No matter who you are or where you are coming from- local or international, singer or songwriter, producer or publicist,- the peculiarities of the Nigerian music industry will hit you. Unsurprisingly, some of these peculiarities are capable of suffocating deft skill from the most talented people. Alternative-afro artists have suffered the most from this.
Music is a form of art, and like any good art form, good music should tell a good relatable story. Alternative soul singer Asa has successfully done this with a beautiful fusion of lyrical poetry laid against acoustic instruments. The origins of alternative-afro music can be traced even further from Asa. Quad group KUSH and singer Djinee have also dabbled into similar alternative styles of soul and quasi-rock. The musical phenomenon on the rise currently follows a similar alternative pattern but with the infusion of more African stories.
Songbird Simi, is a versatile artist who has mastered the art of telling stories. Her breakout hit Jamb question juxtaposes a relatable admirer and admired dilemma many people have experienced. Following closely behind her is a fellow storyteller and frequent collaborator Falz. Once you get past his funny accent you hear an artist trying to make very down to earth, relatable music. Marry Me tells a familiar story of a woman desperate to have her partner walk her down the aisle. Karashika describes the experience of an average earning man with a superficial woman who wants to take him for all of his money.
Underground rapper, PayBac can be heard across three mixtapes telling more introspective stories. He touches on deeper themes of the struggles of a lower middle-class boy in a Nigeria surrounded by affluence he cannot access. You can hear him on Mr Babalawo talking to a local diviner about his frustrations. He questions his own odds of becoming famous and successful despite his immense talents and abilities. Bad bitch song and it’s follow up Cougar song tell stories of a doomed love affair.
YBNL’s Adekunle Gold falls comfortably into this class of alternative-afro artists too. He launched himself into the industry with a One Direction cover titled Sade. His follow-up single was Orente which tells the story of a loyal partner and her willingness to stay with him even at his lowest. You can hear a consistent high-life guitar chord fused with local gan-gan drums in the instrumentals. Serve this with Adekunle’s sonorous voice and stunning visuals and you have a song that will make you want to fall in love.
The songs listed above prevailed against a backdrop of their emptier counterparts whose abstract nyansh glorifying songs have eroded our music libraries and vocabularies. One would think Nigerians would rather listen to music that tell more realistic stories.
Nonetheless, it is important to note that there are still Nigerian artists dedicated to making good music. Maybe in the future, a niche will be carved for them to reward their dedication to good music. For now their rise can only take the same pace in an industry where nonsensical ramblings and repetitive lyrics have been termed as modern afrobeats.
Most apologies to Fela, we are absolutely sorry.