Words Francesca Adjei
DJ Abrantee, one of the main people responsible for taking Afrobeats from the underground to the centre stage, is about to go one step further. The London-based Choice FM drive-time DJ has just released the compilation CD Afrobeats – The Ultimate Collection. It features 30 tracks from the likes of P-Square, Wande Coal, WizKid, Atumpan, R2bees and Davido plus exclusive remixes by Conor Maynard, Ne-Yo and Lemar.
Somewhere between flights, being on air and organising the next Afrobeats Sundays (a popular music event in London), ARISE caught up with the busy DJ to discuss music and the future for the Afrobeats genre.
We've heard a fan call you the "Funkmaster Flex of Afrobeats." Are you comfortable with people branding you as one of the masterminds of the Afrobeats takeover in the UK?
That’s funny, I love Funkmaster Flex. It’s a great honour to even be mentioned in that capacity, however this is much bigger than me. I just love what I do and after championing the music genre for a while, I believed that the sound could go mainstream if packaged properly. I’m certainly not the main reason but I guess with everything new and emerging someone gets recognised and I’m thankful to Choice FM for giving me the opportunity and platform to get the music across to a whole new audience.
How difficult was it to get mainstream radio to play Afrobeats?
It was difficult convincing radio bosses that there was a market to tap into. Although Afrobeats has been around since the 1970s, there wasn't any proven UK sales figures to show them that it had any commercial appeal. I had to submit a demo like every other DJ and thankfully they liked it. I got the all clear for a trial and not only was it an instant success by trending on Twitter, phone lines buzzing off the hook, emails and text requests to reload, but it also drew in new listeners.
Afrobeats has evolved from being a specialist show to now playing on drive-time slots and Afrobeats artists are recording with the likes of Akon, Kanye West and Rick Ross. What first hand experiences do you have of this renaissance?
It seems to be received with open arms whenever and wherever I’m playing it. I’m sure there are a lot of people who still don’t like it and may never get it but overall I’ve had a really positive response. These artists are making great, commercially viable music that appeals to the masses. D’Banj’s Oliver Twist is a prime example. It’s still on heavy rotation up and down the country.
Why release an Afrobeats compilation CD?
It was inevitable. As a DJ you’re expected to have some sort of mixtape out and people had been asking me for years. I took my time and waited until it felt right. I wanted to present Afrobeats to the UK market like it had never been presented before so I waited until there were enough Afrobeats artists or tracks that were playlisted and attempting chart positions. Now is that time and it was worth the wait.
Which international artist would you like to see collaborate on future Afrobeats tracks?
50 Cent, Game, Beyonce and Usher.
Who’s your favourite Afrobeats artist at the moment?
It’s hard to have a favourite for more than one day as these artists are making records so frequently.
But if you had to choose?
[He laughs] Any artists that I play are my favourites.
Ok, what do you think the future holds for Afrobeats?
It’s very promising. As long as these artists keep making good music with the continuous support from the fans, buying public, DJs, promoters, radio stations and record companies there will always be a demand for it.
What’s next for DJ Abrantee?
I’ve got a few events lined up this year including the very popular Afrobeats Sundays and the Afrobeats UK Club Tour.
Afrobeats – The Ultimate Collection, out now on iTunes
Catch DJ Abrantee’s Afrobeats set on Choice FM every Saturday from 12am-2am and head to abrantee.com for more information.