Every region in the world has its own unique music. In Africa alone, there are several distinctive musical genres that represent local culture. One of these genres, the Afrobeat, is slowly and steadily being enjoyed by more and more people around the world.
Thanks to the many Afrobeat artists who have raised the flag of Nigeria, the number of people who embrace African music is growing. These artists and their music prove that music can be a healing and uniting universal language.
What Does “Afrobeat” Mean?
Afrobeat, when taken straight from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is defined as “urban popular music originating in Nigeria in the late 1960s that emphasizes percussion rhythms and features elements of jazz and funk and lyrics that are often intensely political.”
This Nigerian music is heavily influenced by West African music, with some styles coming from American jazz, funk, and soul. It is also characterized by highlife music, a Ghanaian genre known for using several guitars at a time as well as jazzy horns.
What makes Afrobeat stand out is it falls under socially conscious music. This means that through the lyrics of the songs, artists can make a stand or express their points of view on economic, social, and political issues.
Despite Afrobeat’s decades-long existence, it was primarily social media that made it more commercialized and well-known.
10 Afrobeat Artists
Want to experience Afrobeat for yourself? Here are some musicians to keep an eye on.
#1. Burna Boy
Professionally known as Burna Boy, this Nigerian singer, record producer, and songwriter’s biological name is Damini Ebunoluwa Ogulu MFR. The Grammy Award winner started becoming popular in 2012 after the release of “Like to Party.”
He also made history by becoming the first African artist to headline a London stadium show with a sold-out performance and 60,000 fans. Burna Boy describes his music as Afro-fusion, a beautiful combination of hip-hop, R&B, reggae, and dancehall. The best way to characterize Burna Boy’s Afrobeat is modern, savvy, and refreshingly independent.
To help his family and finance his music, Rema, born Divine Ikubor, had to work different odd jobs at a young age. This Nigerian rapper, songwriter, and singer first gained recognition for “Dumebi,” which he released in 2019.
Internationally, the 23-year-old artist made a name for himself with “Calm Down,” one of his hit singles in 2022. This song featured Selena Gomez and ranked #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single also became #1 in the US Afrobeats Song Chart for an impressive 58 weeks.
#3. Wizkid Balogun
Another Afrobeat artist from Nigeria is Wizkid Balogun, whose real name is Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun. He is a pivotal figure in today’s modern Afrobeat scene and is regarded as an influential African artist.
David Adedeji Adeleki is an American-Nigerian songwriter and singer known professionally as Davido. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and was raised in Lagos, Nigeria.
He rose to fame and became an acclaimed Afrobeat singer after his song, “Dami Duro,” the second single from his Omo Baba Olowo album, released in 2012. Part of this debut studio album is hits like “Ekuro,” “Back When,” “Overseas,” “Gbon Gbon,” “All of You,” and “Feel Alright.”
In 2012, Davido brought home the Next Rated Award and was pegged as a promising success thanks to his excellent music. David is well-accepted in the international and local music scenes.
The real name of Tems is Temilade Openivi. She was also born in Lagos, Nigeria, to a British-Nigerian father and a Nigerian mother. After the divorce of her parents, Tems and her mother went back to Nigeria.
Tems grew up with a passion for music, singing for her local church choir and slowly becoming one of the most famous singers in her country. When she released her 2019 single “Try Me,” her status as a music icon steadily rose.
She was also featured in fellow Afrobeat artist Wizkid’s “Essence,” released in 2020. Additionally, she worked on a remix version with Justin Bieber that earned her a nomination in the Grammy’s.
Patrick Nnaemeka Okorie is a Nigerian dancehall and reggae singer-songwriter. He is best known as Patoranking, a name given to him when he was still working as a carnival dancer.
His stage name, which was given to him by a Jamaican artist, is a combination of a shortened version of his name “Pato” and then ranking, Jamaican slang for somebody that is highly respected.
#7. Kizz Daniel
One of the leaders in contemporary Afro-pop music, Oluwatobiloba Daniel Anidugbe, best known in the music industry as Kizz Daniel, became a household name in 2014 after the release of “Woju,” his debut single. He then signed with G-Worldwide Entertainment in 2013 but eventually left the label after some disagreements with his contract.
While he was with G-Worldwide Entertainment, his name was Kiss Daniel. But in 2018, he changed his name to Kizz Daniel after his former record company laid copyright claims to his stage name. Last year, Kiss Daniel made headlines after being a no-show in his Tanzania concert, causing his arrest.
#8. Mr. Eazi
Grammy Award winner Mr. Eazi was born Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade. He has established a reputation that makes his name fitting because he seems to produce effortless music every time.
Mr. Eazi made his musical debut in 2012 with “Pipi Dance.” One year later, he began collaborating with international artists, including DJ Juls who was based in the UK. This Nigerian record executive, songwriter, and singer is considered one of the innovators of Banku music, which he described to be the perfect mixture of Nigerian chord patterns and progressions and Ghanaian highlife.
Born in Kaduna, CKay, whose real name is Chukwuka Ekweani, is of Igbo descent. His love for music was heavily influenced by his father, a choir conductor at their church. It was also his father who taught him how to play the piano after he became interested in musical instruments.
CKay started his music career playing in a band before continuing his solo career. He became a prominent artist after the release of “Love Nwantiti Ah Ah Ah,” which became viral in TikTok.
#10. Tiwa Savage
Dubbed the Queen of Afrobeats, Tiwatope Omolara Savage, better known as Tiwa Savage, is a well-known Nigerian actress, songwriter, and songwriter. She is a versatile performer and has released songs in Yoruba and English.
Tiwa Savage’s music is a harmonious blend of R&B, Afrobeat, pop, Afropop, and hip-hop. Raised in London since she was 11, Tiwa was exposed to entertainment music at an early age when she started by working as a backup singer for the likes of Mary J. Blige and George Michael. Her first album, released in 2013, was a huge hit in Nigeria and in the international music scene.
A Few Parting Words
Offering catchy beats and political commentary, Afrobeat is a growing and undeniable music trend. These 10 Afrobeat artists have become synonymous with this unmistakable genre. Listen to a few of them and see who are your favorites!