Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spinning it Lagos Style

Hi All, we know it's been a bit of a long while, and we're not 100% consistently back, but just thought this was quite a positive article from the Mail & Guardian to share regarding the explosion of Nigerian music and entertainment across the globe. Be it in Brooklyn, or Brixton, Gongo Aso...

Thanks Shirley for sharing this article!


New York. The queue of stylish men and women, many of whom wouldn't be out of place in a music video, snakes around the block. It looks like a typical crowd for a New York hip-hop club, come to dance to Jay-Z or Lil Wayne. But it's not, and they haven't.

In fact, inside the club there's barely an American track to be heard because this crowd isn't particularly interested in listening to American music. Instead, the majority of the tunes the DJ spins are the latest urban hits from Nigeria and the punters, mainly young Africans, are hooked on every one. It's all part of the biggest boom in Nigerian music since the 1970s, with clubs from New York to Paris to London to Nairobi playing club hits from Lagos.

This new wave of Nigerian music, which has really only begun to take hold in the last five years, is a world away from the sounds of the pioneers of that first wave of exports -- the likes of Fela Kuti and Sunny Ade -- who helped spur the growth of world music as a marketable niche product in Europe and North America.

Listen to music by contemporary Nigerian artists -- 2Face Idibia, D'Banj, P-Square, Naeto C, Ikechukwu or eLDee the Don -- and you'll hear the smooth synthesised sounds of the latest US productions. Beats are no longer provided just by talking drums, but by 808s and sequenced kick snares.

Vocals may have been processed with vocoders and other studio tools to give them that commercial, MTV urban edge. "It's untraditional," says Alex Okosi, the senior vice-president and general manager of MTV Networks Africa. "It's not your middle-aged African artist [making music for] your middle-aged European audience."

Leaning more towards hip-hop than high life, the latest breed of Nigerian artists fuse American urban sounds with Nigerian influences to great effect. "Hip-Hop and R&B -- that's the foundation of my sound," says Nigerian rapper Naeto C, who was recently named best new act at the MTV Africa awards. But even though this music uses the urban sounds of America as a launch pad, it is marked with a distinctly Nigerian stamp.

In the 1980s and 1990s, American hip-hop became the staple musical diet for an entire generation of Nigerians. American rappers flooded the air waves and young music-makers around the country began shaping their music to sound like what they heard from the likes of Biggie, Tupac or Puffy.

Many tried, unsuccessfully, to mimic the lyrics, beats and sounds of American hip-hop. Some would rap in English, not necessarily the language they were most at ease with. Others would adopt fake American accents and use slang that originated from America's inner cities but bore little semblance to the reality of modern Nigerian life.

The hyper-sexualised and materialistic nature of hip-hop was also seen to be at odds with conservative Nigerian culture and was rejected outright in the northern part of the country, which is Muslim. It is not surprising that Nigerian urban artists found themselves ridiculed as poor imitators of American hip-hop.

......Nigerian musicians are no longer trying to ape the lifestyle, culture and language of American urban artists. Switching between English, pidgin English, Yoruba and Nigerian slang as they rhyme and sing, they have realised that success depends on ensuring that their music reflects its place of origin and that it resonates, in as authentic a way as possible, with their audience.

.......So how popular is the new Nigerian music? No one really knows. Firstly, music piracy is rife in Nigeria and secondly, accurate sales figures are hard to come by. However, a distributor recently told Naeto C that his sales in 2008 hit at least three million -- and that's just in Nigeria. Those figures do not take into account the fact that Nigerian urban music is well established in the rest of Africa and has a growing fan base internationally. ElDee, meanwhile, claims to have sold 10-million records during the course of his career.

............ Indeed Naeto C isn't alone in having lived outside Nigeria -- so have eLDee the Don and singer/songwriter Asa, who released an album in the United Kingdom last year on Mike Batt's Dramtico label. Asa, who has been called a Nigerian Tracy Chapman and sings in English and Yoruba, acknowledges this mixture of influences is what defines her as an artist: "I listen to a lot of people and have been influenced by Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Fela Kuti. I had the opportunity to come to Paris as an artist and I saw all this freedom of expression, colours and music everywhere -- on the metro, on the street -- stuff I didn't have back home."

But none of that would matter without some means of getting the music to its audience, which was provided when MTV Base launched in Africa in February 2005. Although it wasn't the first major music TV channel on the continent -- the influential South African music channel Channel O has been broadcasting since the early 1990s -- the introduction of MTV's glossy aesthetic had a significant impact on audio and video production standards.

Its arrival, says Ogunyemi, "has made Nigerians say, 'We need to make better videos; we need to up the ante.' It's almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more you put into it the more you get out of it and that's really what's happening."

Industry observers think the Nigerian music scene could become as successful as Nollywood -- Nigeria's film industry, which is now rated as the third largest in the world. As with Nollywood, there's a ready-made global audience in the Nigerian diaspora (Nigerians make up one-fifth of all Africans in the world), as well as other Africans, and with better production values there is the increasing likelihood that some of these acts will cross over to a non-African audience. The internet, naturally, helps.

"Even if you are just targeting Nigerians [with your music], you're not just looking at Nigerians in Nigeria, you're looking at Nigerians everywhere because you can put a video up on Facebook or you can put it on YouTube," says Ogunyemi. "In the mid-1990s I used to produce an African hip-hop group based in New York and you couldn't reach people elsewhere because there weren't that many multimedia-friendly ways of reaching people."

Nowadays websites such as and are helping Nigerian music's march towards global recognition.

And elDee is hopeful the march will continue. "Nigerian music already has its uniqueness and I believe people from all sectors of the world will accept it because it is great entertainment, period." -- © Guardian News & Media 2009


In my head and around me said...

It's been a minute. How have you been?

SOLOMONSYDELLE said... update.

Nigerian artists are definitely doing their thing. I am betting they will be the next big export.

Shubby Doo said...

it has been more than a hot minute...but this is a good comeback...aint nothing like good music and there is plenty of that from nigeria.

guerreiranigeriana said...!!!...i've been looking for a place like that in the bay...will find my way to nyc again to experience that...

periyannan said...

Thanks for such a great blog here. I was searching for something like this for quite a long time and at last, I’ve found it on your blog. It was definitely interesting for me to read about their market situation nowadays.

I am looking for and I love to post a comment that "The content of your post is awesome" Great work!

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