The evolution of Nigeria’s indigenous music

Twelve weeks ago, in this space, we discussed in two broad parts, the “Renaissance of Africa’s identity at crossroad” in which we condemned the the attitudes of some Africans who have mania for western life and culture with commensurate disavowal of our native African equivalents. 

Today, we’ll take a look at the recent evolution in our music industry that see our reigning indigenous artists dust up the legacies of retired musicians and feature them in modern records. 

Between 2012 and 2018, there were pronounced shift among our homegrown song artists who had prior to that period been collaborating with one another, making new songs and featuring one another. But a little afterwards they started featuring foreign artists. This saw Duncan Mighty feature Shaggy in the album “Whine it,” P-square featured Akon in “Chop my money,” D’Banj featured Snoop Dog etc.

While some critics saw it as a good move to sell our music contents to the world, others frowned at it as neocolonialism in action, since we never had those American artists invite our own singers to feature in their songs.

But the past year (2021) saw a new shift, a boost in the evolution of Nigeria’s domestic song industry.

It all started with the living legend of Nigeria Hip hop music, Innocent Idibia more popularly known by stage name, Tuface Idibia (2Baba) walking down the aisle of history, to his native Idoma homeland of Benue state to resurrect the good old days of country music by doing a collabo with Bongos Ikwue releasing a song titled: “Searching.” It was a hit, by the simple reason that it was a reunification of old and modern times. Bongos in his prime was a cherished musician of no mean repute. He wrote his name in gold making lesson-filled songs in his genre. We had missed him for many decades, since the wear and tear of age and passage of time threw him into a befitting retirement.

But 2Face’s innovative drive to entrench undying legacy brought him once again to the limelight of the 21st century Nigerian music industry. In his Hypertek Digital studios, he reunited digital era with ancient analogue ones. The song was a special record fused with English  language and Idoma dialects.

While the song was being relished by the generational age grades of two centuries apart, another collabo happened down south in the east. This time, Anambra-born, Enugu-based hip hop duo, Flavour and Phyno went to 1980s to re-echo the famous Queen of Egedege minstrel — Theresa Onuorah from her retirement home at Unubi in Anambra state. They took Nigerian music lovers by surprise, when they released another hit titled “Egedege.”

Theresa Onuorah dominated the the post-war years of Igbo nation with her unique music genre, Egedege. She was a like a star among galaxies, in that while Oliver the Coque and Osita Osadebe were still the dominant choices of the people for high life music, Queen Theresa’s metallic voice wriggled out of the ovation stands. She was an artist with a difference. A great woman of scarce talent. Her record label was very sublime and his voice deathless.

So, it was a pleasant surprise seeing her among two popular contemporary artists, Phyno and Flavour grace our television screens once again.

It marked another epoch in our history that saw the shortening of the distance between current time and archive bins. It boosts local contents and reinvigorates musical camaraderie. A romantic espousal of analogue and digitisation.

Over the years, our music artists have been on a spiral decline in quality lyrics. So many songs have been empty of didactic lessons. It got to a point that Rev. Fr. Mbaka had to criticize Flavour for having most of his records inclined to explicit lyrics and base exhibitions of lewd dance displays.

And so, this turnaround is arguably a premeditated attempt to guide themselves back to the right track that will not only have us derive entertainment and advisories from music tracks, but also push for a new brand of song-mixes that is uniquely African in totality. It has the endorsement of all Nigerian lovers of songs.

We look forward to having our contemporary Yoruba artists like Davido, Olamide, Wizkid etc do collabos with the likes of music legends such as Sunny Ade etc.

It should be noted that with the speed at which Wizkid makes lists of trendy musics at global stage, and the kind of multiple contest/award nominations he gets, Nigeria’s music industry is gradually becoming a gold mine ready to be tapped. If legendary Fela Kuti could invent a unique music genre — Afrobeat, that had sustained international appeal till date, there is no doubt that this old and new artists’ collabos will gift our age a great treat even to trans-national level.

It is a new innovation that is welcomed by all for according to Winston Churchill: “without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” Our artists are therefore urged to keep the African philosophy of music effectively alive while they innovate to carve a better image for themselves at global stage.
Cheers to a brand new year of renewed divine graces; may daylight spare us!
Ogechukwu writes from Abuja

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