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Beatmaking Guide: The History of, and How to Make Afrobeats

April 30, 2024 - Learn the history of Afrobeats Music and how you can produce your own Afrobeats songs using Soundtrap or other DAWs.

An Afrobeat artist looking at the camera

In the bustling streets of Lagos, Nigeria, where the sunset sun bathes the terracotta sidewalks, a unique symphony is born that awakens the senses and moves the hearts. It is here, in the pulsating heart of Africa, where drums speak an ancestral language, blending rhythms of old with a modern touch to bring Afrobeats to life.

This vibrant and energetic musical genre is much more than a simple mix of sounds; it is a celebration of life, an invitation to dance that resonates worldwide, from the alleys of Lagos to the most prestigious stages in the world.

The Origins

The drums resonate in the distance, bringing with them the whispers of a story that has been passed down from generation to generation. It is in this setting of tradition and cultural legacy that Afrobeats find their roots.

The term "Afrobeats" first echoed through the streets of Nigeria in the early new millennium, but the music it represents has a history that dates back decades. Fela Kuti, considered the father of Afrobeat, was the genius who laid the foundations of the genre in the 1970s. With his blend of traditional African rhythms and messages of political and social struggle, Fela laid the groundwork for what we now know as Afrobeats.

Development and Evolution

Time moves forward like a steady stream, and with each new generation, music evolves and transforms, keeping the flame of creativity alive. At the dawn of the 21st century, African music began to resonate beyond its borders, attracting the attention of listeners worldwide.

At the epicenter of this musical revolution were Nigerian artists, who embraced Fela Kuti's legacy while forging a path toward the future. Names like D'banj, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, and Davido became spokespersons for a fresh and daring sound that blends African rhythms with the beats of hip-hop, dancehall, and electronic music. This is how modern Afrobeats were born, a blend of tradition and modernity that conquered the hearts and dance floors across the globe.

Global Impact

Afrobeats have experienced a meteoric rise in recent years, expanding their influence beyond the borders of Africa and leaving an indelible mark on the global music scene:

  • Infiltration into Pop Culture: From collaborations with international artists to appearances in movie soundtracks and television shows, Afrobeats are gaining increasing recognition in global pop culture. Their distinctive sound and infectious energy have captured the imagination of audiences worldwide.

  • Dominance on Digital Platforms: With the rise of streaming platforms and social media, Afrobeats artists have found new ways to connect with their fans and reach global audiences. Viral songs and videos have contributed to the widespread diffusion of the genre and have solidified its position in the international music scene.

  • International Festivals and Tours: Music festivals around the world are increasingly incorporating performances by Afrobeats artists into their lineups, and international tours are selling out tickets in cities worldwide. This phenomenon underscores the growing global appetite for African music and the lasting influence of Afrobeats on the contemporary music scene.

Technical Aspects of Afrobeats

Afrobeats are not only recognized for their contagious energy and catchy melodies, but also for their complex technical composition. Here is a breakdown of the key technical aspects that define this genre:

  • Polyrhythm: The essence of Afrobeats lies in its multiple rhythmic patterns intertwining to create a unique sonic foundation. Producers often work with layers of percussion, from traditional drums to electronic sounds like drum machines, to build this complex rhythmic texture.

  • Use of Syncopation: Syncopation plays a crucial role in creating the characteristic sense of movement in Afrobeats. Rhythms often challenge conventional rhythmic expectations, with accents placed in unexpected places to maintain interest and vitality on the track.

  • Innovative Melodic Arrangements: While Afrobeats are known for their distinctive rhythms, melody also plays a significant role in creating their unique sound. Producers often experiment with harmonic progressions and melodic motifs that blend African influences with contemporary elements such as hip-hop and electronic music.

Production Dynamics: Afrobeats production is characterized by its attention to sound dynamics and texture. Producers work meticulously to create a sense of depth and space in the mix, employing techniques such as volume automation and reverberation effects to bring productions to life.

The cover image of Spirit Sound Pack in Soundtrap. Women with sunglasses posing behind logo

How to Make Afrobeats

Music is a creative process that is not limited to following rules or established methods; each person discovers their own way of creating. However, here we will see a series of steps that you should keep in mind if you are starting in the world of Afrobeats and production in general, which will help make your creative process more efficient:

Step 1: Preparation

Define in your mind what kind of sound you want to achieve in your beat; this will be a crucial step that will define the result, as it will be from here that you will start making decisions like tempo, mood, instrumentation, structure, etc. With Soundtrap's Spirit sound pack you can find great ideas from premade afrobeat loops and samples to get started in the world of Afrobeats.

Step 2: Organization and Setup

Open a new project in Soundtrap (or the DAW of your choice) and get access to all the tools you need to create your beat, assign a specific name, and it will be saved automatically (if you use another DAW, always keep your files organized, this will help you find your projects more easily and avoid the risk of losing any). Assign a BPM to your session, afrobeats generally range from 95 to 115 bpm.

Step 3: Define the Instrumentation

Define which will be the main elements of your beat, which percussions you will use, which instrument will take care of the main motif of your beat, and which instruments will accompany and be present (bass, leads, pads, effects, etc.). 

Keep in mind that the essence of Afrobeats is natural sounds; instruments like marimbas, guitars, winds, keyboards like a Rhodes, etc. Start with a simple instrument base and then you can add other elements; remember, production is a creative process, and you can experiment with the elements you want, but also think about the aesthetics of each musical style so you don't deviate from the goal you want to achieve with your beat.

Step 4: Building

You can start creating in many ways, so you can get an idea with the following order:

  1. Create a simple chord progression of 4 or 8 bars; try using suspended chords or chords with sevenths and ninths to color and make the sound more interesting. 

  2. Over this progression, create a simple melody; a trick you can use is to place the same notes of the chord in different places, with different durations and even in other octaves; it is safe to sound good and will give you a basis for creating the main melody of your beat.

  3. Continue by making a solid rhythm base with a kick and a snare with one of the Afrobeats patterns that you like the most, and continue adding layers of percussion such as shakers, congas, and bongos, hi hats, drums, etc. You can even use a couple of rhythmic vocals to give a different touch to your rhythm base.

  4. Add a bass that complements your base; this will be one of the main elements to give passage and groove to your beat. You can start by using the main note of each chord with its octave and its fifth.

  5. Once you have the main elements of your beat, start structuring it; you can try using your harmonic base and your melody from the beginning with one of the percussions you used for your rhythm base as an introduction and start adding elements depending on the section you want.

  6. To complement, you can use other elements that add to your instrumental; they can be pads, secondary melodies or counter-melodies, audio effects or vocal chops, etc.

Remember, many elements do not translate into good sound; analyze each instrument or sound you want to add very well and think if it is really necessary, many times simple things work much better than something complex and confusing.

Read more: How To Make Pro Beats: Step-by-Step Guide.


These are some tips that can help you:

  • Vary the melody octave in different sections to generate a fresh sound.

  • Create an intriguing introduction that sets the mood for the song. Then, gradually build energy throughout the track.

  • Incorporate breakdown and build-up sections to maintain the listener's attention and create anticipation before key moments in the song.

  • Add subtle changes in percussion, melody, and rhythm throughout the song to keep it interesting. You can experiment with filters, automation, and effects to create exciting dynamics.


Afrobeats are not just music; they are a reminder that creativity knows no bounds. From the roots of Fela Kuti to its current development globally, this genre teaches us the importance of staying connected to our roots while embracing change. 

As we delve into the creation of Afrobeats, let us remember that true innovation arises from the fusion of tradition and experimentation. May every rhythm and melody we create be a tribute to diversity and a reminder that music has the power to unite the world in harmony, and every day, let us make use of comprehensive tools like Soundtrap to take our music to another level.

About the author

Odiseo is a music producer and mixing and mastering engineer with experience ranging from music creation as a session and concert musician, beatmaker, live sound engineer, and recording engineer, to audio production for short films, providing a broad perspective on technical concepts and musical skills to take music to another level.

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