If you’re big on music, you’ve probably seen the signs; Afrobeat (also known as Afro-music) is receiving a lot of global attention today.
This genre is not new to the scene, and it’s important to give credit to the ‘OGs’ in the African music industry who pushed this unique sound for years, even when it was unpopular.
However, there’s more to Afrobeat and its unique, groovy sound than the hype, recognition, and support it’s currently getting — Afrobeats sounds can be great for your mental health!
If you’ve ever wondered why jamming to your favorite afrobeat song leaves you in a great mood, Qilo is here to explain the science behind the upbeat, feel-good vibe from this type of music and how your mental health positively benefits from it!
The Origin of Afrobeat
Afrobeats date back to the 20th century and have continued to evolve since then.
Afrobeats gets its interesting sound from a blend of varying cultural and musical influences, and communications specialist Sadof Alexander defines Afrobeats music as one that’s “anchored in West African music styles, particularly highlife music. American jazz and funk are also added to the mix, creating a hybrid sound from across continents.”
Afrobeat draws from both African and Western music; when you listen to a typical Afrobeats track, you might hear some dancehall, soca, juju, house, hiplife, and of course, Nigerian beats!
Then how can we talk about Afrobeat without recognizing the artists who’ve created music around this genre for a while now? There’s 2Baba (formerly known as 2Face), D’Banj, P-Square, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, Flavour, Mr. Eazi, Adekunle Gold, Tiwa Savage, Rema, and the list goes on.
Before Afrobeat, we enjoyed African music (Juju and Highlife music) from the likes of Fela Kuti, Sir Victor Uwaifo, King Sunny Ade, and Sunny Okosun amongst others.
So, what is it about Afrobeat that we simply cannot get enough of?
Afrobeat as Feel-Good Music
The typical Afrobeats sound comes with positive energy.
When you listen to Afrobeats, some of the elements you’d hear include multiple band instrumentals, fast tempo energy, repetition of musical cells, and a mix of genres with varying melodies, harmonies, and rhythms.
With its expressive sound and how fast-paced and fun this music is, you’re left feeling hyper, in an elevated mood, or simply ready to groove!
Even with the absence of lyrics, the right afrobeat melody can directly rub off on your mood because of the powerful emotional connotations it carries.
Afrobeat Music and Your Mental Health
Now because of the fast tempo of Afrobeat songs, there’s a natural tendency to feel empowered, exert more energy, do some movements and really get into the flow, lyrics, and theme of the song. This is what makes Afrobeats great for social settings — at clubs, a backyard get-together, or a party with friends. These situations coupled with the music itself can effectively manipulate moods.
Afrobeat music can also lead to a release of certain brain chemicals — dopamine, (which is connected to feelings of pleasure) as well as oxytocin (the “love hormone”). Studies have shown how these chemicals can help a person feel fully relaxed, lower stress hormone levels, aid self-expression, and even give a creative/motivational boost while you’re being productive!
The next time your favorite Afrobeats song is playing, take time to really hear and enjoy the lyrics, soak up the melody and the thrill that comes with it, enjoy the mental (visual) pictures you get, and if there’s a desire to bop your head or actually get up and dance? Go for it! You’re doing yourself some good!
These aren’t just a form of exercise or stress-relievers; they can also be a great way to build social connections with people if you’re in a social gathering — which also boosts your mental health!
Just as Tuma Basa (the Director of Black Music & Culture for YouTube) puts it after 2021 Afrochella, “It was beautiful to see young African-Americans, Black Britons, and Africans partying together, vibing to the music of King Promise, Ayra Starr, and Wizkid. That kind of cultural exchange makes Black music super strong.”
Afrobeats has found a larger audience abroad and now has a global fan base; with afrobeat artists populating the music industry (remember how Ckay’s single “Love Nwantiti” became a TikTok anthem?) collaborating with other musicians, and performing at global festivals like the Afro Nations 2022. There’s even a new documentary (Afrobeats: The Backstory on Netflix) that’s spreading the stories around the history and evolution of this music.
All of these make afro sounds even more compelling, so be sure to go ahead and discover for yourself afrobeat artists whose sounds you resonate with, and do your mental health (and entire system) some good with the beautiful art called afrobeat music!