It’s been a tough year for my home country Nigeria. For a country that is blessed with a vast amount of natural resources, great diversity among its people, and an undying resilience, we really just can’t seem to get it together. And while the country faces a lot of challenges especially in terms of really becoming a united people, if there is something music is doing (that the politicians aren’t) – it’s bringing people together.
Individually Nigerian artists have always been pioneers in bringing African music abroad – Fela Kuti being one of the Godfathers and an early influencer, if not the recognized creator of the genre that came to be known as Afrobeat. It is a source of pride that Nigeria has the biggest entertainment industry on the continent which extends to its music. And while I am an ocean away, the sound of African music is never too far from my heart. As Africans, music and dance especially, is a part of who we are. So I thought I’d share a few of my favorite artists for any and all music lovers who might want to expand their musical tastes. You’d be surprised (or maybe not so surprised) by how music always seems to transcend culture.
Known as the “Kukeremaster,” Iyanya started off as an R&B artist before transitioning to Afrobeat. Singing mostly in English and Pidgin English and a little bit of his Calabar Efik language, he is also an incredible dancer. I rate him as my favorite artist right now period, with one of his latest tracks – Mr. Oreo. And yes, my favorite song of his is the one that put him on the map, Kukere:
Mixing the influences of Highlife and Afrobeat, Flavour sings in his traditional Ibo as well as Pidgin English and English. Check out Nwa Baby Ashawo for his famous re-mix of the song. But my favorite song of his is Ada Ada which is a tribute to a traditional wedding:
3. Tiwa Savage
Tiwa has been in the music industry for a while as a backup singer and song-writer before becoming a solo artist. “Eminado” which means good luck charm, should get you hooked on her sound.
4. Banky W
Banky is an American-born Nigerian who has been around for a while. He has a soft R&B voice mixed with his Naija roots. The following romantic piece is one of his best tracks in my humble opinion:
5. Yemi Alade
Yemi has also been around for a minute in the Nigerian music scene but it’s only recently she’s received acclaim thanks to her track, Johnny. This has got to be one of the funniest music videos to come out of Nigeria and if you need some help understanding it, let’s just say Johnny has been caught playing a few women and he is being dealt with, African women style.
Arguably Nigeria’s hottest star currently, and has worked with quite a few big names here in the States, Wizkid is taking the world by storm. Although I personally love his rendition of Azonto, I think I’d like to introduce you to him alongside the great Femi Kuti:
Davido is the other musician people rate as Nigeria’s hottest star, and is certainly, I think, one to look out for. Although his track Skelewu was a top dance hit, I have to insist on Aye as my favorite track of his:
8. Lola Rae
Ms. Lola Rae who is Nigerian by upbringing (English and Ghanaian by heritage) is a star on the rise. Between her songs, Fi Mi Le (which translates to “Leave Me Alone” in Yoruba) and the following track, Watch My Ting Go, I truly believe she’s one to watch for global stardom.
9. Burna Boy
Burna Boy’s sound is a little different from the Afrobeat and he himself refers to it as Afrofusion, which hopefully encourages another Nigerian artists to keep branching out. His most well-known song I believe is Run My Race.
10. Ice Prince
Known as northern Nigeria’s music ambassador, Ice Prince, won The Best African Act in the BET Awards 2013. While some of his lyrics make me cringe in the following song, I can’t deny he’s got it:
Timaya is another artist that has been around for a while, starting out singing Gospel I believe. He isn’t singing Gospel anymore though as you can see in the following track Bum Bum:
I’ve probably been listening to P-Square for about a decade now, and there is just no stopping them. One of the most well-known stars on the African continent, these guys just keep getting better. My personal favorite song of there is E No Easy which I consider one of my “victory” songs, but one of their best songs is Personally which is a great song that also showcases their incredible dance skills. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, P-Square are twins.)
I’ve always been fond of Bracket and they were one of the few groups I started listening to while actually in Nigeria for a visit. Although they’ve got amazing well-known songs like Mama Africa, my favorite album of theirs is their first and includes one of my all-time favorite Nigerian songs, Ada Owerri.
D’banj is another artist I grew up with way back when from his days of singing, “Why Me?” He’s definitely also crossed over to some global stardom, most notably in the UK. His most well-known song has got to be Oliver Twist:
15. 2Face Idibia
Known as “2 Baba,” because of his contributions to African music in the world, 2Face is easily one of the greatest artists Nigeria has ever had. It always surprises me that people haven’t randomly heard something of his, especially that track that makes almost every African girl (or girl of African descent) melt, African Queen:
Waje is easily one of the most underrated artists in Nigeria, and I truly hope she gets the recognition she deserves. My favorite song of hers is her heartfelt, I Wish:
17. Eva Aloridah
Every country needs their first lady of rap and although the way has been paved by many female rappers, I have to say I think Eva is heading straight to the top. Her unique style is not only in her music but her fashion as she showcases in the follow music video, High:
To me, Olamide is the best Nigerian rapper right now, period. Rapping mostly in Yoruba and some Pidgin English, he has taken the Nigerian music by storm. If you worry about not understanding most of it, I do not speak Yoruba and barely understand it without having it translated for me either. But if you love rap, you can always appreciate the flow and almost everyone I’ve asked to listen to Olamide, is hooked. I encourage getting to know his versatility by listening to Eleda Mi (My Creator), First Of All, and Stupid Love. But I have to give it up for his song Voice of The Street:
Another rapper that is sure to make his name, Phyno, raps in his native Ibo as well as Pidgin English. Again, not being an Ibo-speaker, I don’t have a clue but I can appreciate his style. My favorite song of his has definitely got be the one he features Olamide and the two of them basically murder the track. The track is called Ghost Mode:
Minjin is relatively new to the music scene and I mostly got to know him because of my love for Iyanya. Taking the Ivorian influences of Coupé-Décalé, Minjin’s rendition will get you off your feet. Hope to see more from him.
21. MC Galaxy
MC Galaxy who can put almost anyone’s dance skills to shame is also on the rise. He seems to be all about popularizing dances and hasn’t disappointed yet. Definitely check out his Sekem dance but I would not do him justice if I didn’t introduce you to him with his song, Nnek Unek. Nnek Unek is Calabar or Efik for “dance” and there is no way on earth that you can listen to this song and not have a desire to do just that – dance.
Honorable Mention: Naija Boyz
I had to mention these guys because they have been parodying many artists for years. While one of their songs is one of my life anthems, Naija State of Mind, also check out their version of Single Ladies. Their latest parody however, was of Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball in which they do a song about the old-fashioned ways African and indeed Nigerian parents discipline with their children. While it is hyperbolic and requires an understanding of African humor, it is also testament to African parents who will not take any disrespect in their homes whatsoever – something you can only laugh about as an adult. Anyway, here it is:
Feel free to leave some comments if you have questions about any of the artists or if there are any artists I should have included.