They say music is the food of the soul and that in most cases what words cannot express, melody goes on to provide a lasting impression. Sometimes it’s the lyrics, other times it’s the skillful interplay of instrumentals that make deep impressions onto our souls and in turn uplift or provide solace. Over the years music has moved from one stage to another in a bid to conform to the current trend. It is this dynamism and flexibility that has made music a phenomenon in the existence of mankind.
It is no doubt that Nigerians are a jovial lot who do not joke with any proven source of entertainment- comedy, movies and music too. They enjoy rich groovy sounds that enable one to swing their bodies to. Funny enough the average Nigerian youth today to some extent has little or no interest in any song with a slow tempo and some level of crescendo and allegro is required for the song to “make sense”. They prefer the “scatter your dada” kind of rhythm that literally sweeps one off his feet.
Growing up in Nigeria exposed me to the Nigerian sound at a tender age. As children we were entertained by legends such as Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Onyeka Onwenu, Sunny Neji, Daddy Showkey and a handful of other artistes. It was normal to sing along to their lyrics even though we had no understanding of them. As their tapes were played on the car radio we became accustomed to the richness of folk music from different tribes of the nation characterized by the fusion of local and western instruments.
In our early teens we were soothed by different pop songs from the US and other parts of the world. However, about a decade ago artistes like Tuface, Faze, P-Square, Mo’hits Records led by Don Jazzy and D’banj burst into the limelight with something totally new- originality. They began to sing without trying to sound like their counterparts in the West, these folk made music the way they could and with time people began to relish their kind of music.
Presently, after listening to the hundreds of tracks that are churned out each year by different artistes one can boldly say that Nigerians have decided to make music for Nigerians, a unique and customized sound accompanied by dance steps that most times the public love and can easily relate to. The pressure to “westernize” our music has lost popularity; this is evident in contemporary Nigerian music as one observes as artistes such as Olamide and Phyno rap in vernacular and the rest who easily infuse Nigerian pidgin into their lyrics to provide an indigenous edge.
At some point I was of the opinion that all Nigerian artistes sound the same and put little or no effort in their production or lyrics not until recently I understood that the reason they sound the same is because they appeal to the very core of the Nigerian spirit. As mentioned earlier people say that Nigerians are very happy people who despite a handful of challenges find time to celebrate little victories thus Nigerian music of today is Nigerian because it represents the spirit of the people- their joy, their sorrows, their hustle and so much more.
With funky beats and fast pulsed rhythms, almost every hit song is accompanied with a dance step to match; this gives the song an identity and a legacy so to speak. This trend was popularized with Awilo Longomba’s “Makossa” in the late nineties then Olu Maintain’s “Yahoozee”. Artquake came along with “Alanta” which was really weird and characterized by squeezing the face as dancers raised their legs one after the other while beating an imaginary drum on their stomach. Then Wizkid’s “Azonto” freestyle made the dance phenomenal at that period. Iyanya brought “Etigi” (which was a modernized Efik traditional dance move) with his single Kukere. Davido’s “Skelewu” left everyone stunned and brought him international recognition. Lil Kesh introduced “Shoki”, MC Galaxy “Sekem” and finally Olamide’s “Bobo”.
Nigerian music is recognized globally today for its originality and undeniable identity; we have artistes getting international recognition for being outstanding and unapologetically Nigerian. The success of her music industry today is a product of many years of hard work, sacrifice and the acceptance that sometimes being true to oneself is all it takes.