Currently, it is gradually becoming a craze for Ghanaian upcoming musicians to answer when asked ‘what genre of music they do with’ – “I do Afro pop.” Unfortunately, no Ghanaian musician is currently an Afro pop musician – take it or leave it.
They think by saying they are Afro pop artistes, they transcend Ghana, meanwhile, just few kilometers out of Accra exposes most of them as only Accra artistes; not to talk of being known in many African countries. When they are asked what is Afro pop music or who an Afro pop musician is, their ignorance on what they claim to be is always further exposed!
Afro pop is not a genre of music as it is widely believed and accepted in Ghana. Afro pop is just a description of music or song. In the English lexicon, the word Afro has one of two meanings; first, Afro (as a noun) is; “a rounded thickly curled hairdo.”
Secondly, Afro (as an adjective) is prefixed to certain names to mean; “involving Africa or Africans.” The “pop” is just the short form of the word popular. There are many names or phrases in which the word Afro has been prefixed to in history with different meanings but Africa or Africans is always a constant.
They include but not limited to: Afro-wig – “a wig that gives the appearance of an African hairdo.” Afrocarpus – “dioecious evergreen trees or shrubs equatorial to southern and southeastern Africa.” Afro-Caribbean – “a person of African descent from or living in the Caribbean.”Afroasiatic -a large family of related languages spoken both in Asia and Africa.
So Afro pop music simply means a popular African music or song engineered with authentic African rhythms and beats or instrumentation. What are these African beats, rhythms and instrumentations? And have these beats, rhythms and instrumentations been accepted by all African countries or most Africans?
If popular Highlife music is Afro pop to Ghanaians, is it Afro pop to Cameroonians, Kenyans, South Africans, Malians, Zimbabweans, etc? The answer is no! Indeed, Afro pop could stand for many genres of music in different African countries. Examples: Highlife, Kwaito, Apala, Sakara, Taarab, Jùjú, Mbaqanga, Reggae, Zouglou, Kapuka aka Boomba, etc.
There are 3 key words to note, each time one talks about an Afro pop music/artiste: first – the artiste must be an African, secondly – the beat/rhythm must be African and thirdly – the song/artiste must be popular in Africa.
We call musicians such as Salif Keita, Maria Makiba, Angelique Kidjo, Manu Debango, Fela Kuti, Sonny Ade, and the likes Afro pop musicians not because the music genre they did or do is called Afro pop, but because first – they are Africans, secondly – their music is engineered with authentic African traditional rhythms, beats or instrumentation and thirdly – because they and their songs became very popular in Africa.
You may at this juncture judge for yourself if Kwadwo Antwi, Efya, Fuse ODG, Eazzy, Ruff and Smooth, Becca, and the others qualify as Afro pop musicians or not. Currently, no Ghanaian musician can be described as an Afro pop musician or can be said to be doing Afro pop music. Everything about them – image and songs is for Ghanaian consumption!
According to Ghana Music Award, Afro-pop Song of the Year “is the song by the Academy, Board and the General Public as the most popular song that is a cross pollination of music genres.” So if a musician cross-pollinates reggae beat with highlife beat, is that an Afro-pop song? Or if a musician cross-pollinates a highlife beat with hip-hop beat, is that Afro-pop? Their definition is even ambiguous!
What is cross-pollination of music genres in Fuse ODG’s ‘Antenna’ or ‘Million Pound Girl” or what is cross-pollination of music genres in RnBees ‘Slow Down’ which made it qualify for nomination in Afro-pop Song in this year’s GMA awards? (Laughs) Afro-pop is not a genre of music but rather, a general term for African popular music.
We can only have a music genre called Afro pop only when all music experts or musicologists from all the 54 African countries or majority of them come together to agree on which beats, rhythms, chordal arrangements, melody and other musical parameters, to determine Afro pop music in the right sense. Until then….MOTWUM!!