In recent years, the Western world has seen the explosive popularity of Afrobeats take the music industry by storm. Artists from African countries have retextured Black music, punctuating beats with its signature intersecting rhythms and soothing lyrical content. Artists like Wizkid, Burna Boy, Tems and Davido among others have garnered commercial success as evidenced by sold-out North American tours, Billboard chart-topping albums and international acclaim. Not to mention, you can’t escape their songs at your local brunch or day party. Although the Afrobeats genre has been around since the 1960s, created by Fela Kuti, a musician who blended funk, West African music, and jazz, the rest of the world seems to finally be taking notice.
Malachy Okeke realized this and recognized an opportunity.
When traveling to Lagos, Nigeria in 2016, Okeke, who is Nigerian-American, noticed the local karaoke scene featured mostly American music. This left him confused because he knew the breadth of the African diaspora music scene, and what it could mean if infused with karaoke.
“What kind of struck me was the people there were singing music only from the Western world, like hip hop, pop, Beyonce and the like,” he explained. “I instantly thought ‘why don’t I create something that will host karaoke events where people can sing music from Nigeria or Jamaica or South Africa or the Caribbean?”
The year was 2017 when crossover Afrobeats hits like African Bad Girl by WizKid and Chris Brown and Davido’s IF were climbing up the Billboard charts. This only reinforced Okeke’s idea to launch a brand that tapped into people’s love for Afrobeats, especially since there was nothing else like it on the market. Thus AfroKaraoke was born. Okeke started his journey to building the brand alongside his brother Arinze, a professional DJ who provides new sounds for the events. Nearly five years later, the experience has toured the country and is quickly becoming a favorite among music enthusiasts. The growth journey didn’t come without its challenges though.
“Although I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, it’s been quite the experience scaling the business up,” Okeke shared, who also runs a personal training business. “I’ve definitely learned to always prioritize the customer no matter what.”
The Chicago, Illinois native says he’s ready to expand the brand’s global presence and take the experience to his ancestral land, Nigeria as well as other countries that embrace Afro Caribbean culture.
“We want to bring the experience of Afrobeats to the world–it’s time.”