with Stonebwoy at the 2016 One Africa Music Fest in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Johnette Reed.