The music scene in Nigeria has always been vibrant. Even before the country got her independence from Great Britain, it had an active social culture. Buoyed by our multicultural heritage, there has always been a democracy of sounds. As is to be expected, all the different tribes and ethnic groups have their peculiar styles of music. Many of these genres of music are distinguished by the kind of instruments that are used to make them. For example, fuji is mainly played with drums, while highlife requires horns and guitars.
It must however be noted that many of these genres of music have evolved over time, and successive generations have left their different imprimaturs on them, so much that some of them now sound differently from what they used to be. The kind of fuji music that can be heard on the streets of Lagos today is different from what it used to sound like about 50 years ago. Fuji is now more sophisticated and diversified. It is also interesting to note that the origin of fuji can be traced to the 1960s, which means that genre of music is about the same age with Nigeria. Some of the prominent proponents of fuji making waves today are K1 de Ultimate, Pasuma, Saheed Osupa, Adewale Ayuba, Obesere. However, some of the new generation music artistes, such as Olamide, Wizkid, 9ice, Reekado Banks, among others, borrow heavily from fuji.
People like Flavour and Runtown are currently propagating the gospel of highlife around the world even though it has been modified in several ways. Highlife is said to have originated from Ghana but it was popularised in Nigeria by artistes like Osita Osadebe, Victor Uwaifo, Victor Olaiya, among others. It still has mass appeal, and both the young and old find pleasure in moving to its rhythm.
Meanwhile, music in the northern part of the country is more subdued and it is usually played for religious purposes. Instruments such as the tambura drum, talking drum and kakaki, an elongated trumpet, are commonly used to produce a type of complex percussion music.
In contemporary times, Nigerian music has taken a more exciting turn. There are still musicians who play ‘pure’ highlife, fuji, juju, and other such native genres, but the most popular style of music in the country today is afrobeats.
In practice, afrobeats is a medley of African sounds, such as fuji, juju, highlife, afrobeat, waka, apala, hiplife, reggae, among others. Called concoction music by some, afrobeats borrows the best of different styles of music and melds them into the songs we hear on radio these days. That is why singers like Olamide, Flavour, Sani Danja, Nigga Raw, are all classified as afrobeats artistes. It is pertinent to note that this is quite different from Fela’s genre of music, afrobeat. Afrobeats is fuller and more melodic than Fela’s brand of music, which was more streamlined and definite. Some artistes describe their music as afro-fusion and afro-pop, but they still fall under the wider afrobeats umbrella.
The enviable position Nigeria enjoys in the African (nay global) music space is a pointer to the fact that the country has something the world wants to hear. Nigerian music has gone on to cross borders and it is very much in demand in places as far-flung as Australia, Tokyo, Malaysia, Singapore, among others.
Other sub-cultures like poetry, chants and praise-singing, are still very much alive, and they have telling influence on afrobeats. Nigerian artistes have become the toasts of the world, with many foreign artistes seeking them out for collaborations.
However, one of the biggest drawbacks of the Nigerian music industry is the lack of a defined structure. As such, it is largely seen as an all-comers affair without the proper checks and balances in place. It is also a statement of fact that the music industry was built to this level by the hard work of several musicians of different generations, with little or no input from the government. But the roles Nigerian music has played in nation building and popularising the country cannot be overemphasised. Names like Fela, Wizkid, Davido, Lagbaja, Femi Kuti, King Sunny Ade, K1 de Ultimate, among others, are more popular than many presidents that have led the country. One can only imagine the type of impact the music industry would have with significant support from the government. One way that the government can help is by passing relevant acts and laws that would make the job of musicians easier and also ensure that they enjoy the fruits of their labour. The issue of royalty collection is still not taken seriously enough in the industry, and pirates are having a field day; reaping from where they did not sow.
Copyright protection laws need to be strengthened so that people can be assured of the safety of their intellectual property. This development would encourage a lot of people, and it would motivate them to give their best to the industry.