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On The Fringe: Tobi Peter is Championing Afro-EDM

Meet the young artist at the centre of a budding musical movement that is gathering steam.

As the “Afrobeats to the world” movement takes a literal meaning with the emergence of “Essence” and “Love Nwantiti'' as global hits, attention is shifting to the various sub-genres under the general umbrella. Ckay says his sound is emo-afrobeats, Rema is afro-rave, Oxlade is afro-fusion, Fireboy DML is afro-life and for Lagos-based producer Tobi Peter, EDM is the latest frontier for afrobeats to conquer.

As a genre, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) originated in the 1970s as a collection of different sounds catered to groups of dancers. For those of us that weren’t born in that era, movie scenes of disco parties (see the “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror) help inform us of the origins of this music style. Consisting of various subgenres such as synthpop, house music, trance music, techno, drum and bass etc., it sometimes seems impossible for one umbrella genre to house all of the above, but the constant evolution of music and its classifications have seen these sounds define dance culture which is basically what EDM aims to serve. Although Afrobeats is also primarily a dance-oriented genre, the difference lies in the instruments used in the creation of both sounds. Afrobeats is purely organic, using local instruments to create beats, while synthetic music, created electronically, say, on a producer or DJ’s laptop is a key aspect of EDM.

Tobi Peter’s musical journey began properly in 2016, when he got the music production software FL Studio and began producing beats and uploading them to Soundcloud, as was the norm amongst less-established music acts at the time. Before then, music had always held an appeal. In his words, “I used to make improv music with anything; recorders, beat drums, anything…” In 2019, he began to push his music towards Digital Service Producers (DSPs) like Apple Music and Spotify. That song was “Life” featuring Snappy, JOY and Danty. From then on, he released a slew of singles (12 in total), before dropping his debut project, an EP titled Summer Wavs, Vol. 1 in August 2021.

Dedicated to the different vibes of summer with sweaty outdoor gatherings, pool parties and jollof rice, the project features a host of artists on the come up like Jessie the Gem, Benny Wilfred, Yéla, and Shaun Mbah. When I ask what inspired the body of work, he replies that he aimed to have an electronic project in his catalogue, because, before that, all he had released was afrobeats, R&B, or alternative music. Also, the idea of an annual summer dance tape just like Calvin Harris’ Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 appealed to him. Tobi Peter lists Diplo (specifically, and Major Lazer as a whole), David Guetta, Avicii, Calvin Harris, DJ Snake, Sarz and a host of others as influences on his sound, which he succinctly describes as “Afro-EDM'', a mashup of traditional afrobeats with the electronic percussions of dance music. The inspiration for the EP’s title drew inspiration from Calvin Harris, while Sigala’s 2018 Brighter Day’s album influenced the mood of the project.

Another impressive thing to note is that Tobi Peter makes the beats and writes the lyrics to his songs. However, since he is not “the best singer” out there, he enlists talents from his pool of artist friends to give the lyrics life: “When I make a beat, I think about what musician would do well on it. It’s like “Shaun Mbah would kill this beat, or Begho is the one for this.” He does have a couple of singing credits though, on “Time of Our Lives” and “Anxiety.” As a producer, collaboration is important to his work, even though he admits that he hasn’t met most of the artists he works with in person. Rather, they communicate via social media and email. The reception to the project has been good, maybe even better than he expected, leaving him feeling elated. From tweets to Instagram posts and Tiktoks, his electronic afrobeats sound has been well received by Nigerian music fans.

Even though he has plans to diversify his sound, with a reggae project in the works, Tobi Peter intends to stick with EDM for a while, until he is the go-to EDM producer in these parts. It’s easy to understand these big dreams when you assess his situation. He is at the centre of a budding musical movement that is gathering steam. The rise of streaming and social media has changed the music landscape, giving independent artists a platform to “blow” into the spotlight even without the support of major labels. When that artist is a herald of a new sound or style, like Afro-EDM, the sky, as they say, is the limit. Until this happens, Tobi Peter wants you to dance and relive summer over and over again, and you can start by streaming Summer Wavs, Vol 1.

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