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Afrobeats Music Is Taking Over Mainstream Pop Culture Worldwide: A Talk With Ayo Jay

By Rachel George

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Step into any club or lounge in New York, Miami, or Atlanta, and you’re bound to hear energetic beats, Caribbean melodies, and international lyrics. Afrobeats music is the new intentional wave of infectious music reaching outside of the continent and into the rest of the world.

Birthed out of West Africa, Afrobeats is the sound blending traditional African music with contemporary sounds of hip-hop, R&B, and dancehall music. It has been the driving force other genres of music, moving into pop, urban and dance music, taking over mainstream pop culture.

Over the years, it has evolved since the influence of legendary African artist Fela Kuti in the 1970s, with artists creating their own individual style. Kuti’s music and politically driven lyrics were used as a call to action for African politics.

Today, Afrobeats music is much less about politics and more about wanting to dance and have a good time. The genre has definitely made a staple in the US, with WizKid’s constant charting topping hits and Nigerian singer Ayo Jay’s breakout single “Your Number” gaining over 18 million views on YouTube and counting, still.

The self-proclaimed “Boy Wonder” Ayo Jay created his own sound, stepping away from his parent’s traditional views of focusing on education. Through his distinctive sound of intentional lyrics, blended melodies, and smooth vocals, he’s avid about spreading his music worldwide.

“Music is crazy man, you have no idea how far it can reach. I could go to Japan today and do a show because they know my music,” he explains. “My sound is a world sound because I play with a lot of melodies. I feel like if you have good melodies, people around the world can understand, they understand good sound.”

Born in London, Ayo Jay and his family moved to Nigeria at a young age. In 2007, he moved to the US, studying Finance and Economics at Baruch College. While in school, he began learning and writing music on his own and singing covers of other popular artists.

Shortly after graduation, he returned to Nigeria to perfect his international sound, attempting to conquer is home base. Ayo Jay first realized the cultural impact of his music outside of Africa after the re-release of “Your Number,” under RCA records in 2015. He was sent videos of people dancing to his music in clubs, on trains, in streets, wherever. “Nobody makes the way I do make music, nobody sounds like me,” he adds. “My process of making music is just different.”

In 2016, he performed at New York’s Powerhouse concert and at one of the biggest African celebrations, One African Music Fest along with Jidenna and Moet Imperial.

Afrobeats

Courtesy of One Nation Records

His most recent project, Lazy Genius, is a compilation of his own distinctive sound with influence from Afrobeats and other genres he grew up listening to, such as Akon, Usher and more. The single, “Let Him Go,” explores the dynamics of relationships and having to ultimately let go of someone.

At the top of the year, he goes on tour in Europe. Even though he has not been back to London in over 10 years, he has a loyal fan base there and can wait to get back and connects with his fans there.

“I just want to show my versatility through his music, in all genres, not just Afrobeats,” he says. 

This an exciting time for African culture as a whole, in regards to their influence on clothing, culture, and music. Artists fuse together the traditional sounds of their homeland with other genres of music.

Most of Afrobeats music & popularity is due to YouTube, social media, global streaming services and working with other chart-topping North American artists such as Wale, Drake, Tinashe, and more. Other artists such as Davido, Tiwa Savage, Shatta Wale, Pelli, and Seun Kuti, son of the Kuti, also have a huge Afrobeats influence beyond Africa and into North America and Europe.

Let your mind & body go and dance to the sounds of Ayo Jay and other African artists merging this desirable Afrobeats music.

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