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Evolution of Nigerian Music (above; Anikulapo, king of Afro beat)

Nigerian music, wildly referred to as “Afro Beats,” has seen a meteoric rise over the years.

Often lumped under the generic label of “African music” by the uninitiated, Nigeria’s musical landscape, particularly its Afrobeats scene, stands out as a shining star in the constellation of global music genres.

But let’s set the record straight from the outset: it’s not just “Afrobeat,” it’s “Afrobeats.” Yes, that extra ‘s’ makes all the difference.

While the distinction might seem subtle, it speaks volumes about the diversity and dynamism of Nigerian musical heritage.

From the legendary sounds of juju and highlife to the contemporary fusion with Western influences,

Afrobeats encapsulates a kaleidoscope of musical styles and traditions.

But don’t confuse it with “Afrobeat” (without the’s’), a genre pioneered by the iconic Fela Anikulapo Kuti in the 1960s and 1970s.

In this blog post, we’ll delve deep into the evolution of Nigerian music, tracing its roots from Afrobeat legends to the modern icons shaping its current landscape.


drummer tony allen

Afrobeat is more than just a genre; it’s a pulsating rhythm that echoes through the heart of Nigeria’s musical history.

and at the forefront of this musical revolution stands the legendary Fela Kuti.

You can’t dive into the roots of Afrobeat without tripping over Fela’s name. Alongside his longtime partner, the rhythmic maestro Tony Allen, Fela laid the foundation for what would blossom into the vibrant Afrobeat sound we know today.

With a fusion of traditional Yoruba and Igbo melodies, laced with the vivacious energy of highlife, and sprinkled with the infectious groove of American funk, jazz, and soul, Afro-beat is a musical gumbo that’s as rich and flavorful as the Nigerian jollof rice. And at its core are the chanted vocals, the intricate web of rhythms, and the hypnotic percussion that beckons you to dance until dawn.

Fela wasn’t just a musician; he was the king of Afrobeat, leaving behind a legacy that reverberates through the veins of Nigerian music. But the story doesn’t end there. His bloodline pulses with musical genius, with Femi Kuti and Seun Kuti carrying the torch forward, ensuring that Fela’s spirit lives on.


Afro-pop icon Tuface idibia

As contemporary Afrobeats emerged onto the global stage in the 21st century, it faced initial hurdles in captivating audiences beyond its Nigerian roots.

The rich mixture of polyrhythms, vibrant horns, call-and-response vocals, and expansive compositions inherited from its Afrobeat predecessor, championed by the legendary Fela Kuti, presented a formidable challenge for international listeners.

Moreover, in an era devoid of the internet’s omnipresence, spreading this distinct sound was even more daunting.

However, a seismic shift began when visionaries like Tuface Idibia, P-Square, Timaya, MI Agbaga, and Don Jazzy infused Afrobeats with Western influences, particularly hip-hop and pop.

This fusion, encapsulated under the Afrobeats umbrella, served as a bridge for Western ears, gradually opening them to the infectious rhythms and melodies of Nigerian music.

Another pivotal catalyst in Afrobeats’ globalization was the rise of viral dance moves accompanying its infectious tunes.

Moves like azonto, alanta, etighi, and later, skelewu, not only drew inspiration from traditional Nigerian dances but also incorporated contemporary elements. These dances found fertile ground for popularity in the UK-Nigeria cultural exchange scene, with figures like Fuse ODG propelling their spread.

Yet, the true explosion awaited the arrival of Afro-fusion artists such as Wizkid, Burna Boy, Davido, and Tiwa Savage.

With their magnetic stage presence and innovative sounds, they propelled Afrobeats to unprecedented heights. International collaborations and tireless efforts further solidified its presence on the global stage, with artists like Drake playing a pivotal role in its globalization.

As a result, the door swung wide open for the next generation of artists, poised to elevate Afrobeats to even greater heights. This journey from Fela’s Afrobeat to contemporary Afrobeats represents not just a musical evolution, but a cultural phenomenon embraced worldwide.


Rema: King of Afro-rave

In the spotlight of the Nigerian music scene, emerging artists have risen to prominence

adding layers to the rich mix of sounds originating from the country.

Since the globalization of Afrobeats in the 2010s, Davido and Wizkid have stood as formidable figures, each leaving an indelible mark on the global music landscape.

Wizkid, making history as the first Nigerian artist to top the charts worldwide with “One Dance,” by drake and Davido, etching his name in Billboard history with the longest-charting Nigerian pop song

have paved the way for others to follow suit. Alongside Burna Boy, they form the triumvirate that defines Nigerian music’s contemporary narrative.

However, as the scene evolves, a new generation of artists has emerged, bringing fresh perspectives and pushing boundaries.

Tems, Rema, and Asake, dubbed the new big three by Native magazine, showcase the diverse spectrum of Nigerian music with their distinct styles.

Their rise signifies a shift towards innovation and experimentation, propelling Nigerian music onto global platforms like never before.

Moreover, the emergence of talents such as Ayra Star, Ckay, Fireboy, and Omah Lay further reinforces Nigeria’s dominance in the global music arena.

Their collaborations with international stars underscore the growing appeal of Afrobeats on a global scale.

The recognition of Nigerian music by prestigious institutions like the Grammys, with the introduction of a dedicated African music category, speaks volumes about its influence and reach.

While the inaugural set of nominees predominantly hailed from Nigeria, the breakthrough of South African sensation Tyla underscores the continent’s collective musical prowess.

In recent times, Nigerian music has transcended boundaries, gracing esteemed platforms such as the Ballon d’Or, the NBA halftime show, Coachella, and the Brit Awards.

These milestones signify not just the evolution but the elevation of Nigerian music onto the world stage

setting the scene for a promising future fueled by innovation and creativity.


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