Africa is on the rise and has been for the last couple of decades. Not only does the continent have the youngest population but factors such as urbanization and technology are driving tremendous growth across African economies. Economic growth has also brought development in various sectors including the entertainment industry. As the continent continues to emerge, its influence across the global stage is also growing in various spheres including sports, music, and migration of talent. Through voluntary and forced migration, Africa has also established an expansive diaspora footprint across the globe. Africans are moving and settling in other continents in record numbers. Among the most influential segments of the global African diaspora are African immigrants settling in the Western countries, a group we fondly refer to as the neo-African diaspora.
While the population of African immigrants in Western countries is growing, it is not always easy for immigrants to identify as African. Due to malignant racism and anti-blackness, there is no shortage of negative stereotypes about what it means to be African. For far too long, Africa has been depicted as the Dark Continent where war, disease, and hunger are the order of the day. African immigrants in the West often struggle to shake off the negative image associated with the continent, even though they are among the most successful immigrant groups in places such as North America and parts of Europe including the United Kingdom and France.
For neo-African diasporans, the identity struggle can be particularly stark for kids of African immigrants growing up in Western countries. Having grown up in the West, they typically end up being conflicted about their identity and heritage. Being seen as an African has often been associated with negative stereotypes and this can leave young people wanting to disassociate with their African heritage in certain spaces where this is not seen as an asset. While it has not always been easy for neo-African diasporans to be seen as African, trends are beginning to change due to the continent’s undeniable growth and influence on the global stage. Among the most prominent fronts where Africa’s image currency is gaining ground is music. Specifically the rise of afrobeats as a global phenomenon.
In the last decade, you’d have to have been living in a pop-culture cave to not know at least one afrobeats hit. Songs such as Love Nwantiti (meaning little love in Igbo) by Nigerian artist CKay, Djadja by French-Malian artist, Aya Nakamura, and Drogba/Joanna by British-Ivorian artist Afro B have become universally recognizable global hits. Afrobeats artists such as Burna Boy and Wizkid have become global icons in the music industry.
It is not only African artists relishing Afrobeats, there’s also been a rise in collaborations between African artists and international icons such as Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran. We have also seen artists such as French Montana, Rae Sremmund, and Ludacris among others shooting music videos in Africa. The rise of afrobeats, and the African music scene in general, has also driven the use of social media platforms such as Youtube and TikTok among Africa’s young population—a market where there is enormous potential. We see this through the growing trend of afrobeats based dance-challenges, choreography, shazams and reaction videos. Altogether, the tide of afrobeats pop culture is relentless. Intrinsically, the rise of the afrobeats genre of music is undoubtedly helping elevate pride in African roots among the diaspora and their offspring.
Afrobeats, not to be confused with Afrobeat—a genre made famous by Fela Kuti which combines West African rhythms with Jazz—is an umbrella term of Afro-fusion music stemming mostly from Nigeria, Ghana, and their diaspora in the United Kingdom. While the rise of the African music scene on the global stage is anchored in afrobeats, other regions across the continent have their own styles which are also seeing global success. South Africa has Amapiano; East Africa has Genge and Bongo-Flava; Lusophone countries like Angola and Cape Verde have Zouk and Kizomba while the Congo Basin has Rumba, Ndombolo, and Soukous.
As afrobeats and other genres of African music hit the global stage, African immigrants in Western countries have embraced its eminence as a source of pride in their heritage. Afrobeats has become the signature sound and a global brand for neo-African diasporans. In fact, one can say that afrobeats is doing for Africans and what reggae did for Jamaica. It’s putting the continent not just on the map, but front and center of the map.
Neo-African diasporans have contributed greatly to the rise of afrobeats. A number of top afrobeats artists are neo-African diasporans. This includes the likes of American-Nigerian artists Davido and Rotimi. The rise of afrobeats has also seen neo-African diasporans tapping more into their roots to cultivate a unique identity. It has brought neo-African diasporans closer to the motherland, creating not only a global fan base but also a vibrant base within the continent.
Afrobeats allows neo-African diasporans to live in a hybrid space between the best of the West in black culture and African roots. This is especially important for children of African immigrants who desperately needed a way to be proud of their African heritage. Among neo-African diaspora communities, afrobeats culture is thriving in major urban areas such as Paris, London, Amsterdam, and New York. Afrobeats may have a larger following among young neo-African diasporans in Europe than in America where children of African immigrants can identify as African American.
Afrobeats has also helped bring African immigrants from different countries together. It is richly celebrated across African immigrants from across the continent. If you go to an African party in any Western country, you are certain to see folks jamming to a mix of afrobeats and other genres of African music, regardless of the country they come from. In the US, afrobeats is also helping to bring together African Americans and African immigrants, giving them a common source of enjoyment and nativity pride.
The rise of afrobeats has been phenomenal. It comes at a time when the rest of the world needs to change the way they view the continent. We need more headlines and exposure to the richness of Africa including the beauty, talent, and exuberance of African people, as diasporans and also within the continent. Afrobeats will continue to elevate Africa’s image as a continent to be proud of. It will also expand market opportunities for African ethnic products and services including food, restaurants, clubs, and fashion.
For African immigrant parents, it will help them instill a positive identity in their kids who are growing up in the West, but only if they embrace the fun aspects of being African. There is nothing within the African culture that is more fun than dancing. Every African immigrant parent should have a playlist of African music their kids can enjoy.
Neo-African diasporans will continue to be a key driver of the success of African music on the global stage both as artists and also as fans. Afrobeats is just the beginning of Africa’s rise in the entertainment scene. As the continent develops, we will see an increased appetite for African film, fashion, and art. The future is African, let’s embrace it
As usual, our goal here at Neo African diaspora is to engage African diaspora in the West and their stakeholders to join the conversation as we script our journey as immigrants. We would love to hear your views on this topic. We welcome you to share your views under comments or engage with us through social media.
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