Issue 1 : Fall 2010

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What is AfroBeat?

AfroBeat Journal is a multimedia, interactive journal dedicated to the cultural and artistic expressions of African-descended people. Our goal is to facilitate the discussion between scholars, artists in all media, savants, believers, and fans about African and African Diaspora cultural forms, and to publish original content from all these vectors. Everyone is welcome to participate and contribute work for publication, bearing in mind our overall trajectory.

This journal has been a long time in coming. We’ve gone through many conceptual incarnations, missteps, and technological challenges, until we’ve finally produced the first, of what we plan to be many, AfroBeat Journals. To begin, I must thank the co-founder, co-collaborator on the Journal, Wuyi Jacobs. AfroBeat was his idea, as a core part of his overall vision for a global multimedia African network (see AfrobeatRadio.Net), beginning with his talk show on WBAI Pacifica Radio (99.5 FM in NYC), AfrobeatRadio. I would also like to give my enormous gratitude to all our contributors and advisors, who have waited so patiently for this first issue, and of course, to the Global Cultures Committee, in the Global Liberal Studies Program at NYU, who gave us our start-up funding, and to Mark Bajkowski, who worked within the constraints of our budget, so tirelessly and diligently, to create our site. A special “Modupe” must also go to our brother and friend, Bolaji Campbell, who so graciously gave us his artwork to use as our background images.

Our first issue is dedicated to Fela, and is titled “What is AfroBeat?” We asked our feature article writers to give their specific take on the term, and as a result, we’ve yielded an amazing result. Derek Pardue takes us to Brazil and the centrality of Hip Hop cultural formation. Kyra Gaunt speaks to the questions of African identity and identification in Africana-America, and Sefi Atta brings it right to Fela’s door, speaking of her personal experience with Fela as an uncle. We, of course, take inspiration from Fela, as the quintessential multimedia, multidimensional creative artist, but for us, AfroBeat is the beating heart of inspiration that comes from African derived cultural forms.

Our multimedia capacity gives the journal its unique visual and auditory range. Hence, you can listen to an interview about Fela’s life, see clips of a performance, and engage in dialogue with our authors and audience on our blog site.  We can view the renderings of upcoming artists like Meera Dugal, an iconic "Jazziz" like Enid Farber, look at the performances of one of the most amazing Fela acolytes, Wunmi, and listen to her share her journey in an interview on AfrobeatRadio, and of course, interact with different aspects of “Felabration” to understand what made our titular deity so extraordinary.  The contributors to our poetry and prose sections are as multifaceted, transnational, and acclaimed as we hope the journal will be.  SuAndi, a well-known poet and performance artist, and the Director of the Black Arts Alliance in the UK links the creative spirit that emboldened a Michael Jackson and leads to his end, to the same destructive arch that squelches black genius. Guellwaar, a celebrated songwriter and poet, from Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, shares with us his take on the colonization of the city, through the voice of its proponent, Thomé da Souza.  Jacqueline Bishop’s homage to her grandmother and the beauty of the Jamaican countryside attest to her breath as a poet, artist, writer, and scholar, so do look at our embedded slide show of her art and poetry. And, Omofolabo Ajayi-Soyinka, scholar, acclaimed dancer and choreographer, reclaims her intimate relation and special love for Fela and his music as both a family member and devotee to the continuation of Afro-Beat music by his sons, Femi and Seun.

Our prose writers are as uncompromising in their artistry as the rest of our contributors. We take pleasure in publishing the work of a new, upcoming writer, Kaitlyn Greenidge. Kaitlyn brings us squarely into the question of a black identity and the issues behind its formation. Pamela Booker and Keli Garrett, both well-established writers, show the importance of its formation. Pamela leads us to talk about aesthetics and its visibility on the black body, and Keli, satirically takes us to the very reason an alternate consciousness had to be formulated by black peoples in the diaspora.

Big up! to all these wordsmiths and artists. So join us in our blog discussions. Tell all your friends and family about us. And stay tuned for the next AfroBeat Journal, which will follow the theme “African Rhythms, Roots Culture” in homage to Randy Weston.

In Felabration, Ashe-O.

Cheryl Sterling, Ph.D.


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