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Cross-culturalism and the Globalization of Afrobeat

Using Drake’s “One Dance” and Beyonc?’s “Lion King: The Gift” Album as a case study.


This proposed thesis will be studying the cross-culturalism and globalization of “Afrobeat”. However, to get a proper understanding of this thesis, we must first understand the meaning of the terms used in relation to the proposed topic. Cross culturalism comes in other related forms such as multi-culturalism, acculturation, transculturation and even globalization, they all deal with comparing or dealing with two or more different cultures, which makes cross-culturalism very wide.

But in relation to this topic, cross-culturalism is limited to how “Afrobeat” has crossed from being an African sound to being accepted internationally, where other cultures exist but still accommodate Afrobeat.

Lexico’s dictionary gives an aligned definition of Globalization in relation to this topic, the dictionary defines globalization as “a process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale”.

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In relation to Afrobeat, globalization has paved the way for other African artists to be able to promote Afrobeat as a music business to start operating on an international scale.

Afrobeat has become a popular sensation all over the world, from its sound, to its dance also through its message. And it isn’t just the audience that are loving the sound, other international music stars want in on Afrobeat too. According to Macelod (2016), a reporter for Rolling stone magazine, she explains the level of international recognition African Afrobeat artists have achieved as Drake notably featured Wizkid on One Dance, a huge 2016 summer hit which topped Billboard’s Hot 100 for 10 weeks, DJs like Major Lazer and DJ Snake are collaborating with Nigerian stars, Migos’ member Quavo who featured Davido on his debut album and Ciara has credited Tiwa Savage as an inspiration for a recently released single.

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Thus, this goes to prove how globalized and transcultural Afrobeat has become throughout the years.

Afrobeat is a music genre which involves the combination of elements of West African musical styles such as fuji music and highlife with American funk and jazz influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion. (Grass, 1986).

Although, the origin of Afrobeat is unknown as some African countries have claimed its existence since it has now become a global sound, some say it started from Ghana in the early 1920s, however Tunde Folawiyo, a music blogger completely disagrees with the opinion that Afrobeat originated in Ghana, he rather argues that Afrobeat originated in Nigeria. Folawiyo (2014) said “It’s long been speculated that early music originated in Africa with ancient Africans using percussion and chants to form musical sounds. While Afrobeat music’s roots are derived from many musical styles, it was Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who gave true meaning to the term “Afrobeat” when it was originated in the southern part of Nigerian in the 1970s”. Even as the origin of Afrobeat is still an argument amongst countries, one that is true and undeniable is that Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is amongst the pioneers who have contributed to taking Afrobeat globally.

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti changed Afrobeat from just merely for entertainment but as a way of passing a message across to the people through dance that showcases the African culture. However, Oyebade Ajibola’s project tittled “Afrobeats, Fela and Beyond: Scenes, Style and Ideology” shed light on the process of how Fela took Afrobeat globally. Oyebade (2010), explained that “During the 1970s, Afrobeat evolved into an identifiable counterculture. The movement libertine and populist in orientation drew adherents from a cross-section of Nigerian society. Regular convergences took place at Fela’s communal residence and the Afrika Shrine, where he performed several times weekly.”

Politics are essential to Afrobeat, since founder Kuti used social criticism to pave the way for social change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1970s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination. As the genre spread throughout the African continent many bands took up the style which led to the globalization of Afrobeat today.


This thesis aims to uncover the historical background of Afrobeat, its level of globalization and transculturation, some African artists who have taken Afrobeat to greater heights from generation to generation. Also, this research topic will help reveal how Afrobeat has influenced the world through its various messages, dance, beat, style and how it has brought about unity, cross-culturalism and communalism around the world.

This research thesis will also unravel the level of recognition that Afrobeat has reached around the world, and how it has influenced other international artist sound, taking Drake’s “One Dance” and Beyonc?’s “Lion King: The Gift” album as a case study to show level of globalization in Afrobeat. In an interview conducted by Robin Roberts, a reporter from GMA asked Beyonc? about the inspiration of her “Lion king: The gift” album she stated that, “This soundtrack is a love letter to Africa, and I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa, and not just use some of the sounds and did my interpretation of it. I wanted to be authentic about what is beautiful about the music in Africa”. This project will shed light on the African artists who have influenced other international artists to “fall in love” with not just the Afrobeat sound but also through its message and the various types of dance that goes with it and will help to bring out how far these Afrobeat artists are being recognized internationally or globally through awards, Billboard chat, multi-million dollar record contracts, to being featured on songs and albums of other international artists, international tours and also being called up on the biggest stage to perform such as Coachella, Dreamville fest, etc.


The research on the level of critical reception and population of Afrobeat within the case studies will predominantly be conducted into two aspects which are the music industry resources and the academic research sources. The music industry resources are sources from US Billboard Hot 100, music blogs, music articles, other references from past research made and so on. While the academic research sources are the theories which support this proposed research thesis, the Globalization theory and the Transculturation theory.

Guttal, S. (2007) in an article titled “Development in practice” states that “Globalization has grown due to advances in transportation and communication technology. With the increased global interactions comes the growth of international trade, ideas, and culture”. However, Guttal’s point in relation to this research explains that with the help of communication technology, other parts of the world are now being exposed to Afrobeat. Therefore, making communication technology a major contribution to the globalization of Afrobeat.

Throsby David (2002), came about with the opinion that globalization gave support to the world music phenomenon by allowing music from developing countries to reach broader audiences. Through globalization, Afrobeat has given artists from developing countries in Africa such as Wizkid from Nigeria, Shatta Wale from Ghana and so on a bigger platform to be recognized across the globe.

Transculturation according to Collin’s English dictionary is the introduction of foreign elements into an established culture. In my opinion, this definition fits in well in relation to this research topic, based on Collin’s dictionary definition transculturation simply implies to how Afrobeat as an African genre is being introduced to other parts of the world where there are different genres of music and having to accept Afrobeat as a foreign element into other genre of music is what this proposed research thesis is all about. However, transculturation covers issues pertaining to cross- culturalism, globalization, multi-culturalism and any other aspect that deals with more than one culture.

Slimbach cited in Cuccioletta (2002), emphasized that transculturalism is only possible when people pursue shared interests and common values across cultural and national borders. He of the opinion that transculturalism exists when one thinks “outside the box of one’s motherland”. Slimbach’s opinion in relation to this research makes us understand that through transcultualism, Afrobeat has gained the opportunity from an African music genre into being shared across other cultural and national borders as a global music genre and this is because music is a global language. David L. (2015), agrees with the opinion that music is indeed a global language, he states that “We understand this exchange in a foreign language because we know what it sounds like in our own language. Likewise, when we listen to a piece of music, either from our culture or from another, we infer emotion on the basis of melodic cues that mimic universal prosodic cues. In this sense, music truly is a universal system for communicating emotion.”

According to Grosu (2012), he explains that “with transculturalism, cultural boundaries are broken down and different cultural identities combined into a nation-state.”

However, Grosu’s point in relation to this proposed thesis implies that, rather than limit music to a particular cultural group such as Afrobeat from Africa, Hip-Hop from America, Punjabi music from India and so on, regardless of all the different genre of music around the world, through Transculturalism we could all come together with our different music genre which has been centered around a particular culture into a global music genre such that one culture can enjoy the music of another.



Globalization. (2019). Retrived from E. (2016). Rolling stone. Retrieved May 11, 2016, from R. (1986). Fela Anikulapo-Kuti: The Art of an Afrobeat Rebel. The Drama Review: TDR, 30(1), 131-148. doi:10.2307/1145717

Folawiyo, T. (2014). The History of Afrobeat. [Weblog]. Retrieved 17 March 2014, from A. (2010). Afrobeats, Fela And Beyond: Scenes, Style And Ideology. Project defended on November 12, 2010.

Tonny Blue, (2019, July 16). Beyonc? exclusive interview for gma. [Videofile]. Recieved from S. (2007). Globalisation. Development in Practice, 17(4/5), 523-531/

Throsby, David (2002). “The music industry in the new millennium: Global and Local Perspectives.” Paper prepared for The Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity Division of Arts and Cultural Enterprise UNESCO, Paris.

Cuccioletta, D. (2002). Multiculturalism or transculturalism: Towards a Cosmopolitan Citizenship. London Journal of Canadian Studies, 17: 1-11.

David, L. (2015, 31 July). Is Music a Universal Language? [Weblog]. Retrieved 31 October 2019, from L. M. (2012). Multiculturalism or transculturalism? Views on cultural diversity. Synergy, Vol.8, no. 2, 2012: 102-111s

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