n. (context music English) a form of syncopated rhythm prominent in much African music.
Breakbeat as a term refers to one of two distinct things. Originally it would have referred only to "A breakbeat" (1), a section of a song in which, typically, all or at least most of the instruments stop for a period, usually around one bar, except for the drums, which would continue the melody even if altered. Since the rise of electronic music it can now also refer to the electronic music genre "Breakbeat" (2), characterized as a genre of groove-oriented music which utilizes a lo-fi sampled breakbeat (or combination of breakbeats) for the main drum beat, and usually incorporates other lo-fi sampled "hits" as well.
Breakbeats, as in "A breakbeat" (1) have been known and used for around a hundred years, and are widely known for being sampled by many early producers of hip hop, where the "break" in a song, usually only a few seconds long, is looped to create basis for an entire new song. This sampling has continued until today, and the original "breakbeats" from songs from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s have been used in thousands of more recent songs since the rise of electronic music in the 1980s.
Today, breakbeats live on as a part of many songs from many electronic music genres such as hip hop, jungle, drum and bass, hardcore, UK garage (including 2-step, breakstep and dubstep), and even pop and rock.