Imagine carefully searching your room for a precious item and after putting hours into the search effort, only for you to find the gem lying in the most unlikely corner of the room. In a similar scope, Nigerian music lovers have long been in search of a songstress who doesn’t only possess the vocal ability of songbirds but one that can harness the gift to make unique musicals to the delight of the consumers of the music.

The search for something so precious and hard to find in a field as wide as the Nigerian music industry, can be an exhausting exercise. Over the years, a lot of female singers have appeared on the scene looking like the real deal, with good vocal ability, carriage, purses full of currency, pretty faces and the divaness of Beyoncé that has now become almost necessary in becoming a star songstress these days. However, it is surprising how singers hold such promise often fall off faster than they rose.

These are singers who at the threshold of their music careers, were likened to music greats like Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Celine Dion and the likes, but the music careers of a lot of these prospects never really take flight. Even with the wealth of talents and resources available to some of these starlets, they manage to start off well but often run off steam in a short time. This is another pointer to the fact that becoming a star takes more than just having talent, resources and good looks, even though these features are sometimes necessary.

While it seemed like the search for a standout songstress had no near end, Niniola appeared from an unlikely direction, showing huge promise and appearing to be the “worth paying attention to.” She came from the long line of talent show alumnae that has produced more unfulfilled musical acts than the number of successful ones. Having participated in the 2013 edition of MTN Project Fame, where she was in competition with the likes of Olawale, Immaculate Dache and Johnny Drille of Mavin Records. She wasn’t exactly the first choice for a breakout star. Because looks can be deceiving, a number of other contestants would have been tipped to rise to prominence, ahead of her.

Niniola didn’t finish in first place at the show, she didn’t leave with the prize money and she missed out on the SUV that would have made her mobility easier. Her biggest loss at the time was the recording deal that she never got. However, Nini left the show with her talent polished, her determination sharpened and her focus directed at the bigger prize. Nini left MTN Project Fame 2013 as a diamond in the rough. She spent her early Project Fame days exploring different sounds and rhythms, moving in and out of studios, searching for a sound that she understands totally, a sound she could call her own, a sound she believes the world should listen to. Her search took her to the studio of Sarz, and there in Sarz’s studio, the eureka moment came, and along with it came the idea of Afro-house music.

From his wealth of experience, Sarz was certain that Nigerians would love the Afro-house genre and Nini knew from the first sound of it, that the genre would stand her out from the gathered crowd around Afro-Pop. So the duo recorded and released Ibadi and it struck the fans as a fine genre that has long been unheard. Follow up tracks like Start All Over and co., drew more attention to the uniqueness of the sound from Nini. She continued to benefit from the production contribution of Sarz and ODH, and with the guidance of her team, Niniola went from being a ‘rough diamond’ to claiming a spot in the galaxy of stars. She released Shabba and the industry forces unanimously wore her a crown bearing the “Queen of Afro-house” title.

Lording over the Afro-house music genre is a success that Nini seems to enjoy so much but she continually looks beyond her territory to conquer new grounds and spread her influence even further. From being only the star figure of a relatively new genre, Niniola rose to the upper crust of the industry with the release of Maradona. The song did more for the Afro-house music genre and Niniola as an artiste, than most of her previous works. The number of airplays, the massive club rotations and the acclaim gotten by the song are telling signs that Nini’s genre, Afro-house music has become too big a material to be kept in a corner of the industry. Maradona is one of the industry’s biggest songs in 2017 and it is believed to be the biggest musical offering from a female artiste in the year.

Clearly, the acceptance of Nini’s Afro-house music has helped it outgrow the peripheral position it used to occupy. Her genre is on its way to settling in a more central position, especially in the industry’s female section, where her Maradona is the leading song. The astonishing success of Maradona and the impressive reception of Sicker shows that Nini’s chancy adventure is paying off. Her afro-house music is the new market product and it is changing the music consumption pattern in its favour. Her music is currently raking in high digital numbers, attracting the interest of foreign investors whose dollar-filled briefcase has changed hands in an international publishing deal that would facilitate the exportation of Nini’s music to other parts of the world, while of course the investors are getting interest on their money – Nini’s Afro-house is that big a commodity now.

Unsurprisingly, Nini’s development as an artiste has been in constant relation with the growth of the genre. From the humble beginnings of entering the Nigerian music industry as a talent show evictee, to creating a music synergy with the incredible Sarz and with good brains handling her business affairs, Niniola has now become a major force in the female section of the industry. Nini’s debut album This is me, is set to write a introductory chapter for Afro-house music in Nigeria. Music critics are looking to weigh the impact of the album, fans want more of the Afro-house product that they have been enjoying recently and Nini would be looking at the album as a means to bring the world to the understanding that her genre is not just a short-term sensation but something to be imbibed into the music culture across Africa. Nini has chosen the path of an outlier whose exploits in the area genre diversification is earning her reverence. Like Fela is idolised for creating Afrobeat, Asa is revered for reforming Afro-Soul music to become an everyday consumable, Nini is decongesting the Afro-pop traffic in the industry with her ingenious Afro-house music.


This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets and culled from Issue 18


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