Born in the triangle of Lagos – Accra – London, Afrobeats is an irresistible blend of Afro-Pop, R&B and Funky House that in less than a decade has become a musical genre with incredible potential for growth, only rivalled in its dynamism by the likes of reggaeton in Latin America. Both musical genres owe plenty to the rise of the internet, in particular YouTube and we must recognise today that if video killed the radio star, YouTube came to incinerate what was left of his remains. Never before in the history of popular music, and not since the invention of the cassette tape, the 33 rpm disc and FM radio broadcasting, had we found a tool as useful for creating and spreading music as YouTube. Without it, half of the niche musical styles such as Azonto, Electro–Cumbia, which have emerged on the fringes of mainstream music and under the acronym Global Dance Music, would not have had the slightest chance of entering the mainstream. Today, fame and success means having millions of views, almost as if the only way to legitimise the existence of a song or musical genre, whether using the barometer of the internet, or some digital analytics, is the number of views on YouTube.
However, I prefer to enjoy these cultural movements on the street. There is no better city or scene to experience such musical genres than London’s club culture. Perhaps that’s why Afrobeats gained the prominence that it now enjoys by having the UK and its African diaspora as one place of incubation. To understand the impact of club culture on the UK capital, let’s revert back to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s comments. When questioned about the decline of nightlife in London, the then Labour candidate did not stutter: ‘I do not want young and creative Londoners to leave our city to go to Amsterdam, Berlin or Prague where clubs are supported and where they are allowed to grow’. A moment of rare lucidity on the part of a politician, but Sadiq Khan, son of Pakistani immigrants, is not just any politician. He went on to say: ‘I want to be able to celebrate what they love in the city they love, instead of punishing or marginalising what they do, or forcing them into exodus.’