Blossoming Nigerian Music Industry: Afrobeat to the World

The year 2018 has been a stupendous year for the Nigerian music industry. We are creating many megastars and superstars. Sold out shows in the United Kingdom have become a norm for our artistes, from Wizkid selling out the 02 Arena to Davido shutting down London with his 30BG Tour to Yemi Alade headlining on the big stage, and to crown it all, the reigning queen of Afrobeat, Tiwa Savage was crowned the Best African Act for MTVEMA awards. Burnaboy has become a religion; his fans believe that no Nigerian artiste is better than him. He is a class act, coincidentally, the title of his song ‘Ye’, which is also the same as Kanye West’s Album was a marketing genius.

Olamide latest song Motigbana is Afrobeat mixed with honey, literally! Take a listen and you will be enthralled with the combination of trumpet, saxophone, ayo, and band; a mix of urbane and modern hip hop blended with African high life music. Acoustic sounds of flute, guitar and shrills of birds gives you an euphoric feelings which sends downs chills down the spine. Eclectic, facile and danceable. That song reflects the true meaning of Afrobeat. The song is so smooth in the ears that it echos suavity. It is a great leap from his first song of the year ‘Science students’ which echoes to the streets where he is celebrated as a Lagos boy which also went viral. Olamide’s street credibility is not in doubt but Motigbana takes his talent up a notch, a refined rendition, ready for the international stage and collaborations.

Wizkid’s ‘Bad Energy’ gets girls wilding. Alongside Skepta, the song is a mixture of London rap music, especially drill genre which has been associated with violence, but this encounter with Afrobeat doesn’t depict knives and hooded Londoners with mean faces standing akimbo without smiles on their face. Instead, it was shot on the islands of Lagos with rhythmic urban dancers providing a music video lovely for every age bracket to watch over and over. Wizkid as Messi of Nigerian music eclipsed his own records in 2018 with the release of ‘Fever’. The release of the audio of the song on October 1st was not a hit by Wizkid’s standards but he broke the internet with the video where he featured Tiwa Savage frolicking with each other in an open beach house. With Tiwa Savage in scanty beachwear, Nigerians were left with a lot to imagine, bicker about and trend. Trust Wizkid, he has arrived and has taken his place as Nigeria’s biggest music export, however, he is the Messi. We all know the Ronaldo. The OBO prodigy.

Davido titillated his fans with engagement to Chioma his girlfriend earlier in the year and sang ‘Assurance’ for her after buying her an expensive SUV. Gossip has it the automobile is worth over N20m. That song is one of the top 5 hit songs of 2018. He has gone ahead to release other songs like ‘Nwa baby’, collaborations and mentor acts in his record label where Peruzzi is one of his products.

Phyno the king of Afrobeat in the South East who sings in the Igbo language featured Wale in his ‘NWA’ song and that put his doubters at bay as he bagged an international collaboration. Burna Boy was featured by Major Lazer and undoubtedly the success story of Nigerian music industry will require series to review the exploits of our top acts.

Even with the tremendous success of the Nigerian music industry, you still come across Nigerians who feel indifferent to its sounds whose inferiority complex are etched in the view of anything foreign as superior to the black people. This Nigerian music industry that is booming started after year 2000. Especially the modern Afrobeat genre which stemmed from industry legends like Fela Kuti, Raski Mono and Majek Fashek. Nigeria music industry is less than 20 years and is already a success. There’s room for improvement, but believe me, if Nigeria developed like our music industry, we will be a developed country in less time we can imagine!

While the Wizkids and Davidos are cruising around the world in the latest private jets, their successors, I like to call them, led by Kizz Daniel is morphing into a sensation. He’s building that sort of profile which particularly Wizkid has. All he needs are a few songs like his 2016 bangers (Woju, Laye, Mama) to cement his place. Runtown is in a class of his own. Collaboration with top African acts like Nasty C and endorsements keeps him in the top 10 Nigerian Afrobeat lineup. Tekno brought back nostalgic memories for many with ‘Jogobo’ (originally by Danfo Drivers) — though it caused a raucous after which there was a meeting between the acts and peace brokered. The song is a hit and has grossed over 15 million views on Youtube. Skales is doing good. I will not leave out DJ Cuppy and Simi, they have been tremendous. However, sensational acts that seem to have been lost in circus include Mr Eazi, YCEE and Lil Kesh among many others. Hopefully 2019 will be very a good year for them. Whenever artistes are out of circulation, they most likely have management, financial or litigation issues which bogs them down and even at that such periods spurns inspirations for them to rekindle the fire and shine. They’d come at us with bangers. We wait!

Tuface is a master of the game, he keeps reinventing himself. Whoever thought he would give us a banger like ‘Amaka’ which immediately it was released knocked off the song at the number 1 of many charts. His talent and industry is not hype, though a veteran, he keeps giving music lovers fresh vibes. You cannot but node your head to the rhythm of ‘Amaka disappoint me’, the rest of lines one may not understand because it is rendered in a Niger Delta language but the song hits the bone marrow.

One surprising entrant into the Nigerian music industry is Larry Gaaga. Aside the conventional celebrity DJs like DJ Exclusive, Jimmy Jatt and DJ Spinball, Larry is developing into the likes of Calvin Harris and David Guetta, featuring superstars, not voicing any part of the song but chimes in at interval, with his “put a bang bang” background echo. I actually had to Google him when I first heard of him in 2018, though music industry insiders would know him, as a newbie (I work with Frank Golden Music Management Company as head of operations Africa), he was kind of new though he looks like in being in his late 30s. He had a stint with YSG Entertainment as General Manager/Head of Vector’s management team in February of 2011, I learned. One of the highlights of his rising profile is his contract with Universal Music. This brings me to the fact that music management which is one of the deficiencies of Nigerian music industry is receiving attention. Record labels and music management are still in the formative stage despite Nigeria having had huge presence of global music companies in the days of Fela and Osita Osadebe. But they seem to be coming back. Universal Music is now in Nigeria and record labels like Marvin Records earlier in the year put out adverts for positions which showed they wanted to set up a proper music management company.

The best way to summarize 2018 for Nigerian music is to talk about Duncan Mighty. Who would have thought that in 2018, with his major hits as far back as 6–7 years ago would become a chart-topper doing hit songs with Davido, Wizkid, Tiwa Savage and other A-List Nigerian artistes. He is actually the summary of the success story of the Nigerian music industry for 2018. His resurgence with fresh bangers is one story every Nigerian artistes would like to replicate in their lives. He took giants steps and his efforts paid off. To rap it up, I often tell people I grew up with the advent of modern Afrobeat when we danced all American music parties. But today we have a music industry and in 2018, it has been exhilarating.