Over the past decade, we have seen a gradual shift in the landscape of African culture toward becoming an important cultural force in the world. It has seen us transform the social characteristics of what an African can be in the 21st century. Africa currently has the largest demographic of youth in the world, with nearly two-thirds of the population under the age of 35. It is no surprise that such a youthful presence has the essence of possessing a creative urge which is broad and bountiful, from fashion to writing, to visual art, to film, and to the most essential aspect of this cultural revolution, music.
These distinct sounds have become the voice of profound insights into African contemporary life, showcasing the high life as well as the less desirable features of modern African countries riddled with corruption and greed. The foundation of their melody, however, remains vibrant and jubilant; Afro-beats has become the soundtrack of club bangers and house parties not just on the continent itself, but in more unfamiliar territories like the Americas, Asia, and even the Middle East, which pride themselves on being cultural behemoths. All have started to take notice of the noise happening on the other side of the Atlantic. There have been a few artists that have been crucial to its popular surgency at the center of late-night conversations that know very little about its origins.
As a genre, the birthplace of the sound is rightfully attributed to Fela Kuti, whose revolutionary songs about the injustice within his native Nigeria became the central aspect of the soulful maturity that is heard from some of its finest exports, like Burna Boy, commonly referred to as the African Giant, a name which ironically features an album with the same title in his ever-evolving catalog of hits. A finely curated piece of work that deftly slithers from songs about finding love, making it in an ever-changing world, to his ultimate responsibility as a disciple of Baba Fela; the ability to show the world that Africans are just as gifted and talented as any performer out there, with just as much star power and most importantly with enough grace and elegance to maneuver the global arena.
The names have only gotten bigger and brighter with time, some veterans like Wizkid, and Davido mix a youthful presence that touches base in other parts of the world, with an easily recognizable African persona; they have become global ambassadors not just for Nigeria but Africa as a whole. While newly established stars like Tems, Teni, and Arya Starr bring their soulful excitement that expands into fluid stories about heartache, struggles of femininity in Africa, and financial expectations brought on by Capitalism.
However, this is only a partial view into the creative space on the continent, there is another genre taking over the world with each release. Known as Amapiano the youthful zeal of this genre started in the townships of South Africa and has become so gigantic that international collaborations have become a common feature. While some of the biggest artists in the world have been content with just enjoying the music. Others have adopted the tune and have used it as a deep look into their ancestral legacy, establishing relations with the continent which they originally came from, the music has become the bridging gap required for such relationships to happen. We see it constantly with the likes of Beyonce, Drake, and Chris Brown consistently increasing their collaborations with African artists.
The doors that have gradually opened due to this influx of intercultural mixture between Africa and the diaspora, further affirms a sub-conscious examination amongst African youth. There is an air of something new brewing, something exciting, that we can achieve if we continue on this trajectory and the profits that await will not just amount in monetary value but could be the beginning of a Renaissance.
For the first time ever in our history, we can sell African culture on a global scale and that is a revolutionary idea, with so many opportunities for the youth.
For those who have taken notice of this beautiful storm coming, they have taken the initiative by producing work that is breaking boundaries not just by African standards but on a global criterion as well. Every African creative and even those who are not, have the world at their feet. While it is important to acknowledge the nature of these movements and their importance, we have to recognize that this is only a sample of the bigger picture in context to an Afrocentric worldview that is not concerned with the rest of the world, at least not enough to be lost in the cultural matters of their procedures.
The identity being established is a fundamental aspect of the spirit of the 21st century, a mindboggling reset of standards about income, lifestyle choices, and viewpoints on even the most traditional forms of life like marriage, relationships, and even friendships. This new mindset gives African youth the ability to form a new statement on freedom. When considering the economic history of a continent that has been reliant on it’s natural resources for too long, the crucial urgency of this new worldview bases its ability in knowing that we have the option to not follow the stereotypical path of our parents in becoming accountants, lawyers or doctors while acknowledging that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with those professions our hearts yearn in telling African stories like they never have before.