Sheila O Talks Afrobeats: ‘It’s Really About Love’

by Yah Yah
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SMC: What is it about the spirit of Afrobeat that is so infectious?

Sheila O: It’s non-threatening. Afrobeat music is non-threatening. It makes you want to dance. It’s just elevating, it’s the sound, it’s the music, and it’s what they say, mostly the beats. Music started from Africa from our gongs to our shekeres, to our beating the sticks or whatever we do. Even if you go to Brazil, you go to Columbia, whatever, you would hear some African sounds in everything they do.

So all Afrobeat did was make it easier. Afrobeat just merged, made it easier to be able to have Afro-fusion, whereby you now have Afro-trap, Afro-house, Afro-hip hop, Afro-trap, Afro everything like I always say. So Afrobeat is just the genre of music that’s hot right now, and it’s also a lifestyle and a culture.

I see Afrobeat in the future just being exactly… It’s probably going through what hip hop went through right now. And because it’s a lifelong culture, it’s easy to observe it. It’s easy to relate to it. You’ve heard the sound before, but now it’s just played in a way that you can understand it better and dance with it better. So I think it’s just crazy, you go to a club, even if you don’t want to dance, once the beats come up, you start. You sad, once the beats come up, you smile, and there’s no sexualization or anything to do with religion or whatever. It’s not hardcore. It doesn’t also promote violence. It doesn’t. So I know every now and then if you guys would swear whatever, but it’s just because they’re being cool. But if you listen, it doesn’t promote violence. It’s just really about love. It’s really about love, and it’s just good music.

SMC: How would you have liked to have made your mark in history?

Sheila O: Bridging the gap. It’s one of our slogans. I say that going full circle, bridging the gap. I started my career, taking A-list artists, speakers, athletes from here, the Western world to Africa, given the African artists the experience to know what a writer is, to know how to perfect their show, to know how to step up their game, getting them to listen to speakers. I’ve taken presidents to Africa. I’m just taking loads of people to Africa. So now I’ve done that, now I’m doing the reverse. Now I’m taking Africa to the Western world, bringing the music, bringing the lifestyle, and bringing the culture to Africa with my show, the only Afrobeat show on a major FM US dial. So I’m bridging the gap, and I want to be remembered as someone who did the due and not just the talk.

I say that because there’s a big disconnect with African Americans and Africans. And there really shouldn’t be because there’s more that connects us than separates us. So a lot of people talk about it, some don’t even talk about it, it’s that topic you want to not address or act like it’s not there, but it is there. But the only way we can bridge the gap is through knowledge, and that’s what I’m doing. I give away free trips to Africa every year, all expenses paid for.

So I have people just regular people, regular folks like me, come up to win tickets, come out with us through our concerts, experience the country, and do tourism. When I take artists out there, it’s not just about doing a show. I always say leave a day or two to go do some tourism and stuff. It’s all about bridging the gap because if there’s knowledge, then we wouldn’t see any difference between both of us. So yes, I want to leave that legacy. As someone that played a major role towards bridging the gap with African Americans and Africans, that’d be good.

SMC: The November election is looming. Do you have any tips for our readers on how they can survive the pre-election chaos?

Sheila O: Yeah, I do, first and foremost. I would want to ask people to go out there and vote. So their voices can be heard while COVID was going on, so many things were going on as well, and we were all experiencing it. It wasn’t a story with just being told. We were living with it in the media. We were seeing things happen; we were seeing a lot of injustice. We were seeing things happen before our very eyes. And I think with COVID, it made us calm enough to pay attention, actually, start a movement, push, or support the movement that was already there, but nobody cared that much to pay attention to. So I would want to say first and foremost, people should be aware of what’s going on and cast their votes because everybody has a voice, and your voice should be heard, one.

Two, I would say the grass also always looks greener on the other side. Take a moment sometimes to cut away from social media. What I do for me, I take time out to cut off social media. I take time out to reflect. I take time out to really appreciate what I have and where I come from. And then I, for an hour, just sit down and reflect and just do me. Sometimes watch a movie, and then when I’m at peace with myself, I’m able to think, then I’m able to make decisions that are best and wise for me. So that would be my advice for everybody right now because it’s confusing. Especially with the two guys we have running for presidency, so you need to be at peace with yourself to vote wisely. I hope I answered that right. I like to shoot straight.

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