If you have never heard of Afro rock, I forgive you. I am also sorry to tell you that Afro rock is not some large stone monument shaped like an afro somewhere on our planet, it is something much better actually. Afro (African) rock is a genre of music, though probably not the kind that you will hear on the oldies or classic hit station in your home town. While you may have never heard of it, I assure you that it exist, and the sounds of 1970’s Nigeria can attest to that.
Coming out of the Biafran War, after American and British musicians made 1967’s Summer of Love soundtrack, Nigerian music began to grow in new directions, experimenting in both themes and style to create it’s own special brand of music often called Afro rock/psychedelia; a genre with a very broad sound and definition. These artist’s drew influence heavily from the funk and soul traditions while incorporating native African rhythms, languages, and instruments like shekeres, congas, and flutes, often replacing the mind bending reverb, drones, and other aspects typical to psychedelic musical practice. This sound spread to neighboring countries in west Africa and evolved over the years to influence Afrobeat, African Blues, and eventually spread across the continent. The origins of Afro rock go largely unnoticed, but record labels such as Analog Africa and Soundway Records have been dedicated to collecting the rich historic past of the bands who helped create it. The World Ends: Afro-Rock & Psychedelia in 1970’s Nigeria, African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic sounds from Benin & Togo, World Psychedelic sounds 3: Loves a Real Thing, the Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa. All of these compilation albums feature bands and artists who were key creators of an Afro rock sound who did so by simply making great music which also represented themselves. Africa may not be one of the first continents to come up in a discussion on rock music, but the artistry and quality of Afro rock music spanning from its origins to its present-day descendants, makes be believe that it should be.
Written by Chad Onianwa, host of Radio Afrika on Tuesdays @ 8PM.