http://content.omroep.nl/ghettoradio/musicblog/wizkid_azonto.mp3 Right-click to DOWNLOAD Wizkid's Azonto (freestyle)
This is very reminiscent of what happened when B-Boys discovered DJ Kool Herc extending the length of James Brown breaks (the popular parts of his songs where he famously ‘gave the drummer some’) and started dancing in those breaks. Whatever they were doing before came to be known as ‘break dancing’. More importantly, a new form of music was born: hip-hop. It too was described as a fad. Thirty or so years on though, hip-hop has become an all-conquering mainstay of American (if not global) culture. More than a form of music, it is a culture.
The above paragraph is an excerpt from "Azonto: the dance, the music & the mindset", probably the most well-informed article we've read about Azonto. It's over at Dust Accra magazine, and the writer is making the point that Azonto represents the potential of hiplife to evolve into something more.
It also, we think, represents a confidence boost for Ghanaian musicians. Sure, Hiplife and GHRap were going great, but many Ghanaian musicians still felt a little overshadowed by the hit factory a coupe of doors away, aka Nigeria. It wasn't unknown, for instance, for some of the less confident Ghanaian musicians to try copying the Nigerian accent (in truth the accent of Lagosians). And you couldn't really blame them when many Ghanaian music fans seemed to prefer music from Nigeria to what was being produced at home.
But Azonto consigned that sort of thing to the bins of history. Azonto is all Ghanaian - it's not copying anybody and it's not an import like hardcore rap which nobody understands. To date though, it has remained a Ghanaian thing: it's spreading all over the world but the music is all made by Ghanaian artists.
But all successful styles of music eventually attract artists from "elsewhere" who want to try their hand at the new thing, and it might be time for Nigerian artists, at least, to pay compliments to Ghana.
The above freestyle by Nigerian artist Wizkid is the first Azonto track by a Nigerian artist we've come across. It's just a freestyle, but it doesn't sounds like he just did it as a bit of fun. No sure yet if this is a one-off or the start of a new phase in Azonto, but we rather hope so. As was the case with hip-hop, it would be interesting to see what artists from other parts of the world do with the music part of this "new" style. Azonto will really have arrived she that happens.