It’s the new sound of the UK underground, reworking the African pop of Fela Kuti for kids reared on grime, hip-hop and funky house. With stars like Kanye West wanting in, just how big will it get?
As London ushered in its Olympic year at midnight on 31 December, the official fireworks playlist blaring out over the Thames moved predictably through Vangelis, Soft Cell, Shirley Bassey and Adele. But it was accompanied by one less obvious choice: D’Banj’s Oliver Twist. It may have been the first time most of the 250,000 revellers heard the hit-in-waiting from the Nigerian rap star, but it probably won’t be the last. At that moment, London DJ Abrantee, the man who gave the name “Afrobeats” to the hottest scene in the UK right now, was getting ready to fly to Egypt, where the very same song “tore the place apart” in front of a Cairo club crowd more used to house music. Most people are familiar with the Afrobeat styles of Fela Kuti – Afrobeats is something different; with the addition of the letter “s” comes a whole new chapter in global pop music.