Afrobeats is a genre on the come up. The past few years have been phenomenal for a genre which has only just started to be noticed in the UK. From an unknown, niche music genre found only in underground clubs and on pirate radios, Afrobeats is now hitting the mainstream. In the past year, the genre’s trailblazer, MOBO Award winning Fuse ODG, has gained two singles in the UK Top 10; the infectious ‘Antenna’ reached #7, whilst ‘Million Pound Girl (Badder Than Bad)’ reached #5 and got sisters whining up and down the country.
Afrobeats is a genre borne of the fusion of the traditional Yoruba music of Nigeria with jazz and funk, which became popular in Africa during the 1970s. Its main creator was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist hero and husband to 27 wives, Fela Kuti. Lyrically, Afrobeats artists merge English, Pidgin and their mother tongue, for example, Yoruba – the most widely spoken language of Nigeria. With Afrobeats, what is key is not what you understand, but what you feel.
This is a genre which not only produces energetic and innovative music, but which also has the power to create dance crazes (azonto, skelewu, kukere) and is even a vehicle to social change. The rise of Afrobeats coincides with the rise of a new image of Sub-Saharan Africa. Instead of the projected image of extreme poverty and hardship, such as Kevin Carter’s ‘The Vulture and the Child’, Afrobeats is showing its stars against a back drop of mansions, luxury cars and iced-out jewellery pieces. According to the “Afroboss” DJ Edu, the pioneer of Afrobeats in the UK, the genre “originates from the heart of the challenges that face [Africa] and, in breaking boundaries, is uniting Africa like never before […] The young sound of Africa has managed to travel beyond boundaries: not just entertaining listeners, but creating a sense of pride about the continent.”.
Recently, I had the chance to interview MoeLogo, one of the rising stars of Afrobeats. Already collaborating with the brightest UK urban talent, Stylo G, Giggs and Fuse ODG himself, with twenty thousand followers on Twitter and hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits, it is clear that his fan base is growing like wild fire. Born in Lagos, the bustling heart of Nigeria, but now based in London, I discovered what MoeLogo had to say about his music, his unwavering self belief and the future of Afrobeats.
Who are you and where do you come from?
My name is Mohammed and I’m from Nigeria, well Lagos to be precise, but I’m also a Londoner. I started making music at the age of 16; my reasons being to be the best and make a difference! I work with producer, Bayoz Muzik, who I met as we hail from the same neighbourhood – Peckham.
What does your name mean?
“My name means Moe is my name and music is my logo”
Who are your inspirations (in life and in music)?
My inspirations in life are myself and my surroundings. I used to compare myself to a few [artists] in the music scene, but going through the music industry and self development, I’ve realised I am my own comparison. I look up to those like Michael Jackson, Chris Brown and R. Kelly.
Afrobeats were born in Nigeria, do you think the genre is limited to West Africa? Do you have faith that you can break the UK?
Afrobeats is not a Nigerian thing, but maybe it’s publicised like that; I’m sure it comes from every there African country. Whether I sing in Yoruba or English, my goal is to connect with everyone and whosoever listens to my music. Afrobeats has its set audience, but I believe there’s a lot more people out there that will appreciate it and we’re working on it. I’d say I’m focused on the world, not just one place. The best music comes from those people who feel it. Music can’t be contained, it travels and that’s what my music will do.
What do you think of the rest of the music coming out of Sub-Saharan Africa? Is it competition?
It’s all beautiful music because it stands for something… Different cultures means different things to embrace.
You’ve collaborated with Giggs, Stylo G and Fuse ODG, does their success inspire you?
Yup, it really does because they each have a story / struggle. I can and have learnt from them and its been amazing working with them.
Do you think that Fuse ODG has broken the glass ceiling for afrobeats in the UK? What do you think of Fuse ODG’s “This Is New Africa” slogan?
I believe Fuse has knocked on the door, but it’s time for likes of myself and others to help him open it very wide. I believe the slogan means something to him, well am sure of that. To me… I believe what he’s trying to say is there’s a new age and new flavour so everyone pay attention!
You reached number 1 on DJ Edu’s DNA Top 5, what does the support of the Afroboss mean to you?
When I heard that, I was overwhelmed. To me, it signified growth.
Can you let us in on your future plans?
My future plans are to take over the world through my music and open doors beyond measures…
If you want to be part of MoeLogo’s journey, you can download his EP, ‘Moe Is My Name, Music Is My Logo’ for free here. His fierce, first single, ‘The Baddest’ featuring Giggs, will be released on 1st June, but you can preorder it on iTunes now.
If you want to discover more about this genre, DJ Edu’s show, Destination Africa, on BBC Radio 1Xtra every Sunday night at 10pm, is a brilliant place to start.