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sounds of nigeria


sounds of nigeria


introduction

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More than 250 ethnic groups are native

religious rite or festival.

ditional theatre; for example, in puppet

mance of epic poetry is considered

to Nigeria and many more have migrated

Work songs are also a category of

shows in Borno State and the ancient

musical in nature. Blind wayfarers, who

to the country since its formation in 1914.

traditional Nigerian music. Farmers,

Yoruba Aláàrìnjó tradition.

accompany their vocals with a string

The multi-cultural melting pot of Nigeria

fishermen and women often use music

A very common format that traditional

instrument, are known for reciting

has developed unique and diverse musi-

to maintain their work rhythm while

music takes in Nigeria is the call-and-

long poems of unorthodox Islamic

cal styles, traditions, and genres that are

working. Women working in domestic

response choir, usually featuring an

text among the Kanuri and Hausa. The

recognizable all over the world. Today,

settings also sing highly ornamented

ostinato phrase which the chorus sings

Ozidi Saga, a choreographed folklore

Nigerian music can be classed under two

music while performing chores. In some

as response to the lead singer’s call. This

epic found in the Niger Delta, is another

main subheads: traditional or folk music

Nigerian cultures, there are rules guiding

format is often used during the telling of

example of epic poetry forming part of

and popular music.

the usage of traditional music. For exam-

folktales and during children games.

traditional music.

ple, there are cultures in which there are

Music from the north of Nigeria is

There are several instruments used in

Traditional Music of Nigeria

restrictions on instruments that can be

usually accompanied by polyphonic wind

Nigerian traditional music, popular

Like most of the traditional music of

played at different periods of the farming

ensembles, with the far north region

among which are the kakaki, the xylo-

Africa, traditional music from Nige-

season. Also, in the northern region,

known for monodic music heavily ac-

phone, the goje and traditional drums.

ria is essentially purposeful. It is rarely

farmers work together on each other’s

companied by drums. Southern Nigeria

With British colonization came the im-

performed for mere artistic pleasure or

farms and the host usually ensures that

music, in contrast, features complex

portation of woodwind, string and brass

entertainment; rather, it usually forms a

there are musicians performing for them

rhythms and solo players using melody

instruments, which played an important

part of the rituals marking an event like

while they work.

instruments.

role in the development of music in

a funeral, wedding, naming ceremony,

Traditional music also features in tra-

In some parts of Nigeria, the perfor-

Nigeria.


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modern popular music of nigeria

The 20th century saw the birth and adoption of several genres of popular music in Nigeria, earliest amongst which were palm-wine music, highlife and juju music. Some of these genres were adopted from neighboring African countries and indigenized by Nigerian musicians. This century also produced a number of Nigerian classical composers like Fela Sowande, Godwin Sadoh and Akin Euba, and Godwin Sadoh.

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Juju Music

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Apala

Highlife

Juju music is a guitar-centered style

Speedy Araba. Some Juju musicians

Apala is a fusion of vocals accompanied

Highlife is said to have originated from

that meshes African elements and

were itinerant, including Daniel and the

by the omele talking drum(s), a sekere,

Ghana at the beginning of the 20th

Western and Afro-Cuban elements,

popular blind minstrel, Kokoro.

a bell and the agidigbo. It first came to

century. It spread to Nigeria in the 1930s

incorporating the Yoruba talking drum,

As recording technology became more

public notice among the Yoruba people

and became popular among the Igbo

brass instruments, Islamic percussion

advanced in the 1950s, the Yoruba

in the 1930s as a vocal and percussive

people in the early 1950s. Bobby Benson’s

and Brazilian techniques.

talking drum called the ‘gangan’, the

Muslim-Yoruba form of music used to

band was the first Nigerian highlife band

The name ‘Juju’ was coined by the

electric guitar and the accordion were

wake worshippers during the month of

to attract audiences across the country.

pioneer of the genre, Tunde King, in

incorporated into juju.

the Ramadan fast. It gradually evolved to

Other successful highlife musicians and

the 1920s, who described it as the

attract a wider audience. This genre has

bands include Victor Olaiya, Prince Nico

sound made by a Brazilian tambourine.

Afro-Cuban influences, but no Western

Mbarga’s Rocafil Jazz, and the Oriental

This genre was popularized when

influences. Popular Apala musicians

Brothers. In more recent times, Flavour

British record labels began to record it.

include Haruna Ishola, Ayinla Omowura

Nabania has brought the genre back to

Besides King, some of the most popular

and Musiliu Haruna Ishola.

the limelight with songs that are a blend

purveyors of this genre were I.K. Dairo,

of highlife and other pop genres like hip-

Ojoge Daniel, Tunde Nightingale and

hop and rap.


Fuji

Afrobeat

Hip-Hop

Fuji was born in the 1960s and was

Afrobeat was created by the famous

Nigerian Hip-Hop musicians started

Afro-Juju, a combination of Afrobeat

named after Mount Fuji in Japan, purely

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti in the 1970s. Till

to emerge in the late 1980s, and by the

and Fuji which was created by Shina

for the sound of the word, according

date, the genre remains most closely

1990s, their music had taken over the

Peters; Hausa Techno-Pop, a fusion of

to Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. Fuji,

associated with Nigeria, although it has

mainstream. Some of the early Nigerian

traditional Hausa music and rap; Waka,

which has its roots in apala music, is

been exported and practitioners and fans

hip-hop musicians were Ruff Rugged &

a mix of juju, fuji and traditional Yoruba

often accompanied by the sakara, a

are found around the world. Afrobeat has

Raw, De Weez, SWAT ROOT and Black

music created by Salawa Abeni; and

tambourine-drum, and Hawaiian guitar.

elements of jazz, highlife, American funk

Masquradaz. By the late 1990s, young

Reggae music, which originated from

Haruna Ishola, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister,

music and other genres of West African

hip-hop groups like The Trybesmen,

Jamaica but was started in Nigeria in

Ayinla Kollington and Ayinla Omowura

music. Fela’s brand of Afrobeat was often

Plantashun Boiz and The Remedies had

the 1980s by a musician known as ‘Tera

were the first set of fuji musicians, with

heavy on socio-political commentary and

taken over the scene and were churning

Kota’, whose success paved the way for

Adewale Ayuba, Pasuma, Wasiu Ayinde

some present day Afrobeat musicians,

out hit after hit. Today, there are several

other reggae artists like Ras Kimono, The

Marshall, Abass Akande Obesere and

including his sons Femi Anikulapo-

prominent Nigerian hip-hop musicians

Mandators and Majek Fashek, Jerri Jheto

others coming after them in the 1980s

Kuti and Seun Anikulapo-Kuti, to some

including M.I Abaga, Ruggedman, Weird

and Daddy Showkey.

and 1990s.

extent, continued in that tradition.

MC, Jesse Jagz, Naeto C and P-Square. Other genres of Nigerian music include

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Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Track: Lady 1977, Zombie, Coconut Records/Phonogram

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, was the creator of Afrobeat music. Fela was an accomplished musician and human rights activist. He played several instruments including the saxophone, keyboard, trumpet, 10

electric guitar and drums.

Fela was born on October 15, 1938, in Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria, to Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, a feminist activist in the anti-colonial movement, and Reverend Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, a protestant minister and school principal. Because of his family, Fela experienced politics and music at an early age and despite his parents’ desire that he study Medicine, he went to London in 1958 and registered at the Trinity College’s School of Music. While in London, Fela formed his first band, Koola Lobitos, which played a fusion of jazz and highlife.

In 1963, he moved back to Nigeria and began playing with the Koola Lobitos again. In 1967, spurred by the music of Sierra-Leonean Geraldo Pino, Fela created his own unique sound and called it Afrobeat. From 1969 to 1970, Fela and his band were in Los Angeles, USA. While there, he met Sandra Smith (now Izsadore), who introduced him to the Black Power Movement. During that period, Fela learnt a lot about the struggles of Africa, Africans and Africans in the Diaspora. As he became socially and politically conscious, his lyrics began to reflect same. Upon


his return from America, Fela renamed his band The Afrika ‘70, and later changed it to Egypt ‘80. He also changed his club’s name to Afro Spot and then Afrika Shrine. Fela’s music evolved over years as his person evolved, till he became rooted in activism and settled on using his music as a tool for socio-political commentary, often criticizing government policies and actions in his lyrics. Fela’s songs would typically have a very long instrumental prelude that could be up to 15 minutes long. His lyrics, delivered in Pidgin English with the occasional smatter-

ing of Yoruba, made him the voice of the people. This, coupled with his energetic performances, kept the Kalakuta Republic, as he called his club, filled with an audience. Despite gaining acceptance among the masses, his music made him an enemy of successive military governments, with some of them arresting, attacking and jailing him. Fela played with a large band and many instruments, antiphonal vocals, and a musical structure featuring jazzy, blaring horn sections. In Fela’s music, a riff-based „endless groove” is used, in which a base rhythm of

drums, sekere, muted West African-style guitar, and melodic bass guitar riffs are repeated throughout the song. Commonly, interlocking melodic riffs and rhythms are introduced one by one, building the groove bit-by-bit and layer-by-layer. The horn section then becomes prominent, introducing other riffs and main melodic themes. In recent years, Fela’s music and its message have had a strong influence on music and popular culture, and the revival has seen the staging of a Broadway musical based on his life. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti died in August 1997.

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King Sunny Adé Track: Way Forward 1994, The Way Forward, Sigma Park

Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye, popularly known as King Sunny Ade, was born on September 22, 1946, to a Nigerian royal family in Ondo. He is a popular performer of Yoruba juju music and a pioneer of world music.The son of a Methodist minister, who also doubled as the church organist, Sunny Ade was young when he made his musical debut, taking particular interest in drums. 12

Sunny Ade’s began his career working under juju icon, Moses Olaiya and his Federal Rhythm Dandies. In 1967, Sunny Ade left the Rhythm Dandies to form his own band, The Green Spots. With The Green Spots he recorded his first single, Challenge Cup, which was in recognition of a local football team’s championship. That track went on to become a national hit. By the early 1970s, The Green Spots had grown in size to become an orchestral ensemble and had been renamed African Beats. The use of talking drums was central to the distinctive juju sounds the band produced. Sunny Ade’s style of juju music has been de-


scribed as gently hypnotic, polyrhythmic mesh of burbling guitars, sweet harmony vocals, swooping hawaiian guitars and throbbing talking drums. KSA, as he is popularly called, achieved worldwide fame between the 1980s and 1990s. He went on tours of the United States and Europe, playing at the largest arenas in each state and country in front of both black and white audiences. He was signed by Island Records, featuring new recordings of tunes from Ade’s vast repertoire. Juju music got universal rave reviews, as did his many U.S. tours, and he did opened doors for other Afro-pop musicians, including Ebenezer Obey, Dele Abiodun, Tabu Ley Rochereau, Papa Wemba and a host of others. His songs have featured in Hollywood movies, including Richard Gere’s ‘Breathless’ in 1983 and 1986 comedy, ‘One More Night’. His albums, Odu in 1998 and Seven Degrees North in 2000, received Grammy nominations King Sunny Ade is still very active on the international music scene.

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