Documentary Review- Afrobeats: The Backstory

Not to be confused with Afrobeat (the musical genre pioneered by the inimitable Fela), Afrobeats (distinguished with emphasis on the ‘S’) is a nomenclature of convenience conjured to pigeonhole a distinctive 5-beat pattern musical genre that has taken the world, quite literally, by storm.

Being the bride, it seems, everyone now wants to court notwithstanding, Afrobeats is not just a recent fad but a musical/cultural phenomenon with roots boring deep decades back and tentacles spread over borders and musical genres.

It is this rich and storied history behind the heritage of Afrobeats that lawyer, filmmaker, actor, talent manager and passionate cultural curator, Ayo Shonaiya, expertly tells within the runtime of a 12-part Docu-series streaming on Netflix.

Like the musical genre whose heritage it seeks to tell, The Backstory starts out with a 5-beat pattern setting the tone upon which it builds a layered and storied history dating back to the 60s (that laid down the bass) through the 90s (that provided the rhythm) berthing in 2007/2008 (that provided the hook) and right down to present day (that has suffused everyone in the irresistible refrain of the Afrobeats sound).

Almost as if fate had designed it and save for its origins in the 60/70s, the one constant that seemed to pervade the other decades of the development of the Afrobeats genre is Ayo Shonaiya and his camera chronicling the history of Afrobeats and its purveyors like a curating troubadour travelling through time to capture its several iterations.

The Backstory puts you smack dab in the studios, hoists you on stage, gives you an all-access pass backstage, brings you face-to-face with the originators and current creators, gives you a peep into the early days of today’s biggest Afrobeats stars, takes you on a nostalgic memory ride/cultural experience, waltzes you in an out of night clubs, indoor/street concerts, Television/Radio stations, ushers you across borders and continents and all the while feeding your aural sense with hit songs from yesteryears, club bangers from today and immersing you in an invaluable cultural education on the origin, history and future of Afrobeats.9.5/10

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Esosa Omo-Usoh

Lawyer, movie reviewer, music lover, one time regular writer of unhappy poems inspired by Rock songs, daydreamer and people watcher… in that order.