With the increase in music streaming and digital downloads today, it is easier than ever to ascertain the popular genres people prefer listening to most of the time.
Leveraging this streaming, we can gain insight into the most popular musical genres African people seem to love.
Here’s a breakdown of the favorite African music genres currently, although Africans still explore music via the most old-school methods.
Afrobeat is a musical style originating from Nigerian singer Fela Kuti that dates back to 1970.
It’s the most prevalent genre of music in Africa today, especially in Nigeria.
The Nigerian bandleader and instrumentalist, Fela, discovered Afrobeat in the 1960s, pushed the envelope, and made the style widely acceptable worldwide.
The genre combines west African musical style fuji, highlife, American jazz, funk, rhythms, and soul.
The instruments used in afrobeat music are congas, bass guitar, horns, drums, keyboard, guitar, Hammond organ, saxophone, and percussions.
Origin: the cultural beginning of Afrobeat is in Ghana and Nigeria in the 1960s.
African Popular Afrobeat Artists
The famous African Afrobeat artists include;
- Fela Kuti
- Tony Allen
- Femi Kuti
- Manu Dibango
- Buna Boy, and
- The Daktaris, among others.
Gospel is a music genre often used interchangeably with Christian music, deeply rooted in the rich traditions of the African American church.
In the late 1800s, southern United States churches began to add different styles like hymns, spirituals, and sacred songs to their services.
It usually demands dominant vocals vital harmony, which dates back to the 17th century.
Ghana and Nigeria are recently the topmost countries with the best gospel music capability in Africa.
This type of genre assisted in the easy escape of slavery to freedom hence promoting a spirit of hope and provision of an outlet for worshiping.
Like every other type of music, gospel music’s creation varies according to social context and culture.
The gospel genre of music is not just an entertainment product for the marketplace but serves aesthetic pleasure and ceremonial purpose.
Origin: Gospel music started in the early 17th century, Southern United States
Forms of gospel
Gospel music took its form from rock and roll, soul, country, rhythm, and blues.
Famous Gospel Artists in Africa
Famous African artists in the gospel music genre include;
- Benjamin Dube
- Frank Edwards
- Mercy Chinwo
- Prosper Germoh
- Joe Mettle
- Victoria Orenze
- Deborah Lukalu
- Winnie Mashaba
- Rebecca Malope
- Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu (Sinach)
The highlife style of music first started in British West Africa, known today as Ghana, and afterward, it spread to western Nigeria.
It’s popular in English-speaking countries of West Africa, thus influencing mainly Ghana and Nigeria during the 1950s.
After the emergence of highlife music in colonial Africa, it gained its name because Ghana’s aristocracy mostly played at rated clubs.
It is distinguishable by jazzy horns with multiple guitars that lead the band though it recently acquired an uptempo, synth-driven sound.
After World War II, the Igbo people of Nigeria accepted the highlife music style. They further used their traditional guitar riffs and ideas from Ghanaian performers to mix and perfect it to form Igbo highlife.
Popular African Highlife Artists
African most famous highlife artists include;
- Fela Kuti
- Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe
- Baba Ken Okulolo
- Prince Nico Mbarga
- Oliver De Coque
- Rex Lawson, etc.
Mbalax is a fusion of traditional griot praise and sabar rhythms with modern Western elements popular in Senegal and Gambia.
This West African music style combines traditional Senegalese vocals and percussion with funk, soul, and jazz to create a distinct sound.
The traditional form of Mbalax originated from the Sabar, a Wolof genre and developed in Senegal in the early 1970s.
Youssou N’Dour’s super musical group was the frontier of the Mbalax genre of music, utilizing Tama drumming and sabar polyrhythm.
Mbalax Top Artists in Africa
The mbalax music style features top artists in Africa, including;
- Ismael Lo
- Youssou N’Dour
- Lemzo Diamono
- Viviane N’Dour
- Omar Pene
- Etoile de Dakar, etc.
Instruments for Mbalax music: Instruments used for creating Mbalax music include sabar, talking drum, balafon, and xalam.
Amapiano, originating from Johannesburg, became a type of music popular in South Africa since 2012, combining deep house, lounge music, and jazz.
The significant characteristics of the genre include airy pads, synthesizers, and broad percussive basslines.
Amapiano music style is unique with its Kwaito basslines, high-pitched piano melodies, percussions from Bacardi, and low-tempo rhythms.
Breakthrough of Amapiano
The Amapiano genre experienced popularity around the African continent in 2019 as there was an increase in digital streams from countries beyond South Africa.
Instruments for Amapiano Music: Amapiano music mainly relies on drums, piano, and synthesizer.
African Famous Amapiano Musicians
Amapiano music has graced renowned African artists like;
- Dj Maphorisa
- Mr. JazziQ
- Sha Sha
- Kabza De Small, etc.
Afrobeats, known as Afrofusion or Afropop, is entirely a different genre of music that came to the limelight between the 2000s and 2010s.
The Afrobeats first developed in Nigeria before gaining popularity in UK and Ghana in the latter years.
It has to do with other genres like hiplife, hip hop, R&B, Soca, dancehall, juju music, azonto, British house music, palm wine music, etc.
The primary aim of developing afrobeats was to allocate the various sounds of music into an easily accessible label.
Afrobeats is known for its most used drum beat rhythms and instrumental, while Afrobeat has a special recognition for its complex jazzy, big bands, and instrumental solos.
Difference between Afrobeat and Afrobeats
These two kinds of music are usually conflicting and relatively similar but have an unusual distinct sound.
Afrobeat, developed in the 1960s, takes influence from fuji and highlife, coined by Fela Kuti, and is mixed with American jazz while Afrobeats pioneered in the 2000s.
While Afrobeat is a clearly defined genre, Afrobeats is more like contemporary pop music and takes influence from R&B, hip hop, ndombolo, highlife, soca, etc.
African Top Afrobeats Musicians
Some of the top African Afrobeats’ musicians include;
- Burna Boy
- Emman Owoniyi
- Diamond Platnumz
- Davido, etc.
Fuji is a famous Nigerian musical style that rose from the wéré music; indigenous Yoruba music used to stir Islams to pray during Ramadan.
Alhaji Ayinde Sikiru Barrister pioneered Fuji music in the 1950s, where the music conceived its style Fuji.
Fuji, the philosophical and meditative music, gained a reputable fan base not just in western Nigeria but across Europe, Africa, and North America.
Although Fuji’s style of music uses Sakara drum and solemn-sounding Goje Violin, it still gained prominence in the globe.
Categorization of Fuji music
The Fuji music genre combines highlife, juju, gudugudu, Aro, Apala, and Afrobeat.
Top African Artists in Fuji Music
The fuji music type is currently charts with African artists like;
- Ejire Shadua
- Wasiu Ajani
- King Dr. Saheed Osupa
- Sule Adio
- Oyama Azeez
- Karube Aloma, etc.
Assiko is a popular music style from the South of Cameroon, with Assi meaning ground or earth and Koo meaning foot.
The basis of assiko, as initiated by LEDs Jean Bikoko Aladin, is to feature a singer accompanied by a guitar.
This music style usually has a percussionist playing the pulsating rhythm with metal forks and knives on an empty bottle.
Instruments for creating Assiko music style
When creating Assiko music, instruments like metal forks and knives, improvised percussion, empty bottle, guitar, drums, double bass, and brass accompany the singer.
African Artists with Assiko Prowess include, but are not limited to;
- Jean Bikoko
- Samson Chaud Gars
- Nikon Mbogol
- Kalyan Edoume (the producer of all-time songs like Une man, Sai Mag, Bolo cellular, and Petit papa.
9. Bongo Flava
Bongoflava or Bongo Flava is a music genre in Tanzania, with its derivatives from traditional Tanzanian style and American hip hop.
The initiation of the Bongo Flava style of music was in the 1990s and is a popular music style among Tanzanian youths today.
The influences of the Bongo Flava style were from afrobeats, R&B, reggae, taarab, hip hop, and dance.
Bongo Flava kind of music is no longer on the shores of Tanzania but in Kenya, Uganda, and in western markets.
It is a music genre that deals with heartbreak, love, hardship, success, and social issues such as poverty and superstition.
African Bongo Flava Artists
African artists with a never-ending career in Bongo Flava music include;
- Ali Kiba
- Diamond Platnumz
- Awilo Longomba
- Harmonize, etc.
Apala music genre first originated by the Yoruba People of Nigeria, but in due course, was influenced by Cuban music.
Apala music is a percussion style that grew more complex, less religious, and popular in Nigeria.
Haruna Ishola, the pioneer and a notable performer of the Apala style of music, popularized the distinct genre.
Top Apala Artists in Africa
African top artists in the apala music style are;
- Solid Star
- Terry Apala
- Afro Nation
- Haruna Ishola and his group
- Lijadu sisters
- Raphael Ajide and Group
- Adebukonla Ajao, etc.
The instruments for ‘apala’ music include thumb piano (agidigbo), rattle (sekere), talking drums, and a bell (agogo).
Benga is a kind of music popular in Kenya that evolved in the capital city of Nairobi between the 1940s and 1960s.
The influence of the emergence of Benga was by Cuban music, soukous, and Congolese fingerstyle guitar.
Benga music has steadily managed its hold as a definite Kenyan style with its sprinkles in Zimbabwe, DR Congo, all African shores.
African Top Benga Artists
African benga artists include;
- Sauti Sol
- Daniel Owino
- Joseph Kamaru
- Lady Wanja
- Diary of an Afro Warrior
- Chapter II, etc.
Instruments for playing benga music include drum kits, electric bass, electric guitars, and traditional Luo instruments.
Kwaito is a type of music that features African sounds and samples and has its emergence in Soweto, South Africa.
With the appearance of Kwaito in the 1990s, it deals in deep basslines, melodic samples, vocals, and percussive loop.
Though the Kwaito style of music has vast similarities with hip hop, Kwaito has a unique manner the lyrics are rapped, sung, and shouted.
Kwaito Musical Instruments
Using instruments like house music beats and kick drums in a four-on-the-floor signature makes Kwaito music easy to recognize.
Popular African Kwaito Artists
Kwaito music can boast of top African artists like;
- Mandla Mofokeng
- Big Nuz
- Boom Shaka
- Snotkop, etc.
What type of music is popular in Africa?
The kinds of music prevalent in Africa are Afrobeat, Rhumba, Benga, Bongo, Kwaito, Ndombolo, etc.
Throughout the history of Africa, music has been an integral part of society, and the continent boasts a rich music culture that has evolved significantly from ancient times to the modern era.
The African musical genres listed above seem to be all over the place on streaming platforms, showing how exciting and eclectic people’s taste of music can be. Even Africans residing within the same city can have different views about music.