Since the 1970s, Afrobeat has become a rising genre of music within the African continent and throughout the world. Its building rhythms and layers of melody have seen the genre explode. From the local African DJ set to full band on the global festival stage, afrobeat and its followers are on the rise. Afrobeat holds its foundations in traditional african music, jazz, funk, all mixed together with tribal percussion and a variation of distinct vocal styles.
This article will discuss the main elements and layers in producing an Afrobeat track. If you follow these simple steps you should be well on your way to making a complete & modern afrobeat track.
The Afrobeat drum pattern is not founded in salsa, rather it stems from its Afro-Cuban roots. The percussion elements of an afrobeat track may involve several layers of congas or Akubas played to the iconic Afrobeat polyrhythmic rhythm. An example of this iconic polyrhythmic rhythm can be exemplified in this video by expert, Ck Ladzekpo:
The afrobeat percussion with its polyrhythmic nature gives the track emotion, a sense of melody and intense drive. Therefore, establishing this crucial percussion foundation for your track is crucial.
Traditional afrobeat tracks feature call-and-response vocals, chanted vocals, as well as more complex alternating rhythm vocals. More modern tracks feature heavy use of autotune. Rather than to be used as a correction tool, it is used to accentuate the lead vocal melody in a afrobat track. An example of the rhythmic chanting vocals used in afrobeats tracks can be found here in this classic Davido track:
Similar to all elements of an afrobeat track the vocals are a key part in creating polyrhythmic rhythms and melodies to ride against or move in line the percussion.
The lead melody to an acrobat track may be influenced by the percussion and its rhythmic pattern in the track. For example, the congas used or it may instead use another rhythmic pattern. Instrument sounds used for the lead melody may include: marimbas, steel-drums, claves, or tuned tom drums. In this infamous Timaya track, ‘Some More’, you can hear this rhythmic use of marimba:
This layers of marimba in different octaves layered with the strong tom drums and claps give the track an intense melody and drive. Using traditional African instruments to create a lead melody in your afrobeat track can really add authenticity, especially when given a conflicting rhythmic pattern to the original percussion of your track.
With the modernisation & development of the genre of afrobeat, the bass has evolved from perhaps traditional funk and rock bassline sounds to now more RnB, Hip-hop and house synth basslines. In this iconic Timaya track you can hear the use of a driving synth bass sound:
This gives the track a more Hip-hop feel to it, layered smoothly with the old-school afrobeat rhythms and vocal styles it creates real drive and momentum to the track. A well layered and chosen bass sound can make your afrobat track truly stand out so make sure you take time to choose the instrument sound for your bass. Remembering that your shouldn’t be afraid to take influence for bass sound from those modern RnB and house tracks which feature so heavily in the modern afrobeat tracks.
If you are looking for an Afrobeat DJ or event please contact DJ Chillz