These are very exciting times for Nigeria music industry as we continue to ride on the new waves of the moment ready to take away our most promising talents who are willing to test their abilities on ‘international waters’. Our industry now surfs to the heights of the mainstream international music scene, with artistes like Tiwa Savage, Ayo Jay, Wizkid, Davido, and Tekno landing mouth-watering deals with ROC Nation and Sony RCA respectively and every news story of another new artiste getting a record deal (either confirmed or speculated) is met with frenzy by fans and involves debates for industry pundits, but I daresay that most fans don’t really care; we are just psyched to see a grass to grace story play out (you can omit Davido at this point) and revel in exporting our music to the rest of the world.
As the tides continue to build up and more of our artistes are preparing themselves for possible deals, keen industry watchers are quick to point out that we have come a long way to the point where international record deals are sort of expected even while some might question the true motives of the International labels. International collaborations for the A-listers simply come with the territory these days. However, the most exciting part of this stage of Nigeria’s music industry development is the abundance of emerging artistes, eager and working hard to stake their claim in a market that can be cruel to inconsistent artistes and downright brutal to lazy musicians. The ‘Son of Mercy’ EP by Davido, his first project under the stables of Sony Music was the label’s way of testing the waters to introduce the artiste to the main stream international pop scene with a lead single collaboration with pop female artiste Tinashe on the song ‘How Long’. That move in many quarters was considered a flop and was finally laid credence to when the artiste openly lamented as he also celebrated when his latest effort ‘If” topped the charts across Africa. Davido has found his form again, enlisting fellow Sony Music label mate Tekno on the production of the smash hit. The artiste continues to express joy on and off social media on being allowed to produce music from his own creative direction and sound, the very reason why he was signed in the first place.
As culturally diverse as the country is, so is the diversity in our sound and music across board. Music from Nigeria and indeed across Africa is being categorised as ‘Afrobeats’, a classification which generally doesn’t go well with industry players who would rather classify it as ‘Afropop’. This has been a long time coming and the growth and penetration of online music sharing websites have provided an avenue for emerging artistes with diverse sounds to shine and cultivate a following without necessarily relying on radio spins. Platforms like Soundcloud and Mixcloud offer an incredible opportunity to new artistes in 2017 which is why you can read an article about a new wave in the industry; have a peep into their body of work and industry pundits can then effectively and accurately curate a list of next generation artistes to truly look forward to deliver soon.
We hear the same complaints every time that mainstream pop music is formulaic and devoid of any real meaning or even artistry from the top players. However, artistes like Asa and Nneka provided a refreshing alternative narrative to this and more recently, talents like Simi and Adekunle Gold have gotten their erstwhile alternative sounds to dominate mainstream consciousness. That was no mean feat! However, music generally classified as ‘alternative music’ lately has begun to make an incursion into the mainstream radio. We are seeing the rise and rise of artistes like Ric Hassani who scored nominations in the Best Vocal Performance and Best Alternative Song categories at the 2016 Headies, pitted against heavyweights like Darey and Wande Coal. You get a quick sense of the sort of disruption of the status quo in artistry and music distribution if you can see how Mr Eazi successfully fused his experiences as a Nigerian living in Ghana to create a widely acclaimed mixtape; Life Is Eazi, Vol. 1 – Accra to Lagos and used his experience in tech to effectively market the project. Other new artistes who have broken out from hitherto unconventional channels though are still independent include Nonso Amadi a R&B/Soul artiste with combined streams of over a million on Spotify and Soundcloud, Tay Iwar, Odunsi, Tomi Thomas and Bella Alubo, a Choc Boys-influenced female rapper from Jos who only just inked a deal with Tinny Entertainment after releasing a couple of EPs on Soundcloud.
So how soon before these artistes gain international prominence? That’s a trite question actually. Heck, while most Nigerian music lovers were psyched about Wizkid’s work on Drake’s album, Views and his subsequent nomination at the 2017 Grammys being credited as both a producer and a featured artiste on the album, a certain Faridah Seriki, better known as KahLo had also scored a Best Dance Performance Grammy nomination for her feature on veteran British DJ, Riton’s Rinse & Repeat – an upbeat, catchy electronic dance track. In an industry where afrobeats dominates, this was very exciting especially for the House and EDM genre in the country. This surely lends more credence to the art of musicians like Odunsi The Engine who is also a phenomenal performer.
If there’s any question of just how much this new class of artistes is slowly tightening its grip on Nigerian music consciousness, look no further than Johnny Drille – an alternative artiste from a small community in Upper-Sakponba in Benin City who started recording and producing his music in 2007 and has a ridiculous cult following. He scored a nomination at the 2016 Headies without a single music video. He recently got signed to Mavin Records – easily Nigeria’s and arguably Africa’s biggest indigenous record label. Mavin Records boss, Don Jazzy had been a fan of Johnny’s sound for three years before offering him a record deal. Johnny is also a prolific songwriter as well as an impressive producer; you get a sense that the Mavins have a gem on the team.
There are also exciting new music movements like Yung Kulture (made up of rappers, Jamal and D-Truce) and Peter Clark’s Ordinary Guys. They seek to connect directly with audiences and stay sincere to their music. These few examples clearly show that the new wave is here.
Across the nation, new artistes are springing up daily with talents to explore and dreams to chase. They leverage on the accessibility to the internet, ditching traditional bottlenecks to engage and connect with a teeming new upward and mobile fanbase always in demand of new content. It’s morphing into a tsunami and will in due time, with the consistency and evolution of these artistes, greatly impact the landscape of the Nigerian music industry.
I can’t wait!
–Osato “EDK” Edokpayi is an incurable media junkie, a podcaster at @TheStretchNG and a radio personality at Vibes 97.3 FM, Benin City.
Catch him on Twitter and Instagram: @satoEDK.
Culled from Issue 16