A Beginner’s Guide To The Afro-EDM Sub-genre

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As the Nigerian music industry continues to flourish, one of the markers of its long-overdue success is the emergence of more sub-genres. One of such sensations is Afro-EDM; a reinvention of western electronic/house music. Nigerian artists are putting their spin on the EDM genre, an adjunct to the Afrobeats genre currently touring the world.  Electronic Dance Music, popularly known as EDM, is an umbrella term used to define various music styles that emerged in the mid-1980s. EDM is a collection of subgenres which range from house music, dubstep, and techno to trance, drum and bass. Despite EDM amassing a fair amount of genres, the sound is pretty distinct – influenced by similarly driven genres like funk, disco, jazz and soul – possessing a precise electronic nature and containing sound and instruments like drum machines, synthesisers, processed recordings and even samples. 

EDM’s history can be traced back to the early 1970s, even though in all honesty, the genre had not assumed a definite form. The framework for the EDM we have today was born in the American Midwest during the early 1980s. In Chicago’s members-only African American gay club – The Warehouse, resident DJ Frankie Knuckles would make his own edits and play them all night long holding clubgoers captive on the dance floor. Frankie, along with other Chicago DJs –  Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, Ron Hardy and Steve “Silk” Hurley –  provided a structure by incorporating a drum machine in his sets, creating the basics of what we know today as house music. In the 2000s, EDM slowed down for a bit then picked up again, specifically in the U.S, with the internet, which made accessing and discovering music that wasn’t exactly mainstream a lot easier. It also helped that mainstream genres such as hip-hop and pop began employing dance-music production techniques – David Guetta on the Black Eyed Peas’ 2009 hit song I Gotta Feeling. Los Angeles soon became the biggest EDM scene in the U.S, with DJs filling up stadiums regularly and similar large-scale shows spreading across the country. 

Today, EDM has made its way beyond the shores of its origin country and into Africa, with Nigerian EDM artists amassing a solid fanbase. In Nigeria, the Afro-EDM community is spearheaded by the likes of Maze x Mxtereme, Sensi Lo, Sigag Lauren, Calix – co-founder of the EDM collective Nocturne Music, amongst a couple of other artists. Infused with Afro sounds and a profusion of foreign influences, Afro-EDM resonates with a diverse crowd, providing a different sound and community for people who just want to party. The genre is a blend of the many layers that make up EDM plus Afrobeats placed over electronic percussion. 

When asked why they chose to major in the genre, Afro-EDM duo Maze x Mtreme replied; “why not Afro-EDM?” For them, it’s about exploring all the possibilities the Afrobeats genre has to offer – “We know people who make EDM music, but we wanted to create relatable music, so we decided to put an Afro spin on ours.” The duo, famous for their 2020 remix of Rye Catchers Little Things explained how the Afro infusion has influenced the reception of the genre. “You can’t take away the rhythm from an African, the drums are just as important as the synthesisers and shakers when making an Afro-EDM remix.” 

For Calix, who co-founded Nocturne music – a collective of Nigerian EDM producers and DJs, Afro-EDM is a necessary palate switch for the Nigerian audience. “One of the biggest misconceptions people have about Afro-EDM is that they hear EDM and just assume it’s western, whereas, in reality, music is about sound,” he declares. 

He goes on to highlight the importance of Nocturne music saying,

“Nocturne music is a collective of Nigerian producers and DJs which was birthed during COVID. There were a number of EDM artists here in Nigeria who didn’t exactly have a market, so we thought we should band together to push the market of EDM artists by forming a label that releases songs and organises shows. It’s been two years now and we have over ten DJs and producers over at Nocturne Music.”

Calix, who began making EDM when regular DJing became boring for him, believes that people should be more open to exploring new sounds. “Lagos, for instance, does not have the best partying scene. You can go to five different clubs in one night and hear the same sound, so why can’t we have places that we can go to and enjoy an entirely different sound?”

Like most Afro subgenres, the Afro-EDM community is tight-knit, seeing the entire production process through themselves. “Majority of our remixes are produced by us, we work with other producers but for the most part it’s all us,” says Maze x Mxtreme. But this does not deter the artists who believe the genre has the potential to become mainstream. “The focus is trying to bridge the gap between EDM and Afrobeats,” states Calix who sees Afro-EDM having its own award category in the next five years. According to Maze x Mxtreme, Afro-EDM has, featured on mainstream tracks like Davido’s Dami Duro. 2face’s Implication also had strong EDM undertones – the only thing missing being the Afro-EDM label present today. 

Afrobeats as a genre is the gift that keeps on giving, allowing artists to create several interpolations of music. For many Nigerian artists trudging the path of underrepresented genres, there is a desire to create art that stands out and make music so heavily influenced by their Nigerianness that it becomes an entirely new subgenre. 

If you are not familiar with the Afro-EDM genre, here are five songs to set you on the right track!

Temper – Skales Afro Indo EDM Refix By Maze x Mxtreme

Party Nights – Sigag Lauren (ft. Deborah Prest)

Stay (Abeg) – DeadWvlf, Jaci Martinz, Iso Ijah, AZaaa

Lilith – D3an & Chad Ashe

Memories – Neutron Inv.

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