I m tempted to start this blog post with “We the best!!!!! who?!!! we!!!!” but that’s not what this post is about. As a child of the 90s, born in the late 80s and came to adulthood in the 2000s I grew up mostly loving foreign/american music. When I was a kid, I was a big fan of Michael Jackson, had a few VCRs recordings of his music videos and concerts. I used to practice the moves and would bust a move at parties I was invited to as a kid. Then at some point in the 90s I think it was 94’ I fell in love with hip-hop and my younger self really really was a fan of Tupac. I believed in the West Coast part of that beef, finger signs and all. At some point after Tupac and Biggie were killed I moved on to being a Nas and then a Jay-Z fan. Sided with Nas in that beef but that doesn’t matter now. Basically my point is that, although there was Nigerian music being made around this time I don’t think it was as popular. From the top of my head, I remember Ras Kimono, Daniel Wilson, Blacky, Junior and Pretty, Oliver De Coque, Eddy Remedy, Maintain, Plantashun boiz, Tony Tetuila eventually ( Trivia: What Nigerian musicians do you remember from the 90s and early 2000s?). Of course there were outliers like Fela who were popular even then.
My point is from my recollection Nigerian music did not start to get the continental popularity or even national prominence till Tuface idibia came out with that smash hit “African Queen”. Fast forward to present time and I can honestly say I am a Tuface fan. I met him once and dude is pretty chill and humble for a Nigerian/African superstar. I recently paid a visit to Tanzania for a very short vacation (frankly I want to go back or should have stayed longer) and I noticed that everywhere I went Nigerian music is being played! It was so dominant, like clubbing was a combo of American hits, some reggae and dancehall music and Nigerian music with a sprinkling of other african hits. I knew that Nigerian music was big but I didn’t understand the enormity until I witnessed it. People even knew the lyrics even though our lyrics aren’t much to write home about. My friend asked me why Nigerians are always calling girls vegetables when toasting them, like honestly why do we call babes sweet potato, jollof rice, tomato juice? Question for the gods.
Two paragraphs in and I m wondering why is Nigerian music so popular on the continent and seemingly on the rise globally. Nigerian artists are collaborating more globally. Our music is getting play in the US more than ever, Timaya gets played in carnival down in the carribean and we seem to be going places with this music thing. Now I hear some of you big headed nigerians telling me that of course it is cos our music is the best. Well that is subjective if you ask me. Continuing in this stream of subjectivity while trying to be as methodical as possible I think there are a few factors behind our success. See me saying our success as if D’banj paid me shishi every time I take an eja nla in the toilet.
Anyway here are a few reasons I believe Nigerian music is succeeding in no particular order of importance
Fusion – we employ a variety of styles in our music (reggae, afro juju, pop, hip hop, dance etc). Timaya has that dance and afropop with a sprinkling of dancehall, soca and south south flavor. Wizkid has that juju, pop and hip hop flavor all going for him. So does Davido. Patoranking goes full on reggae and afropop. Runtown employs some south african sounds to his music. Our music is all over the place. You will find something that suits you. Hence its appeal.
Danceability – we make a lot of party music which sometimes make no sense lyrically but sound good to dance to. In fact, Nigeria is like ATL in the sense that people be coming up with dances for songs all the time. There was shoki, there was shakiti bobo, al-qaeda sef dey. If we want to go back in time there was alanta once upon a time, skelewu which is a bit of my go to move that and dancing based on kung-fu but I m weird like that.
Sell a Lifestyle – we do that fake it till you make it thing that american culture has made so popular. D’banj has made a living out of this. Nigerian artists don’t play with their music videos again o. Popping serious tings, showing flashy cars and the like. It helps that blogs such as Linda’s help them by announcing anytime they “buy” new cars or “buy” houses (of course I believe a lot of these people rent cars to keep up appearances). Some of them give money to fans all in a bid to sell a lifestyle and boy are they selling it well. Until the current recession, we were the biggest consumers of champagne on the continent I believe that or second. I believe champagne is glorified piss water but that’s me.
Volume – sheer volume of music produced also makes us one of the hardest working countries in terms of music. If you want to follow nigerian music bumper to bumper you will get tired as there are so many artists and so many part time and full time musicians out there releasing music daily. Upcoming artists are at every corner looking for the chance to make it big. We have some of the hardest working artists in the world mostly because our industry mainly survives on singles so artists have to release hit singles or risk being forgotten even though they have great albums. Some of the current popular artists don’t even have albums (I m looking at you, mavin crew). People like Olamide exemplify this volume thing, he keeps releasing music and keeps featuring in other people’s songs. He has stayed in the national consciousness and refused to be forgotten. His nearest competitors don’t release half the work he does. If you release hundred songs as opposed to ten you increase your chances of hits. Simple mathematics and probability.
Huge Home Market – it doesn’t hurt that by my estimation 80% of music played in nigerian nightclubs are our music hence there is a big home market that encourages our artists to keep churning that party music I was talking about. Basically as an artist in Nigeria today, you can become a star on different levels. You can be regional like how Duncan Mighty started out, you can be national and eventually you can be continental and global which where most of our artists are trying to get to. Should you fail to become Africa’s michael jackson there is a willing and huge home market for you. You can make wedding jams or beer parlor music like my good friend Flavor N’abania. I dare you to go to a beer parlor and not hear a flavor jam. He got that niche on lockdown.
The power of traveling Nna Bros/Diaspora – Shoutout to my igbo brothers who travel the world. Having a big and varied diaspora that are very keen for a sound of home also inspires our artists to push their production standards further, it also gives them a sizable crowd when they visit such countries helping to further push them to superstardom (like olamide says in Eyan may weather he can shutdown malaysia, shutdown yankee, shutdown south africa as a badoo of life). Go to the US, the UK, Malaysia, China, India, Cyprus, South Africa and you will find a sizable population of Nigerians. In fact, some of our popular artists today are returnees themselves, Burna Boy, D’banj, etc. The diaspora is both consumer and producer of Nigerian music.
Corporate Support – the massive support of the telecommunication industry has turned music into lucrative business the key is release a few singles that are hits and have enough visibility and MTN or Glo will pay you millions to be their ambassador and invite you to shows they sponsor.
Shows and Accessibility – it is important to note that shows make our artists more money than CDs although nowadays it is easy to obtain nigerian music from anywhere in the world on apple music, google play and so on (cha-china).
Since we talking about taking over the continent, I leave you with Lagos to Kampala by Runtown and Wizkid. By the grace of God, I shall travel the continent in the years to come
There you have it. I hope with this few points of mine I have convinced and not confused you as to why Nigerian music is the best. We the best!!!! Who?!!!! We!!!! So why do you think Nigerian music is getting so popular and successful? Anything you disagree or agree with? Share your thoughts below!