Every summer has a soundtrack, an album or playlist that you’ll play to get you into the summer groove. Every moment from then on that you hear that music, you’re reminded of that time. My choice of summer soundtrack this year has taken me down memory lane as I’ve rediscovered Wizkid’s first album, Superstar. It’s been the background music during a weekend away with friends and makes an appearance on my playlists as I work from home. It may be ten years old, but Wizkid’s debut collection of music was really special and is at the foundation of my journey with the musical genre of afrobeats.
My love of afrobeats first sparked during some time away from home. I was on a year abroad while at university, living in Paris for half a year completing an internship. I was homesick and lonely like I’d never been before. Immersed in a new country and culture, the transition was overwhelming. I didn’t have any friends and spent a lot of time with myself. One thing that helped me through the transition was discovering afrobeats.
I was first introduced to afrobeats at university. Growing up in a small town in England with literally no other Nigerians, let alone Black people, I wasn’t really exposed to the music Nigeria has to offer. It was at university where I met other young British-Nigerians like myself who introduced me to other parts of my culture. And so my immersion into the world of afrobeats began.
I remember hearing Wizkid’s “Azonto” for the first time during a African-Caribbean student show at my university. I watched as a couple of performers danced to the song, doing the famous dance and I was hooked. There was something about seeing a room full of people that looked like me, sharing similar cultures, singing and dancing along to a song they all loved. The music brought us together as we shared in this cultural experience, despite us all stemming from different backgrounds.
While I continued to dip in and out of afrobeats over the next couple of years, my love for the music genre really developed while living in Paris. In a place where there was literally no one from the same background as me, afrobeats made me feel connected to my Nigerian identity. When I had no friends or family around me, afrobeats also made me feel at home. For the most part, I didn’t really know what a lot of the songs were saying as I don’t speak Yoruba and I don’t really understand pidgin that much either. But it was the rhythm and the beats of the songs that would make me feel so at ease.
Since my Paris days, my love has only continued to grow to the point where I can call afrobeats my favourite genre of music. But it’s not just afrobeats that I have become a huge fan of over time. As I’ve listened to more Nigerian music, I’ve also come to love Hausa pop music. As I can’t visit Nigeria as regularly as I would like, especially during this pandemic, listening to traditional music has also made me feel connected to my homeland despite the distance.
The likes of Hamisu Breaker and Morrell have been on repeat and I have certainly grown more appreciative of my culture and what it has to offer. I think it’s the rise of these young artists that have made it easier for people like myself to connect with the music. The language isn’t too complicated, the subject of love is very much relatable, and accompanying music videos are always good fun to watch.
Although my music tastes overall are quite varied, afrobeats definitely always comes out on top. Ultimately I can’t deny the good mood the music can put me in and how it makes me feel united with people back home. It’s just a small touch of Nigeria that keeps me going when I’m so far away from family and friends.