All the opinions expressed in this article are… Opinions (with some facts though).
Hip-hop and R&B have surpassed rock in the US in the year 2017 for the first time, according to the Nielsen Music Report. Ok, lemme tell it in other words. In the country of Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys, Drake and Rihanna has become trendier than any other modern rock artists. Without jumping into alarmist conclusions, we can basically affirm that if not properly dying, rock music has considerably faded year after year. Maybe because of the lack of innovation? Maybe… But we are not here to analyse the symptoms but to develop a POV: What if the future of rock music was… In Africa?
It sounds almost funny considering the relative impopularity of the genre in the continent but if we look a bit closer, we can notice that the modern rock music is the born on the “ashes” of various African (at least Afro-american) genres like blues and rythm and blues.
Further demonstration of the strong ties between rock and African music is the development of crossover or fusion genres developed by both Afro-American musicians and white rock musicians.
In the late 1960’s, black Americans experimented with the highly popular psychedelic rock and dabble to the then popular hippie culture. It led to the creation of psychedelic soul (also labeled by some musicologists as black rock) that was a fusion a specific soul music with strong elements of psychedelic rock genres pioneered by Afro-American soul and funk acts like Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, The Parliament… In Parallel, black musicians also incorporated rock riffs to funk tropes (syncopation and rhythm) that gave birth to funk rock and even regional scenes like the Minneapolis sound, pioneered by Prince and his delightful package of new wave, rock, funk, R&B and electronica (Yeah of all of these, if you don’t believe just cry with the doves)
Later in the 70’s, with the emergence of an artistic and experimental sensibility among the burgeoning post-punk and new wave scene, rock musicians fascinated with black music (funk and disco), added their characteristics to create upbeat, groovier and danceable version of their rock music, which tried to replicate the rhythm focus of those afro-american genres. Disco-punk and dance-rock became highly popular in clubs both in the mainstream and in the underground scene back in the 80’s. One band is particularly worth mentioning, the american post-punk band Talking Heads, famous for their successful incorporation of black American and afrobeat rhyms in their new wave sounds. Their album “Remain in Light”, influenced by Afrobeat artists like Fela Kuti, managed to find the right balance between polyrythms, syncopation, funky riffs and their new wave roots%(Just listen to their instrumental song “Fela’s Riff” while reading this article).
The evocation of Talking Heads in particular is a brilliant proof that African music (Afrobeat and tribal rhythms) can perfectly be fused to rock to produce a distinct and unique style of rock. When we see the success of some Afrobeat artists like Wizkid worldwide nowadays, the perspective of a true “afro rock” (not only in the sense of a scene but in the sense of an ethic or tribal rock) can pave the way towards a rejuvenation that rock music was lacking those 10 years and which could explain his loss of popularity. Some bands Pioneer in Cameroon are trying to blend the staccato guitars typical of bikutsi and the drum play of Makossa (two ethnic genres in Cameroon) in some bold covers of famous rock hits.
Of Course, I’m not saying that Africans bands should limit their creativeness and be bound to make necessarily rock music with african elements, good music is good music no matter what is done, but rather than duplicating the “old white”, Africans can pave a way to a modern redefinition of rock music.