Afrobeat was in vogue some years ago. Everyone was looking at Africa for inspiration especially in the music and words of Fela Kuti, the great Nigerian musician who fathered Afrobeat from West Africa’s Highlife and the Afro-American funk that he encountered after being in contact with the Black Panthers in the US. In the West, the independent music scene was in crisis, and Afrobeat seemed to offer a good opportunity to redeem Western musicians who, before an empty and depoliticized present, thought that ‘becoming Africans’ could gave them a surplus much needed in the industry. The great drummer and composer of Africa ’70, Tony Allen began touring around, appearing in every festival in the West, and collaborating in every new record made. Some bands began to include musicians from the African diaspora who were used to legitimize the bands as a colorful extra and helped to authenticate rhythms and lyrics. Afrobeat was everywhere. It came from the West and reclaimed some glorious past lost in the ‘darkness’ of African history. In countries like Brazil, but also in the US, Afrobeat served for the (white) elites to discovered the African heritage without having to feel uncomfortable about it. It is a very strange thing if we consider that Brazil has the second largest black population in the world. Somehow, in a twisted rework of the Hegelian Master-Slave dialectic addressed by Frantz Fanon, the West acknowledged so its dependence on the African musical tradition without acknowledging Africa’s independence from its world view.
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