Fact check: Is Davido ‘king of Afrobeat’

Nigerian superstar, David Adeleke, aka Davido, released the visuals for his hit song ‘Unavailable’ featuring South African singer, Musa Keys on April 11, 2023.

While the director of the Zulu-themed video, Dammy Twitch was lauded for his artistic prowess, the video has been widely criticized for introducing Davido as “the King of Afrobeat.”

In the opening moments of the video, a female voice could be heard saying (in a mix of isiZulu and English), “Greetings. You are listening to Timeless FM. After a long time of wondering, where is he? And what is he doing? I’m here to confirm that the King of Afrobeat is back baby!

“I’m talking about Davido. He’s back with a brand new album. And I’m talking hit after hit. Thank you Davido. Thank you.”

Afrobeat vs Afrobeats

The terms “afrobeat” and “afrobeats” have long been conflated. While they may appear similar both in writing and pronunciation, they are two distinct genres.

According to Wikipedia, afrobeat (without an “s”) is a West African music genre that involves the fusion of traditional musical styles such as fuji, folk, highlife and American funk, jazz, and soul influences, with a focus on chanted vocals, complex intersecting rhythms, and percussion.

Afrobeats on the other hand is less of a style per se, and more of an umbrella term to describe popular music from West Africa and the diaspora that takes in diverse influences and is an eclectic combination of genres such as hip hop, house, jùjú, afrobeat, R&B, highlife and soca.

Is Davido an Afrobeat or Afrobeats artist?

Davido like most of his contemporaries that launched their musical careers in the 2010s does what could be best described as “Afro-fusion” – a style that blends hip-hop, juju, fuji, highlife, mokoss, R&B, pop, reggae, dancehall, makossa, soul, hip-life, ndombolo, and now Amapiano.

From the above, it’s safe to say Davido is more of an Afrobeats than an Afrobeat artist since the latter is more of a descriptor of popular music from West Africa than a genre.

Afrobeat is a genre that blends elements of West African music, jazz and funk rhythms with an instrumentation that emphasizes African percussion and vocal styles – pioneered in the 1960s by Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti.

Modern-day afrobeat artists include Femi Kuti, Suen Kuti, Made Kuti, Newen Afrobeat, and Antibalas.

Davido is not an afrobeat artist. Therefore, the claim that he is the “King of Afrobeat” is MISLEADING!

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