Oyebade Dosunmu

Oyebade Dosunmu holds a PhD in ethnomusicology and a certificate in African studies from the University of Pittsburgh. He has delivered papers at international conferences, and is currently editing two anthologies of African music. His research interests include music and politics, and transnationalism in music. Oyebade teaches at the University of Pittsburgh.



"Lagos, New York City and Transnational Afrobeat Culture"

Afrobeat emerged in the late 1960s in Lagos, Nigeria. The genre was created by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti (1938-1997), who described it as a new sound with an African personality and global appeal. Drawing on various styles of the Black Atlantic, afrobeat exuded a distinctively Lagosian ethos, its dissonant timbres embodying the urban chaos of the metropolis. However, it would take three long decades for the genre to attain a large scale international following. After Fela’s death, new afrobeat protégés sprang up in cosmopolitan centers worldwide. New York City, particularly, assumed a key role in this global diffusion, as it was there that the most prominent post-Fela afrobeat bands were resident. The 1990s saw such bands undertaking intensive international tours that brought afrobeat to yet newer devotees, sparking a transnational movement. Just as Lagos provided the urban setting that nurtured afrobeat during its formative years, New York City has become the epicenter of the genre’s contemporary life, bringing the genre into contact with new sets of aesthetic, social and cultural values.

This paper, based on fieldwork conducted in Lagos and New York City from 2007 to 2008, chronicles afrobeat’s Lagos—New York City migration, highlighting negotiations of identity played out as the genre inscribes New York City’s urban ethos. Like the city itself, New York’s afrobeat bands are diverse, consisting of musicians from multiple racial and musical backgrounds. This broadening of cultural space, I argue, has been pivotal in the formation of a contemporary transnational afrobeat culture.

My Speakers Sessions

Sunday, March 25

2:15pm EDT