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What Is The Problem With Nigerian Music? – Part 1

The Nigerian music scene has always been vibrant though the acceptance of its brand of music has largely been local with a few Nigerians in diaspora helping to spread its popularity to sub saharan Africa. Unfortunately, much as they may want us to believe, our artistes are largely unknown outside Africa, of course, except among Africans in diaspora.

Sunday Adegeye popularly known as King Sunny Ade was the first African to be nominated twice for music’s highest honours, the Grammies, in the 1980s. Son of Afrobeat music legend Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti, has also been nominated for a Grammy award three times in the world music category in 2003, 2010 and 2012. Both have never won.

ice-princeIt is unfortunate that while the Nigerian music scene can be considered to be at height of its vibrancy ever, not much achievement has been made in making our music truly international. I was priviledged to watch the 2013 BET music award a few months back when Ice Prince was given an award for best African act, the largely black American audience had never heard of him. To attest to the quality of Ice Prince‘s 2010 rap release, “Oleku”, it is an original and innovative rap release that would continue to rank in my top ten of Nigerian music releases for a very long time.

So, the question is, What is the problem with the Nigerian brand of Music? To have a better understanding, perhaps we should start by going down memory lane as i know it.

The pre 1970s witnessed the birth and popularity of a number of music genres that included Highlife, Juju, Fuji (Were) and Afrobeat. Equally popular were the creators and big propents of these genres which included Nigeria’s music great, Fela Ransome-Kuti (Later known as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti) ,Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya, Oliver de Coque, Nico Mbarga , Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and a host of others.

The 1980s saw the emergence of the hip hop/RnB genre, slugging it out with the aforementioned, hugely popular music genres. Naturally, this genre was popular with the youth of that time and no party was complete without the music of Kris Okotie, Dizzy K Falola, Jide Obi and Felix Liberty.

By the end of the 1980s, the popularity of RnB had taken a huge nose dive with only the likes of Alex Okorigwe “Alex O” that was keeping the flame burning in his own way.

By the early 1990s, Hip Hop music was very dead.

The reggae/ragga genre that got re-introduced in the late 1980s had now become firmly rooted with about every new musician coming into the scene having the tag “Rasta” afixed to his name, with claims of “I & I just come from Ethiopia!”. Perhaps the greatest of this era was Majekodunmi Fasheke “Majek Fashek”. Others were Ras Kimono and Orits Wiliki. Nigeria’s brand of reggae music was hugely popular in sub saharan Africa. I remember that i could sing most of the tracks from these guys from top to bottom. However, long before the turn of the century, Reggae music also went belly up!

However, in the midst of this chaos came a group of boys who called themselves “Emphasis“. They created a reawakening of the hip hop brand popularizing the Nigerian HipHop flavour as we now know it today – music lyrics with a huge mix of local dialects and pidgin English, hugely influenced by black American beats. They had fairly decent airplay. Charlie Boy, Dr. Alban‘s cousin, probably had the biggest airplay of this era for this genre with his biker, bad boy persona.

To be continued…