As Australia’s home of live music, and a city with an exciting blend of cultures including many African communities, it is no surprise that Melbourne has become the nationwide centre of the Afrobeats movement.
Whether it’s Afrobeat, Afrobeats, Afro-beats or Afrobeatz, and the exact the origins of the music – is not entirely clear. What is entirely clear, is that this intoxicating fusion of traditional African drumming and tribal sounds, mixed with electro, RnB or hip hop – depending on the artist - has taken off big time in Melbourne.
People from all backgrounds, ages and ethnicity are swapping their heels for their runners and turning up in droves to try a class, attend a club night, event or festival showcasing this emerging music genre, its unifying dance moves promising a healthy dose of serotonin.
From bars that have regular Afrobeats nights to large ticketed basement and boat parties, locals and visitors can dip their toes in, or jump in fully-clothed.
Sounds Of Africa organises a variety of specialist music events celebrating African culture. The up-coming SOA Block Party showcases two of Melbourne’s best Afrobeat artists Lowkey and Kudzai. The DJs will be playing the best of Afrobeats, Reggae, Dancehall (a music style originating from Jamaica with its roots in Reggae) Zouk, RnB and Hip Hop. Strict dress code of cocktail style Black & Gold. Saturday July 20th.
Let’s Vibe / Sriracha is another event promoter with a passion for exposing the sounds of Africa to Melbourne. The guys organise a range of events from open mic at Whitehart to summer boat parties and smoking hot ‘Sriracha’ basement parties in the city – organiser and DJ Jerry C’s mix of Hiphop, Afrobeats and electronic music usually means they sell out quick.
Members only Moja Afrobeats offers a more boutique style of event and champions the rapidly emerging movement in Melbourne. Moja is a Swahili word that means 'one'. The mission, to get everyone together through the Afrobeats movement. The downloadable app has more info on events coming up.
Brunswick music house incubator Bar Oussou offers free nightly live music in an intimate space with an international flavor. Sunday nights are dedicated to the Ausecuma Beats - with combined influences from Africa, Cuba, and Australia and a Senegalese Feast to boot. Think peace and happy vibes with people spilling out to dance in the streets.
City centre bank plc basement bar, Marrakesh, becomes Bendo every Thursday. Early arrivals can join the dance class to learn to the moves, and once the night kicks off in earnest, the whole crowd unites in harmony as it moves together, choreographed by top notch instructors from all around the world. Impossible not to join in.
I love Dancehall is a monthly ticketed music night at Brunswick’s Rubix Warehouse. The events have evolved over ten years from traditional Dancehall to now include Afrobeats. Next event planned for July 6th.
Family-friendly cultural events and festivals featuring the stars of Afrobeats.
The Sounds of Africa Festival is an annual family-friendly celebration of African culture, music, food and vibes at Ceres in East Brunswick. From drumming workshops and dance performances, arts and crafts, amazing food and of course DJ’s playing Afrobeats - the event is simply a wonderful day out and introduction to the many diverse and colourful African cultures. The 2019 event will take place on December 7th.
A PBS event in its fourth year, the next Beasts of No Nation will be held Saturday August 31 at Max Watts and will pay homage to the irrefutable king of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti, who will be in Australia for the first time since 2014. His singer-saxophonist, two-time Grammy nominee son, Femi Kuti will be joining the performance. Event co-founders The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra will also perform. With all previous Beasts of No Nation events having sold out, there’s no doubt the 2019 event will do the same
Melbourne African Traditional Ensemble (MATE) is in the line up for the City of Yarra’s popular Leaps and Bounds Music Festival. The Pan African quartet hail from Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa. Traditional instruments and influences create a must-move vibe. The event is organised by AfroHub –a platform for African talent in all its diversity - and Abbotsford Convent.
Sunset Safari at Werribee Open Range Zoo will return for the summer months from November 2019 to March 2020. In this exclusive after-hours and small group event, visitors spend an incredible night out with some of the world’s most iconic animals. While they adventure onto the Savannah for a guided sunset tour and feast with friends at an intimate dinner, they also enjoy immersive performances that showcase the rhythms of Africa by some of Melbourne’s best African percussion and dance experts.
A perfect way to fully understand the appeal of the Afrobeats movement. Dancing and drumming classes of different styles are available all around Melbourne for those who want to sign up to a course, or simply turn up and dance.
Classes are on offer on Thursday nights at the Marrakesh club before the Bendo night kicks off with Afro Caribbean dance styles include Kizomba, a genre of dance and a music originating in Angola and meaning "party", and Zouk, a quick tempo musical style originating from the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. 25 Bank Pl, Melbourne VIC 3000, (03) 9939 1408
Dance Energy Happiness at Jungle City Dance is run by KT or Kwame Tousuma - a well known name in the dancehall scene - and is open to people of any level and fitness. From traditional to modern Afrobeats trends. Jungle City Studios, 7b Level 1, 7-9 Hope Street, Brunswick 3056
Afrikan Soul has a similar offering at Robles Studio in Carlton and proclaims to be 'the home of Kizomba in Melbourne'. Instructors Lam and Kylie have over 25 years of cumulative dance experience between them, in styles diversified across Africa, Cuba and the Dominican. Their first passion and now primary teaching focus is in the related styles of Kizomba, Semba, and African Dance. First floor 171 Lygon Street, Carlton, 0466 635 533
Also, Afro Funk classes with dance and drumming are available at Asanti Dance Theatre on Thursday nights in St Kilda, and African star dance uses some of the top dancers in Melbourne for workshops, dance and drumming classes, they are available for special events and parties and they run regular classes around Melbourne.
Afrobeats music artists around Melbourne
As the city that musos across Australia gravitate to in order to progress their music career, Melbourne has become the home to some of the top and emerging Afrobeats and hip hop artists.
While Sampa the Great's music is more often described as hip hop, she taps into her Zambian roots and works with one of Melbourne's top Afrobeat drumkit players ( Julian Goyma ) on her increasingly popular style of music. Sampa the Great is on a huge global upward trajectory having won many awards and recently played the UK's Glastonbury Festival.
The Senegambian Jazz Band is local outfit that fuses influences from Gambia, Senegal, Ethiopia, Ghana and Australia with jazz and world music beats, they are playing at the Marysville Jazz and Blues Festival October 18 – 20 2019.
Ajak Kwai is one of Melbourne’s top female artists to catch live in concert. Ajak’s music is inspiring and soulful, infused with funky Afrobeats representing the depth and richness of her South Sudanese roots. Her performances are filled with vibrant sounds and her distinctive voice has mesmerised audiences nationally and internationally. Like her contemporary, Lamine Sonko, she is also an important cultural public figure for the Melbourne / African communities.
Lamine has a group called the African Intelligence and is the lead singer in a number of Melbourne’s top Afrobeats ensembles. They play traditional live Afrobeats and afro funk and have performed all around the world.
Digital Afrika is a two piece band with a new EP out that focuses on dance Afrobeats and house and is selling out events and club nights around the city.
Those who are keen to try before they buy, should tune in to renowned international dancer and drummer, Kofi Shabba's Kiss FM 87.6 Sunday show.
So be it a curiosity, a love of dance or a desire to learn more about the eclectic and colouful African communities in Melbourne, visitors and locals alike should jump onboard this movement as its continues its domination of Melbourne, and the world.
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