Reconstructing Afrobeat as a Scene-Based Genre


  • Aaron Carter-Ényì Morehouse College
  • David Àìná Lagos State University
  • Quintina Carter-Ényì University of Georgia
  • O’dyke Nzewi Independent Scholar



cultural production, Afrobeat, highlife, funk, genre classification


In 1960s–70s Lagos, a nascent musical movement formed fusing West African highlife and American popular music, fortified by James Brown’s 1970 tour of West Africa. Political corruption was confronted by music, catapulting Felá Kuti to international fame and silencing ?égún Bucknor. Kuti’s positive impact is diminished because Afrobeat became more of a brand than a genre among international audiences. Evidence from an audio survey (n=168) conducted in Nigeria, musical analysis, ethnographic fieldwork, the blogosphere and a reexamination of the scholarly literature and music journalism supports an alternate history of Lagosian music, contesting the accounts of musicologist Chris Waterman and sociologist Jennifer Lena, among others. Based on converging evidence, we offer a resolution to the competing claims of creating Afrobeat from Orlando Julius and Felá Kuti: the genre developed as part of a new social scene that emerged in Lagos during the Nigerian Civil War.

Author Biographies

  • Aaron Carter-Ényì, Morehouse College

    Aaron Carter-Ényì is Assistant Professor of Research at Morehouse College, Atlanta, USA, serving the Division of Humanities, Media, Social Sciences, and the Arts. He holds a PhD from Ohio State University (2016), was a Fulbright Student in 2013, a 2017 Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a Fulbright Scholar in 2019, and 2022 Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

  • David Àìná, Lagos State University

    Olúdáisí David Àìná is a Nigerian musicologist, composer/arranger, organist, and conductor. He currently teaches piano, voice, theory and conducting in the Department of Theatre Arts and Music, Lagos State University, Ọ̀jọ́, Nigeria.

  • Quintina Carter-Ényì, University of Georgia

    Quintina Carter-Ényì is a doctoral student and teaching assistant at the University of Georgia, where she was a 2019 Georgia Innovation Now Fellow. She frequently offers workshops in African instrument-making at colleges and universities.

  • O’dyke Nzewi, Independent Scholar

    O’dyke Nzewi is an African classical drummer, choreographer and composer of indigenous African ensemble music. He has a Master’s in Music from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, where as the Education and Research Manager of the Center for Indigenous Instrumental Music and Dance Practices for Africa (CIIMDA), in the Southern African Development Communities (SADC) he trained school music teachers on the use of indigenous musical arts performance practice for classroom music education.


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How to Cite

Carter-Ényì, A., Àìná, D., Carter-Ényì, Q., & Nzewi, O. (2024). Reconstructing Afrobeat as a Scene-Based Genre. Journal of World Popular Music, 10(2), 208–234.