Yoruba Language: The Key To Mainstream Music In Nigeria?

Acceptance is what every music artist wants for their music materials and their brand. Acceptance is the main objective of every artist dropping songs and promoting their materials; getting people to accept one’s brand and style is not an easy feat to achieve especially in the Nigerian music industry where a lot of talents abound and new talents are being discovered everyday. From proper promotion, following current musical trends, incorporating relatable yoruba lyrics and making use of very good beats, mainstream success is what every serious artist craves for in their career.

In the Nigerian music industry, one of the ingredients that can ensure proper acceptance and wide spread success of a song is the inclusion of Yoruba language bits in the song.There are certain factors that contribute to this essential skill every artist today that is hoping to go mainstream must understand:

Lagos As The Capital Of Entertainment

Like it or not, Lagos is the capital of entertainment in Nigeria. Every major artist and record label have their headquarters and ply their trade in Lagos; Lagos is also where the clubs are, the top studios, the promoters, the shows, the radio stations and all that is needed for a successful “mainstream”  musical career. Even the Alaba international market where your song must first ‘blow’ and which is controlled by the Igbos is in Lagos. As we would have it, Lagos is a western state with majority of its residents speaking Yoruba as the first language, no wonder artistes from the North and East rush to Lagos once they have a thriving career in their region and try every possible means to go mainstream which includes featuring Yoruba artistes – Phyno ft Olamide – Ghost Mode, Ill Bliss ft Terry G – Aye Pon Gan, Zoro ft Lil Kesh and YCEE – Ogene, Iceprince ft Brymo – Oleku

Record Labels And Radio Plays

This is connected with the first fact, Record labels understand the market better and nobody wants to invest without hoping to make profit. People must be able to relate to your songs and if at least 30,000 Lagosians whom will listen to your song being promoted on Cool FM, Beat FM etc can relate with your Yoruba slang and lyrics, you know you are going somewhere already. So record labels sometimes enforce this option on their signed artists in order to gain wider access and push their artistes. It should also be noted that radio stations may want to appeal majorly to the higher percentage of their listeners which lead to playing more Yoruba influenced songs.

Historical Antecedent

Fela Anikulapo Kuti is the one of greatest musician to come out of Nigeria. He had a lot of international recognition and he is well respected. He is Yoruba. Ebenezer Obey, Sir Shina Peters, Adewale Ayuba, Dele Taiwo, Dipo Sodipo, Barrister Kollington are all well known and respected Nigerian musicians that perform in all parts of the country. Many artists tend are in cognizance to this fact and thus resort to adopting the language these legends used in creating good music and getting across to fans. Many artists today are all trying to follow the footsteps of Fela and how can you follow Fela if you don’t use some elements of his music like his language which is Yoruba?

Population And Culture

Yorubas are one of the most populated tribes in the country and the fact that they are mostly literates that have the taste for good music also contributes to this fact. We must not also forget that the Yorubas throw parties (owambes) a lot and if you as an artiste want your song at constant rotation at the numerous Yoruba parties and consequently more shows, be ready to infuse Yoruba in one of your songs. Words like ‘mojisola peperenpe oo, folake ooo’ and you are mainstream.

Present Examples

Mention top ten most respected and popular artistes in Nigeria today and six of them will be Yoruba or artistes that infuse Yoruba or practically sing with Yoruba language as lyrics. Artistes who use the Yoruba language are more widely known and successful with chances of cutting across the country as a whole. It’s either you feature a Yoruba speaking artiste or do one or two songs in Yoruba, though you might use or sing in other languages, Yoruba is inevitable.

Factors like diversity should also be taken into consideration. The Yoruba music has a lot of genres under it with a lot of options available to the artistes. There is Juju, Apala, Dadakuada, Fuji and many more. This makes it easier for artistes to choose among the diverse genres and fit in (as seen in Terry Apala who hails from Delta and sings Apala music). The fact that Yoruba language is pleasing to the ear, can be easily learnt and repeated by anyone in minutes when heard in a song also contributes to its usage in most Nigerians song.

Finally, it is pertinent to know that not every artiste may want to go mainstream as long as they are making their money in their little region, locality or area which they lord over. There are artistes that do indigenous music and are well known such as Zarki, Fanzy Papaya, Sani Danja, Slow Dogg and others but with the exceptions of artistes like Phyno, Flavour and maybe Timaya, the big question remains “how far have they gone in penetrating the Nigerian market and African market at large?


This article was written by Sam Synord; he tweets via: whoissynord

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