Culture and Lifestyle

Nigerian Music and the Long Journey to Global Acclaim

Nigerian music stars have been bagging a lot of wins, recognition, and accolades, especially in the international scene. Just recently, award-winning Nigerian artistes, Davido, Burna Boy, and Wizkid were featured on the Forbes 2021 Africa Icons’ list.

The list showcased 100 innovations, inventions & icons from Africa, including notable Nigerians who have all made an outstanding impact in their various areas of specialisation.

Forbes via its official Twitter handle wrote: “ This is a way of celebrating those with the award-winning ideas that had defined the African continent and influential role models that have spelt Africa’s growth over the last decade.”

The publication described Burna Boy as one of the most successful African artistes on the continent. For Wizkid, Forbes referred to him as “one of Nigeria’s brightest and biggest stars”. Davido wasn’t left out as he was described as one of Africa’s biggest and most influential musician.

In Nigeria, music has come of age right from the pre-colonial days when locally-crafted musical instruments such as the Northern one-stringed Goje; the use of Ufie or the Slit drums, Xylophones, Flutes, Lyres, Udus by the Easterners, and the likes of Dundun, Gudugudu and the Iyalu drums respectively by the South-westerns – accompanied cultural songs performed at village gatherings.

After the slave trade era and consequent colonialism, it was no longer business as usual. Lagos being the seat of the Crown Colony of the British Government attracted people from every other part of the country; creating a seemingly advanced society for its inhabitants. Lagos due to its strategic location – and the Ehingbeti port helped to facilitate commerce from far and near.

Hence, song composition and performances tilted in favour of the colonial lieges – the adoption of a new musical order to befit the new status of the created metropolitan system by the colonial masters. The rhythm shifted gaze from a mere village or tribal fad to a universally, acceptable sound.

By the beginning of the 20th century, the experimentation for a universally acceptable beat with the music elements rooted in the Nigerian feel commenced. The Palm Wine music was initiated – a kind of music with an ensemble of percussion, guitars, shakers, and hand drums. So named, Palm Wine music was usually played during drinking bouts of the palm wine and other forms of alcoholic beverages. It soon became famous in other African states such as Ghana (Gold Coast), Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Amongst the earliest Palm wine music stars was Tunde King (a Nigerian of Brazilian heritage). Tunde King later created his kind of music called Jùjú – about a Brazilian tambourine. Later on, Ojoge Daniel, Tunde Nightingale, and Speedy Araba, Ayinde Bakare, Irewole Denge joined the Jùjú train. In addition to its local musical sounds, the likes of Tunde Nightingale – the S’o wa mbe initiator and I.K Dairo introduced foreign elements in the Juju musical genre. This musical genre is still played in certain circles to date.

Sometimes in 1950, Highlife music was created – a closer version of Jùjú. Leading artistes such as Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, Stephen Osita Osadebe, Oliver De Coque, Celestin Ukwu, Oriental Brothers, Sonny Okosun, Victor Uwaifo, and Orlando “Dr. Ganja” Owoh, etc were high flying maestros of the highlife music genre.. Highlife music was hugely formed on American sounds; the music was popularized in the Eastern part of the country by Ghanaian-based Highlife Guru – E. T Mensah whose song Yabomisa – a Ghana folksy tune, was remixed by several Juju and Highlife artists.

Other musical genres such as Apala, Fuji, Afro-Juju, Afrobeat, Afro-Pop, Reggae were created and developed between the late 70s and early 90s. The brief sabbatical of the Nigerian music in the mid-90s with Nigerian musical label giant – Premier Records forced to close their doors helped prepare a leveled ground for the emergence of the new generations of pop groups such as Remedies, Plantashun Boiz, Twinnex, Maintain – and eventual splitting of each of the groups.

The creation of internationally acclaimed beats by the league of Chris D Drummer Boy, Young John, Sheezy, etc. took the musical experimentation of the likes of Tunde King to a whole new level. If you listen carefully, you could still find in thinly veiled resemblance, some of the new songs by millennia such as Davido, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Olamide, Flavour, 9ice, and several others.

In the same manner, the neglect suffered by the culture and art sectors in the last decade is saddening. Stakeholders in the industry have been forced to create an economy around the paltry revenue derived from their creative ventures. For those without the balls to survive in this Sisyphean manacle, they are choked by the throat to an imminent extinction – forcing such practitioner(s) to eke out a living outside the ambit of creativity.

There is no proper structured planning by the government to monitor the progress of the arts or substantial support system that could guarantee continuity (save for a handful of initiatives in recent times).

Read Also: Nigerian Music: Obsession For Foreign Awards Vs. The African Dream

Despite the harrowing experiences suffered by budding or established artistes, they forge ahead with the mind of a conqueror – conquering the African music landscape with the feat of a Colossus – bestriding on iron legs to lands, prior thought to be completely out of their reach. The recording of their music is fluid both in lyricism, composition; superb mastering system, and improved marketing/PR of the artiste. Surviving on the meal crumbs of their immediate surroundings, their dreamy biographs – is unworthy of attending any heights. The duplicitous talents of such artists then become the nostrum of the larger Nigerian dream.

Indeed, music armed with ancient wisdom has a way of creating a kaleidoscope of emotions – refracting and diffusing in ways that are suggestive of what it attempts to achieve at long last. What this means is that the infusion of rhythm, melody, and harmony makes any good music appealing to the listening public.

Music is unique to a group of people; it could be sometimes arbitrary. Nigerian music is still the same. Although the gradual and systemic transformation of the music styles has changed considerably, it only leaves room for further improvement of the artistry.

Babatunde Odubanwo