On May 27, Netflix will premiere a new 12-part docuseries about Afrobeats. The Ayo Shonaiya-produced series, titled Afrobeats: The Backstory, premiered in April 2021 at the Filmhouse Cinema in Lagos, Nigeria. The project chronicles the origin and development of the genre through the eyes of well-known Nigerian entertainers and music professionals, using previously unreleased footage shot over a 20-year period.
Afrobeats is popular in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana, and it combines traditional African sounds such as highlife with Western genres such as hip hop, R&B, and electronic music.
“When I was called into music in 1999, I took my camera along with me for the journey, not knowing that I was documenting the birth of what we call Afrobeats today, Shonaiya said. “This is a story of my work in the music industry and business over 20 years, with never-before-seen footage of how we built this genre and industry into what it is today.”
Last year, the filmmaker, who has managed Afrobeats musicians such as D’Banj, eLDee, and Don Jazzy, told Punch(link is external) that the work “is about the sound of this new popular music – its origins from highlife and Afrobeat; from Fela to Ghana, to the UK, and to the world.” During my documentary research, I looked into the connection between old and new Afrobeats.”
“This project, although 20 years in the making, took me two years to complete. It is coming out at a time when we are now winning Grammys. I must say this though, making a documentary instead of a feature film was also a strategy for me, as we do more entertaining than educating in Nigeria nowadays, so this is a mixture of both. It is like a history lesson with a musical soundtrack,” Shonaiya said.
Afrobeats is gaining popularity around the world as a result of the work of Nigerian musicians such as Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Davido, Burna Boy, and CKay. Afro Nation, a popular Afrobeats festival brand, partnered with Billboard in March to launch the Billboard US Afrobeats Songs chart, which ranks the top 50 songs in the genre in the United States. Afro Nation launched the weekly Official Afrobeats Chart on BBC Radio 1Xtra two years prior.