Northwestern Events Calendar


Afrobeats: Lower Frequencies of Contemporary African Sounds

When: Friday, October 20, 2023
All day  

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Dotun Ayobade  

Group: Afrobeats: Lower Frequencies of Contemporary African Sounds

Co-Sponsor: Program of African Studies

Category: Lectures & Meetings, Academic


Contemporary African music, indexed as Afrobeats, is having a global moment. A cadre of emerging and established artists as well as the pulsating dance-music they produce has emerged in the most unlikely of spaces, from the World Cup, an NBA All-stars game, a Netflix documentary to late-night shows and award ceremonies. The electronic sounds have enlisted dedicated listeners from across the world, shaping the soundscapes of everything from street carnivals, everyday private/public transport, and nightclubs, digital forms to user-created music playlists. And yet to say Afrobeats is “hot” right now implies the faddish, a fleetingness at odds with its decades-long links with contemporary African and Black popular culture. Like the faddish, the commonplace emphasis on the “catchy” beats of Afrobeats also underplays the deeply affective, emotional, and political meaning it carries for the publics that subscribe to it. On a certain level, the risk of understating the moment feels apt for a music category pulsated long before it found a name, “Afrobeats.” The “s” at once marking the elasticity and spaciousness with which it contains a host of musical genres and how it easily seeps into non-musical cultural arenas. In other words, global turn to Afrobeats has far outpaced the trickling of intellectual output on the subject; Afrobeats also exceeds both narrow disciplinary considerations and neoliberal tropes around Africa’s ascendancy even as it forcefully showcases African youth creativity. Scholars, thinkers, cultural workers, artists, and activists are invited to a day-long interdisciplinary symposium that examines the multifaceted dimensions of Afrobeats as a noteworthy musical, historical, and cultural event. Papers are encouraged to consider the lower frequencies of said event: the affective, the unlikely, the “little explored,” “the quiet parts,” “the easily overlooked,” “ambivalent explorations,” the “beneath-the-beat.” Presenters are also encouraged to consider the expansive cultural universe of Afrobeats beyond the lyrical. The symposium will take place on Friday, October 20th, 2023, at the Evanston campus of Northwestern University.

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