Music
Photo courtesy of Noel Cymone Walker.

How Afrobeats’ Global Rise is Changing Carnival’s Rigid Genre Conventions

The runaway popularity of African music at Caribbean carnivals has even the soca purists excited.

It's 5:30 in the evening on a Sunday in Kingston, Jamaica and masqueraders are revelling down Waterloo Road, on the last lap of their day-long Xodus Carnival road march chanting "Are you done talking, tell me baby are you done talking." The song, "Fall" by the Nigerian superstar Davido echoes through the streets for what feels like the hundredth time that day. Revelers in feathered backpacks stop to bust a sweet whine to the tune.

West African afrobeats hits, like "Drogba" by Afro B, and "Soco" by Wizkid, have been making their way into Caribbean carnival celebrations for years now—pushing crowds into frenzies alongside popular Jamaican dancehall and Trinidadian soca tracks. Though soca has strictly dominated carnival in the Caribbean for the past three decades, afrobeats has, in recent years, defied restrictions and brought new sounds to the annual celebration.

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