The Birth of AfroBeat

Filmmaker Opiyo Okeyo's hybrid live-action/animated short, The Birth of AfroBeat, about legendary Nigerian percussionist Tony Oladipo Allen, combines the best of documentary storytelling with the enchantment of animation. The film is animated by Mel Roach.

Allen, who died in May 2020, was a longtime collaborator and friend of renowned musician and social justice advocate Fela Kuti. In 2017, he was invited to the United States to executive produce the band Chicago Afrobeat Project. During his visit, he recounted how he and Kuti laid the groundwork for what would become the Afrobeat sound. The film illustrates his story.

The Birth of AfroBeat was featured in BPM's Season 12 of AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Experience. For that series, the short was paired with feature-length documentary, My Friend Fela,  by Joel Zito Araújo. To watch both films, scroll through the list of AfroPoP Season 12 offerings below and select the My Friend Fela  program. The AfroBeat short follows the feature-length film.


Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela – Afropop Season 12 | Full Episode

TWELVE DISCIPLES OF NELSON MANDELA tells an intimate tale about an African-American family, the anti-apartheid movement, and the quest for reconciliation between a father and son. The accompanying experimental short SPIT ON THE BROOM highlights The United Order of Tents, a secret organization of black women founded during the height of the Underground Railroad.

Gilda Brasilerio – Afropop Season 12 | Full Episode

GILDA BRASILEIRO tells the story of one woman’s fight to expose the history of an illegal 19th-century slave-trading post in the Brazilian rainforest, where hundreds of thousands of Africans were enslaved.

Daddy and the Warlord – Afropop Season 12 | Full Episode

DADDY AND THE WARLORD follows a daughter’s captivating quest to understand why her father collaborated with three corrupt government leaders in Liberia and the infamous war criminal Charles Taylor.

Amina – Afropop Season 12 | Full Episode

AMINA follows the journey of an African immigrant woman living in Istanbul and Turkey, and the cultural challenges she faces as she pursues her dreams.

My Friend Fela – Afropop Season 12 | Full Episode

A new perspective on the Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, MY FRIEND FELA accompanied by live-action animated short, BIRTH OF AFROBEAT, tells how Nigerian drummer Tony Allen and his partner Fela Kuti created the Afrobeat genre.

AfroPoP Season 11 | Trailer

Season 11 of the trailblazing series highlights diverse issues, including social justice, politics, LGBTQ identity, fashion and violence against women.

Mama Africa: Miriam Makeba! – Afropop Season 11 | Trailer

MAMA AFRICA introduces a new generation to the music and fascinating life of the woman who stood for truth and justice, fought for the oppressed and campaigned tirelessly against apartheid.

Mama Colonel – Afropop Season 11 | Trailer

Mama Colonel addresses the issue of violence towards women and children in the DRC.

The Faces We Lost – Afropop Season 11 | Trailer

THE FACES WE LOST is a moving documentary about the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

While I Breathe, I Hope – Afropop Season 11 | Trailer

The film follows Bakari Sellers on his 2014 bid for lieutenant governor, through the Charleston shootings in 2015, and to the present as he takes on a national role on CNN and considers his future in Trump’s America.

Shorts Program – Afropop Season 11 | Trailer

An eclectic selection of three short programs:black enuf*, SWIMMIN' LESSON and DRESSED LIKE KINGS.

Afropop Season 10 | Trailer

AfroPoP X brings to U.S. audiences a collection of documentary films focusing on issues of the arts, immigration, heritage, social justice and more

AfroPoP Season 5 – Dear Mandela | Trailer

Almost two decades after the end of apartheid three young activists living in a shanty town take the South African government to court for forced evictions in their township, fighting political odds that put even their lives at risk. Directed by Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza.

AfroPoP Season 5 – Stolen | Trailer

In their journey to tell a story of modern-day slavery they themselves become the story. Directed by Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw, listen to the inspiration behind their journey.

AfroPoP Season 5 – Stolen | Filmmaker Chat

In their journey to tell a story of modern-day slavery they themselves become the story. Directed by Violeta Ayala and Daniel Fallshaw, listen to the inspiration behind their journey.

S6 E9: Vivre

A teacher asks her pupils what they want to do when they grow up. While his classmates answer lightly and with great fun, Tom a quiet 10-year-old boy slips away. When his turn comes to speak, Tom embarks himself upon a striking monologue. With passion, humor and bewildering maturity he describes three possible life choices that will inevitably lead him to dramatic ends.

S6 E8: Auntie

AUNTIE is a middle-aged seamstress and respected caregiver in her rural Barbadian community. 12-year-old KERA is her latest ward and a special child to whom she has grown uncharacteristically close. Seven years after Kera’s mother emigrates to England in search of a better life, Auntie is confronted with the day she long dreaded when the plane ticket arrives that will reunite Kera with her mom.

S6 E7: Passage

Passage is the story of a twenty-year-old woman and her sick brother being smuggled.

S7 E3: Sound of Torture

In the Sinai desert refugees are being kidnapped and held for huge ransoms daily.

S10 E3: Between 2 Shores

A look at the lengths families will go to stay together & the battles faced by immigrants.

S10 E2: Short Program: Lonnie Holley, Kojo and He Who Dances on Wood

An AfroPoP shorts program featuring Lonnie Holley, Kojo and He Who Dances on Wood.

S11 E3: The Faces We Lost

Photographs help keep alive memories of loved ones lost during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

S11 E2: Mama Colonel

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Col. Honorine leads a police unit to protect minors.

Mama Africa: Miriam Makeba

The life and music of South African singer and anti-apartheid activist, Miriam Makeba.

Opiyo Okeyo and Mel Roach

Opiyo Okeyo is an writer, filmmaker, and founder of Rest In Beats, a production house creating projects that emphasize legacy and intergenerational dialogue in music. Opiyo began his career with Discovery Channel and has worked with MTV, The Players' Tribune, Condé Nast Entertainment, among others. Birth of Afrobeat is his directorial debut.

Mel Roach is an Australian animator and writer. Her cartoon short Rocket Dog (2013) has attracted nearly 2 million views on You Tube and is in development as television series.

Opiyo Okeyo, Producer, Director, Editor and Cinematographer

David Glines, Producer

Eric Trosset, Producer

Mel Roach, Animation

Michael Gabriel, Cinematographer

Matt Giordano, Re-recording Mixer

Tony Allen, Music

Lee Rosevere, Music

Kasiemba, Music

Chicago Afrobeat Project, Music






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