Journey Of The Beats: A Comprehensive Afrobeats Guide For Gen Z Music Lovers

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If you are curious about Afrobeats sound, Journey Of The Beats is probably the best piece of material for you. The documentary focuses on the African musical story narrated by Africans, especially the pioneers of the sound. The 10-part docu-series returns to the beginning, several years before slavery and brings it back to present day. A take out at the beginning of the series is that the ‘DRUM’ is the main soul of Afrobeats.

The conversation progressed to the days of the slave trade and how music was a tool of conversation for some enslaved people and also their salvation in crisis. When the conversation shifted to recent times, there were historians worth their salt like Lemi Ghariokwu, Chief Tony Odili, Chief Chulo Asika and Benson Idonije leading the discussion.

As the docu-series moved from slave music to Jazz and Highlife in the 1930s/40s, more musicians and music executives who had studied the craft for years shared both their personal stories and those they had heard. Jacob Akinyemi Johnson, Tony Benson and Keke Ogbungbe lent their voices to tell the Afrobeat story.

At points when the conversations came to the Reggae sounds that bloomed towards the latter part of the 20th century, stars like Daddy Showkey, Blackky, and Michael Obiong drove the conversations. One of the thrilling moments is Onyeka Onwenu describing the great Evi-Edna Ogholi in such flowery words. Evi-Edna who is fondly referred to as the queen of Reggae, released an album in 2017 titled Peace and Love from her base in France.

Journey Of The Beats also dissected how Fuji and Juju became more popular genres in the 80s. The time spent celebrating the impact of the legendary King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, KWAM 1 and Sir Shina Peters on Afrobeats we now enjoy was particularly heartwarming. Folu Storms, the series’ narrator, says “the depth of ingenuity displayed by Nigerian musicians in the 80s through to the early 90s was a major landmark in our Afrobeats journey”.

The discourse moved from the 80s, discussing the early beginnings rise of Nigerian Afro Pop, African Reggae, dancehall, and hip-hop, to the 90s, where Nigerian music experienced a colossal hit fuelled by political issues and youth disillusionment. This proved that the documentary series would not shy away from any topic, no matter how controversial.

As the docu-series progressed, it began getting familiar and most of the older Gen-Zs will be able to relate. People like Sesan Adeniji, IK Osakioduwa, and Ruggedman prompted the discussions. Introducing more familiar voices around this point like Olamide, YQ, DJ Jimmy Jatt, and Charly Boy was the right thing to do.

The documentary discussed how the lack of interest and political unrest in the early 90s caused most record labels to leave the country. It explained how Nigerian music eventually started to come back on air thanks to the work of people like Keke and D1, and AIT. The documentary also referenced how the media helped to make Nigerian music start to sound cool again. With stories about shows like ‘Lekki Sunsplash’ and magazines like ‘HipHop World Magazine’, ‘Bubbles’ and ‘City People’, it was hard not to wish you were there to witness those days.

Beyond talking about the music and the people, Journey Of The Beats also gave kudos to areas that helped stimulate the growth of Nigerian music. For many young people, it may be news that places like Ajegunle, Festac and Surulere birthed the biggest stars. What’s most thrilling is that the people who spoke about these places’ contributions were right in the middle of the action at the time. Daddy Showkey spoke about Ajegunle and their African Reggae, while praising people like African China and the ‘galala’ and ‘swoh’ dances propagators. Festac had 2Baba and the Plantashun Boiz representing, while most studios at the time were in the heart of Surulere.

However, the journey of Afrobeats would be incomplete without talking about how piracy affected the music industry which was discussed thoroughly. A report written in 2016, titled Effects of Music Piracy on the Nigerian Public: A Case Study of Enugu Urban gave an alarming breakdown. “The US department of commerce estimated Nigeria to be the largest market in Africa for goods that infringe on intellectual property rights with about 80% of international music CDs and 40% of local music CDs copied, counterfeited and sold illegally”, it said.

Beyond the level of wisdom the docu-series imparts and a sense of pride you get from watching the documentary, the storytelling will entertain you. Told by the best African talents like 2Baba, D’banj, Daddy Showkey, Seun Kuti, DJ Jimmy Jatt, Onyeka Onwenu, and more, it’s a series that is worth your time. You would feel like someone is telling you the story of your heritage, and it will leave you with the confidence that you truly know who you are musically.

The series is only on its sixth episode as Showmax releases a new one every Thursday. Journey Of The Beats is only available on Visit the iOS or android store to download the app for free and subscribe from as low as N1,200 to enjoy the series and thousands of others like it. If you are an MTN subscriber, you can sign up for Showmax using your airtime by dialing *447*2*2# and following the prompts.

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