“Human behavior is sensitive to and strongly influenced by its environment” – Malcolm Gladwell
Living in another country truly can be transformative in many ways, and this is true for me as a Lagos man now living in Washington DC. In this blog post, I want to write about my social transformation to what I call an “Americanized African Culture” – Afrobeat Culture.
Afrobeat according to Wikipedia “is a combination of traditional Yoruba music, jazz, highlife, funk and chanted vocals fused with percussion and vocal styles popularized in Africa in the 1970s. Its main creator was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who gave it its name, who used it to revolutionise musical structure as well as the political context in his native Nigeria. It was Kuti who coined the term “afrobeat” upon his return from a U.S. tour with his group Nigeria ’70 (formerly Koola Lobitos). Afrobeat features chants, call-and-response vocals, and complex, interacting rhythms.”
Fela anonymous life in the US I think could have being the seeds for what will now emerge as a global culture of music and dance. By living in the US, Fela was able to probably experience an internal transformation, and a whole new appreciation and awareness of his native Nigeria and unique voice. Similar to many during this time, Fela left Nigeria only for Nigeria to find him, and Afrobeat to discover him in a foreign environment.
As I continue to experience living in the United States, I have also found a new appreciation and awareness for certain facets of Me, my native Nigeria, and particularly Afrobeat.
The Fela Shrine in Lagos is arguably the world’s number one source for authentic Afrobeat, though I was born and lived most of my life in Lagos, you will never catch me there!
Whenever I host international volunteers in Lagos, one of their desperate desires is the chance to see The Fela Shrine and dance Afrobeat, not even this take me there!
In fact, not only would you not catch me at The Shrine, you wouldn’t also find any piece of Afrobeat music on my playlist. This was me in Lagos Nigeria, having no association with anything Afrobeat.
Even as the FELA Show continues its nationwide tour in the US, and now world tour, giving every Nigerian a reason to be Proudly Nigerian, and Lagosian an incredible opportunity to brag, unfortunately, Afrobeat is not just my style, nor the Shrine a habitat I could fit in.
But every other day in DC is revealing a new me with a strange appreciation for Afrobeat music. Though you wouldn’t catch me in the Fela Shine Ikeja Lagos, you are sure to catch me almost every last Thursday at Bossa, Adams Morgan in DC dripping sweats from dancing to the hits of DJ Underdog. When not rocking to DJ Underdog’s version of Afrobeat at Bossa, its very likely you catch trying to recruit my converts to the next edition. Interestingly, at the just past Thanksgiving edition, I was able to take about 5 coverts with me to Bossa. What a transformation!
My attraction to Bossa is not just the music and dance though, it pretty deeper. It’s rather the fruition of seeds of an African idea that was incubated in the United States in the 70s and now in 2011 that has become a global phenomenon, even a budding fabric of the many American cultures. At Bossa, I am always in awe seeing American blacks, African blacks, Caribbean blacks and even Latino blacks reaching out of the confines of a known culture to what they consider as the authentically unifying black music and dance culture- the Afrobeat culture!