A few months ago, Davido inked his much talked about record deal with Sony Music. “1ST AFRICAN ARTIST TO SIGN A GLOBAL RECORD DEAL !! MY STORY IS JUST STARTING!! MY MOTHER IS SMILING IN HEAVEN RIGHT NOW!!” The singer emphatically tweeted, digitally screaming in all caps. But of course, Nigerians are way too nit-picky about things like the declaration of being first at anything, so the OBO’s elation was immediately shot down by responses indicating that Nneka had bagged a similar contract as early as 2003.
Safe to say —’global record’ deal or not — we already know Davido is not even the first Nigerian to get signed to Sony. But even at the peak of her multi-platinum charting success in her native Germany and across Europe, neither is Nneka. The first Nigerian to ink a record deal with Sony comes from a class of artists many miles from both Nneka and Davido.
In the late 80s, CBS Records, now Sony Records opened shop in Nigeria by inking a deal with a Mike Okri basking in the success of his debut Concert Fever album released in 1988. Mike Okri became the first Nigerian to be signed by CBS Records. However, after the label sold its stocks to Sony and effectively changed its name in the same year Okri was signed, the singer automatically became a Sony Music Entertainment artist.
Under the management of the label and in partnership with the now defunct Benson & Hedges Music , Okri released Rhumba Dance, a follow-up to his Concert Fever album. The album was sonic gold to Nigerians especially Rhumba Dance the title song of the album — a fast paced konga fused Afro-pop wonder work with West African influences.
Okri would go further to release his third studio album, Cracks under the same label where gems like Wisdom with the chorus “Wisdom” with the popular chorus “Hear your mama, hear your papa/life go better for you” were held. Mike Okri left the music scene a few years later to relocate to Los Angeles, but not after he smithed two hit albums off the label.