Journeying through the evolution of the Nigerian music industry one would clearly see a growth and maturity. The Nigerian music industry has grown from a stage of doubt to a sure stage of self actualizaton.
Growing up here in Nigeria, parties and events in the ‘98s through early 2000s featured back to back hits from US top charts, Jamaican dancehall hits, with occasional plays of some indigenous Nigerian tunes. Most people bought and owned Tapes and CDs of mostly foreign artistes. A rapid change started sweeping through the Nigerian Music scene in the late 90s as Nigerian artistes started waking up into the art of the music industry; Trybesmen, ThoroughBred, PSquare, Plantaziun, and the likes. With rather poor structures and few support, local artistes started making attempts to replicate the American sound while retaining some original Nigerian elements especially in language, instrumentation and delivery. Songs released in the era were mostly mirroring our favourite American genres being Hip Hop/Rap, R&B, and Reggae-Dancehall.
In the wake of this development, the Nigerian Audience community like the Nigerian artistes were not so sure what they really wanted “We want artistes to sound American” “We actually want them to sound like Americanized Nigerians” “We want real homegrown sound”, these were the popular street opinions, this affected language, sound and delivery as artistes took to copying lyrics (Psquare), Style (Vector) and general sound just to gain acceptance.
Fast forward to today, the Nigerian sound has morphed and grown to a very unique, recognizable entity all around the world, many have come to name it what it best represents – AfroPop for the two elements it poses, Afro being truly and originally African and Pop being commercial popular exciting music. Nigerian artistes like their audience has found the perfect blend to their sound. The Nigerian sound is characteristically upbeat, with a mid to high tempo pace and easy catchy chants. Not so surprising that many music purists, elitists and snobs here criticize the Nigerian sound for being monotonous, too exciting and filled with shallow lyrics. This however may be deliberate on the part of music makers in the country who have come to understand through pattern and trends that Nigerians just want to dance and sing along to exciting, upbeat tunes with little to no deep lyrics.
This characteristic feature of the genre (Afropop) makes it unique around Africa and around the world. The Afropop borrows instrumentation and style from the west and blends with original Nigerian sounds. Recently Fela’s Afrobeat has been a source of inspiration for many new acts from Wizkid, to Burna Boy even to Bez have gone to drink from Fela’s pool.
The Nigerian sound is deliberate and is tailored to make you dance and shake your head and not to make you think. Critics must accept the genre, just like Jamaican dancehall for what it is, an instrument for dance and happiness. As far as music is concerned, Nigerians just want to dance and shake bum bum.