If music pundits need a gauge of how popular Afrobeats is in Jamaica, they should tune into the Burna Boy concert at Kingston’s National Stadium last December. It drew an estimated 20,000 fans, with thousands more watching via social media.
IceSleek, who like Burna Boy is from Nigeria, is keen to show fans that dancehall music also commands a lot of respect in that West African country where Afrobeats originated.
The Lagos-born singer currently has two songs doing the rounds – ‘Holla’ and ‘Calm Down’. The latter is a collaboration with Worl A Girl, the all-female group that had relative pop success during the 1990s.
‘Holla’ is produced by Nigerian impresario Hardy Jimbaz for his Tuffgig Music Empire. Jimbaz co-produced ‘Calm Down’ with keyboardist Sidney Mills of Steel Pulse fame.
A fan of Buju Banton, Sizzla, Gyptian and Vybz Kartel, IceSleek had recorded several Afrobeats singles before. With Jimbaz at the helm, he ventured into dancehall territory with “Holla.”
“I can say that knowing that the dancehall music is a sparse version of reggae itself, going from the origin of Jamaicans, it’s a type of genre that existed for a long and has gotten a lot of tappings or what you would call borrowings from other genres,” he said.
IceSleek added that dancehall music and Afrobeats share similarities.
“One of the exciting things about dancehall music is the hardcore instrumentals involved, it just finds a way to keep people on their feet. It certainly has no dull moment. As I said, there have been quite some tappings from other genres, just like ‘Holla”, which is Afrobeats but has that reggae/dancehall vibe and flavour.”
Nigeria is one of the music industry’s hot spots, thanks to the Afrobeats explosion. In addition to Burna Boy, that genre has produced heavy hitters such as Davido and Wizkid who are also popular in Jamaica.
The bond between dancehall/reggae and West African music goes back to the 1980s. Sly and Robbie and The Taxi Gang toured the region with Yellowman and Afrobeat king Fela Kuti while Nigerian Majek Fashek was the first reggae act from his country to make a global impact.
IceSleek is aware of the inroads Burna Boy and Stonebwoy from Ghana have made in the tough Jamaican market. He is looking to make a similar mark.
(Photos courtesy of IceSleek)