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The Essential Guide to Nigeria’s Music Scene

Nigerian music has long had a significant place on the international scene, from Jùjù to Afrobeats and traditional Yoruba call-and-response compositions. Nigeria’s best-known cultural exports – juju, Afrobeat and fuji music – barely scratch the surface of the vast and vibrant cultural topography of the nation. In the example, percussion and the varied rhythms and styles created by instruments like the xylophone and hourglass drum can all be linked to West African ceremonial traditions.


Present-day music from the whole West African diaspora, including Dancehall in Jamaica, Samba in Brazil, and of course Hip-Hop in the United States, incorporates traditional Nigerian forms (and all over the world). In this essay, we examine the origins of it all by delving into the development of musical genres that Nigeria experienced during the 20th century, including the emergence of the renowned Afrobeats. We’ll also look at some of the top live music venues and clubs in Lagos and elsewhere to get a feel for the bass-heavy heart of Nigerian music.

20th Century Style

At the start of the 20th century, many kinds of Nigerian music—and Yoruba music in particular—emerged, influenced by Islamic drumming and new Brazilian genres. The “palm wine” style, called for the beverage most frequently consumed while listening to music, rose to enormous popularity in Lagos in the 1920s. Shakers and hand drums were also used in this style, along with a variety of string instruments like guitars or banjos. The most well-known palm wine musician was Tunde King, who later created Jùj, one of the most popular genres of the 20th century.

Jùj remained popular despite the popularity of Rock’n roll and funk in Europe and America by adapting to the times and fusing modern guitar techniques with conventional rhythms. By the 1970s, Fela Kuti, Ebenezer Obey, and King Sunny Adé were among the most well-known musicians. Yo-pop, a Yoruba-influenced kind of pop music, gained popularity in the 1980s, while Jùj saw a comeback thanks to the 1989 publication of the highly praised compilation album Afro-Juju Series 1:

The term “afrobeats,” which was originally used for the classic “afrobeat” jazz & funk style of the 1960s, was co-opted by an electronic and hip-hop fusion style by the late 1990s. Today, however, the word “afrobeats” is used to describe the great bulk of popular music that is released across West Africa. Since genres like grime have arisen from a burgeoning West African urban demography, fusing American hip-hop with Nigerian afrobeats, this style has become extremely popular throughout all of Africa and beyond, especially in South America and places like London.

Music and Politics

Many African musicians now want to avoid the afrobeats moniker to avoid confusion with the genre’s original, uniquely Nigerian sound, and instead, use the terms “afro-pop” or “afro-fusion” to describe their work. Despite this, the phrase has been employed widely, effectively portraying a united pan-African genre to a wide audience.

Falz, a rapper and songwriter from Nigeria, is one such enormously well-liked performer. Although he has been well-known in Nigeria since the early 2010s, he only really came to the notice of the world in 2018 with his song “This is Nigeria,” which was written in reaction to Childish Gambino’s extremely political song “This is America.”

Falz made his songs and an accompanying film using the same tactics of stunning visual and lyrical storytelling to highlight governmental corruption in his nation as well as other scandals and hardships in Nigeria. The discussion of topics including terrorism, fraud, ecclesiastical abuse of power, and corruption at all levels of government sparked a national debate and garnered international attention.

In addition to this video, Falz has utilized his platform to discuss other problems plaguing Nigeria, notably those involving fraud and corruption. Falz publicly criticized any artist who supported “yahoo boys” (yahoo is slang for internet fraud) in a contentious interview that sparked a Twitter flurry. He claimed that those who glorify fraudsters and internet thieves in the name of “hustling” are ruining Nigeria’s economic prospects for the future. He continued by naming and shaming several Lagos institutions that were serving as fronts for money laundering.

These activities were viewed as extremely controversial, and many people criticized him for not criticizing corrupt politicians instead of concentrating on Nigerians who were economically disadvantaged. Given that a significant portion of fraudulent online activity involves the unauthorized distribution of music, the issue is also extremely relevant to anybody in the music business. Because of this, it is quite challenging for musicians in Nigeria to support themselves financially.

Live Music 

Visit the late-night pubs and clubs in downtown Lagos, where young Nigerians congregate to dance the night away, to experience afrobeats at its best. One such place is Bogobiri, a famous hotel and bar complex with enormous, open stages where live artists perform. Major foreign performers like Blur’s Damon Albarn have performed here as well as some of the biggest names in traditional Nigerian music.

Ikeya’s New Afrika Shrine is the destination for committed Fela Kuti fans. At this little venue, which is run by Fela’s daughter Yeni, a rotating roster of family members and other creative artists perform.

Future Grooves 

What does the Nigerian music scene’s future hold? For some of the nation’s rising stars, the absence of a music industry is a significant obstacle, and talented singers like Sammy Needle Odeh and Yinka Daves struggle to create career prospects that are commensurate with their abilities. No Nigerian genre lacks ability; rather, it’s a lack of opportunities and rewards. Nigeria will once again rank among the giants of the world in musical and overall artistic achievement if, one day, it truly begins the arduous and difficult resurrection that so many hope for, and can sustain a business environment where intellectual property is respected, where the general public feels safe to go out at night, where spendable income enables the common man to patronise the arts, and where industry makes those arts accessible to its citizens.