Jamaican dancehall has always had a strong influence on urban music in the UK; stretching from Bob Marley to Vybez Katel and Popcaan. The tempo and distinguished pan synths was iconic for carnivals – Nottingham Carnival would simply not be complete without some rum… and redbuuuuuuullll (if you know, you know).
Although I’m a British Asian Londoner, I grew up on a council estate and I’ve seen how my black friends identified with dancehall music despite not being from the Caribbean. I think it’s similar to how I affiliate strongly with the up and coming rapper NAV despite him being from a different south-east Asian background. What we’ve seen in the past few years and coming into mainstream cultivation in 2016 is African pride in the British music scene. Afrobeats has a proud African sound in accent and cadences, combined with UK grime, and more recently, UK R&B and rap. Fuse ODG, arguably a pioneer for Afrobeats, states himself that he proudly flaunted his African heritage in his music to challenge the perception and narrative of Africa – he was addressing the negative identity imposed on Africa by showcasing it like never before.
What’s amazing about this is, I remember while I was at school, kids would use Nigerian/Ghanaian accents as a mockery, similar to how an Indian accent can be used insultingly. But what we’re seeing now is a pride in heritage and culture –where British Artists are even adopting the accent. J Hus, Kojo Funds, and Yxng Bane to name a few are hugely successful up and coming artists who have taken such approach. I would even argue Geko, an arab, has a Ghanaian music persona. These young Brits fuse African delivery with UK swag and finesse which characterise Afrobeats.
Afro-type music Is also being recognised world-wide with huge successes from artists such as Ayo Jay and Wizkid with fans spanning from Drake, Alicia Keys and Ed Sheeran. Ed Sheeran even credits Ghanaian culture in inspiring some of his work on Divide.
It’s a beautiful time for African Identity in the UK. I just hope my Bangladeshi cousins don’t think this is a cue to start rapping in their horrible accents.