United Kingdom-based Afrobeat producer Benjybwoy says that dancehall’s overused themes of slackness and violence are becoming “stale”, whereas, Afrobeat, which borrows the best of dancehall, is seen as happy.
Out of an abundance of concern, the producer is trying to make his voice heard in the continuing debate about dancehall music and the direction in which it is heading. Quite emphatic that he is a firm supporter of the genre, Benjybwoy, whose real name is Benjamin Asabi, points out that the pervasive themes of sexuality and violence, along with the much talked-about disunity, are ills that only serve to assault the dancehall space.
And while he does not fully acknowledge that the genre is an imminent threat to dancehall, he pointed out that Afrobeat “is certainly moving in the right direction”.
“The music is happy, positive vibes and if it can manage to keep its originality then the future is bright,” the producer, who was born in London to Nigerian parents, said.
Benjybwoy has been residing in the UK from the early ’90s and, according to him, most of his friends have been Jamaican. “Dancehall was the real deal then and I have been a big fan of the music since then and now,” he stressed.
Lack of creativity
But he questions the level of real creativity, as evidenced by some of the songs. “Slackness songs have gone to another level and most of them are radio-unfriendly,” Asabi, who has worked with several upcoming Afrobeat artistes back home in his native Nigeria stated.
“Badman, violent lyrics are becoming stale, and the negativity generally affects the perception of dancehall. Gone are the days when artistes get cheap ‘forward’ for homophobic slurs,” he cautioned.
Benjybwoy highlighted the lack of unity in dancehall as a serious issue affecting the genre. “Certain artistes will not voice with certain producers and vice versa and the whole juggling become wishy-washy,” he said, echoing the concerns of producers in Jamaica.
He recently released his first official EP, the Hurricane Africa Riddim which consists of four artistes, three of whom are from Jamaica – Real VI, Frass Hill, Sassipearila and Billie Jean, along with Eyetal Fyah from Zimbabwe. “The whole idea was to encourage local dancehall talents to align with the huge, booming Afrobeat market,” he told The Gleaner.
He notes that the rise of Afrobeat has highlighted the continent of Africa in a positive way. “It has opened a lot of doors for the artistes to showcase their talents to the world. The entertainment industry in Africa, Nigeria to be precise, is growing and its job empowerment is also giving the masses hope in the quest for a better life.”
According to Benjybwoy, the main exponents of Afrobeat are doing a great job of representing and their impact is global.
“Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy from Ghana are up there. Burnaboy just sold out Wembley Arena, making him the first African to sell out Wembley. Wiz Kid sold out O2 arena about two weeks ago. Davido did the same early this year. Tiwa Savage is huge as well and no surprise, they are all featured on Beyoncé’s latest album.”
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