What does the new genre afro swing sound like and what does it offer music fans?
The emergence of afro swing onto the British musical arena has gathered a deserved amount of heat. As the artistic community has done at the conception of most other sub-genres, we must ask some important questions: what sets this genre apart from its predecessors? How will it fit in to our musical landscape? How can we define it?
Unsurprisingly, there has been a backlash in the media – especially from afrobeat artists – against the growing popularity of afro-swing. The contention is that this genre, in the early stages of its development, is being performed by artists who have no respect for its bashment, dancehall or reggae roots. Their concern is that the resulting sound becomes faddish or unauthentic. This opinion was publically voiced by Grime artist Chipmunk, via his twitter account;
Loving how everyone's turnt into a Jamaican artist these days without giving bashment / dancehall or reggae any credit.
— Chipmunk (@OfficialChip) April 28, 2017
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Nevertheless, despite its criticism, afro swing is beginning to outshine afrobeat. Whilst UK afrobeat is directly comparable to its African counterpart- albeit sung in English- afro swing welcomes a variety of other cultural influences. Afro swing can be defined by its amalgamation of African-influenced melodic rap hooks and Caribbean chord progressions. It borrows the percussive sounds of afrobeat, the basslines of bashment and UK trap bars. At the centre of a British, African and Jamaican crossroads, afrobeat stands. Like a colourful melting pot of pidgin English, Creole, Lingala and local slang, this eclectic genre rejects expectations that black British artists must solely stick to their musical roots.
It is perhaps for this reason then, that the fall of afrobeat welcomed the birth of afro swing; afro beat did not manage to stay as inclusive- and therefore appealing to the masses- as afro swing or grime seems to have been.
But can we pin down an exact definition of this apparently fluid sub-genre? As hard as it may be, there are a handful of artists- and their respective songs- that we can confidently label afro swing. In recent memory, we’ve had Kojo Funds, Not3s, Yxng Bane, Lotto Boyz and of course, J-Hus. The release of ‘Common Sense’ helped to successfully galvanise afro swing into the mainstream charts. Whether you keep up with contemporary music or not, you’d have a hard time evading some of J-Hus’ instantly recognisable tracks, such as ‘Did You See’, ‘Bouff Daddy’ and ‘Lean & Bop’.
ARTICLE: More on Genre Defying Lotto Boyz
So, who coined this particular sound, ‘afro swing’? Sometimes called trapfrobeat or afrobashment, it was first, more eloquently labelled ‘afro swing’ by London-born Ghanaian singer Kojo Funds in 2017, who has made songs with Mista Silva. Best known for his tracks ‘Anaconda’, ‘Arriba!’ and ‘Want From Me’, Kojo Funds gained fame in 2016 with the release of his debut single ‘Robbery’ on iTunes. However, it could be argued that the very first example of afro swing was actually heard a few years before this, in 2014. The chorus of Mover’s track ‘Ringtone’ (sung by Timbo) has the kind of patois delivery and Jamaican-influenced melody that we might recognise nowadays as afro swing.
Whatever your take on afro swing may be, it has clearly become a sound that cannot be ignored. Its catchy combination of UK trap, rap & drill, dancehall and afrobeat can be seen as a representation of the kind of cultural diversity Britain enjoys today. This fresh sub-genre celebrates the plethora of similarities and differences that are intrinsic to contemporary British society and gives young artists the opportunity to borrow sounds from around the globe.
Will it prove faddish, or like grime, will it be a genre to stay? Time will tell.
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