The AfroBeatles

It makes sense to me that the evolutionary path of music would lead us to the mashup. Although it weirded me out in the first few seconds, I’ll never forget Natalie Cole’s televised performance of “Unforgettable” with her father Nat King as a ghostly hologram singing beside her.  The intersection of music and technology today makes new creative juxtapositions and conversations like that one real, organic, and less freakish.

The Beatles’ significant contributions to the world of music are praised and adored, fraught with tension and politics, provoke debate, and feed the imaginations of many. The extent of their popularity and global recognition is vast; they too can boast, as their mother country once did that theirs is “the Empire upon which the sun never sets.”

Nigeria, rich in oil and thick with a labor force, was for a long time, a crown jewel in that Empire.  Today it is the most populous country in Africa and the eighth most populous in the world.  And while one might say that for certain someone in Nigeria has heard of the Beatles, in Nigeria, everyone, yes everyone knows who Fela Anikulapo Kuti is.

Although on the surface it may look like one—Black vs. White, Colonizer vs. Colonized, Afrobeat vs. Rock and Roll—this is not a contest, or a battle.  And while it certainly isn’t always a lovefest—”Get Back/Colonial Mentality” reminds me of where we really are—these pairings by AfroBeatles, particularly “All Together Now/Ako,” make me hopeful about where we may go.

Alicia H. Hines

Alicia is a contributor to TechniColor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life, and a Dean, and English Professor at The Horace Mann School

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