9 Songs That Marked a Transformative Era in Nigerian Music

illustrator for 9 Songs That Marked a Transformative Era in Nigerian Music

This week, we bring to you songs that have served as notable indicators as they shaped and ushered in a significant era in Nigerian Music. 

Fela – Beast of No Nation

 Even in Death, Fela Anikulapo’s reputation as the Immortal Soul of Afrobeats continues to thrive and inspire generations of musicians and fans worldwide.

The song and album “Beasts of No Nations” released after his imprisonment, signified his dedication, defiance, and resistance against unscrupulous global political leaders referring to them as beasts.

The saying music is a medium of expression is a tagline Fela took to heart and engraved deeply, he saw himself as a medium to vocalize the injustice suffered by innocent citizens.

He bore the crown of liberator, adorned with thorns, and gracefully managed the burdens it carried. The comeback after his tragic ordeal signified the ultimate phoenix moment. 

Fela – Beast of No Nation

 2Baba -African Queen

Prior to the release of African Queen, Tuface Idibia had made a significant mark in the budding Nigerian Music industry, both as a solo artist and as a part of the group “Plantashun Boiz.” 

In 2004, he would release the global smash hit “African Queen.” The classic and romantic love ballad remains one of his most iconic anthems at home and abroad. It is one that has a special place in your heart and each time, it comes on you reminisce on how blissful life felt before adulthood struggles came about.

The infectious melodies and immediately recognizable lyrics “ You Are My African Queen, the Girl of My Dream.”  a message to the African woman, adorning her beauty. What a time to be alive!

Yemi Alade – Johnny

The iconic Selebobo on-the-beat production had the radio waves in a chokehold, with captivating and compelling storytelling, Yemi Alade chronicles the ordeal with a lover, alleging him of infidelity. The visuals perfectly complement the subject matter as Yemi alongside the rest of the women, he was dealing form an alliance as they set out to ambush him.

The success of the Johnny track was mindblowing, it will have listeners sing along without missing the lyrics and being aloof on the pains and struggles, Yemi Alade suffered while in the hands of this chronic womanizer. 

The success of Yemi Alade’s “Johnny” gaining both national and international mainstream acclaim, helped to solidify her presence on global stages for making music that truly represents and showcases the rich and diverse African Culture.

Wizkid – Ojuelegba

 As Nigerians, there are visually documented moments we share that are ingrained in our hearts and minds that stay with us forever, the majority of these are sadly characterized by gory details. 

However the release of Wizkid’s Ojuelegba ” is a core memory we all share, and has stood at the fore of the Afrobeats movement. The Clearance Peteres Visuals and Legendary beat production over Wizkid’s ambitious yet relaxed demeanor piqued the interest of many, “The Holla at Your Boy” crooner strikes again.

 Ojuelegba almost single-handedly lit and carried the torch to the current reception of Wizkid’s superstardom. 

Trail marking success and mainstream accolades accompanying Afrobeats recognition. The remix would go on to feature vocals from Drake and Skepta as he documents his journey from sub-urban Lagos and speaks on the travails characterized by the bustling city. 

Davido – Fem

The release of Fem, just like every other of his release postulates Davido only dropping bangers. However, Fem transcends the regular fired-up and hyped-up, chart-topping hit. Shortly after the release, it became the unofficial anthem at the #End Sars Activism Demonstration.

As the youths marched against the oppression of Police Brutality, Fem became the rhythmic chant of expression, energetically reinforcing the sense of unity, and intimidating the oppressors.  Every time the song Fem comes on, it transports the listeners as they recount the memories of the walk, it feels fresh but sadly met with the gloom of the 20th of October Occurrence.

Fem is seated amongst the traditional protest chants, It’s no surprise to see Fem in an activism playlist alongside Eedris Abudlkareem’s “Jaga-Jaga” and the infamous African China’s “Mr. President.”

Odunsi The Engine – Alte cruise

 Prior to this release the Alte community has been making waves and stamping their presence through unconventional modes of expression, notably for the fashion and aesthetics they embody.

Odunsi’s Alte Cruise which featured Zamir and Santi, now Cruel Santino, had visuals showcasing familiar faces such as Ladydonli, Fresh L, Wavy the Creator, Deto Black, BOj, Gmk imprinting the subgenre in the hearts of many.

Alte Cruise would go on to open the Alte’ Music Community to a larger audience and these faces from the visuals have blossomed to become familiar figures in their various niches.

Tradition dictates revisiting “Alte Cruise” every so often to appreciate the evolution and emergence of the Alte Movement.

Burna Boy – Ye

In 2018, one of Burna’s signature tracks Ye off his Outside album was released. It would later go on to become a global anthem at clubs and festivals and immensely contributed to his international recognition.

“Ye” fostered a spirit of togetherness amongst Africans in the diaspora and those residing in Africa, The Grammy snub for Best Album was taken seriously and social media was the medium of outlet to express their displeasure. Fair to say these in addition to his follow-up body work earned him a Grammy win the following year.

Ye” is often cited as a symbol of the resurgence of Afrobeat music on the global stage. It would later go on to earn him his first Grammy nomination and won the Best Song of the Year at the Headies Award, Soundcity Mvp awards, Nigerian Entertainment Awards, and Afrima.

Asake – Sungba

The perfect and most original Naija to the world moment, the hallmark of the global export of indigenous music. No one would have predicted the chart’s presence and streaming success. Prior, it felt like the reception of Afrobeats was met with alteration to our sound, style, and lyrical composition, this time the unfiltered, raw Afrobeats fought its way and once again charted unconventional musical paths.

Ever since his debut under the YBNL label, referring to Asake as the Landlord of the music charts is a befitting title. He would later go on to headline festivals and concerts. 

It has been a beautiful journey to watch people from all over the world sing his song lyrics for lyrics regardless of his use of Yoruba native language through his discography.

Asake proves naught the accusation of indigenous language limiting mainstream success. 

Wizkid ft Tems – Essence

It might be a Wizkid track and Tems feature, however, Tems took the spotlight as her soulful and emotive vocals complement Wizkid’s relaxed aura. This would open doors and introduce Tems to a larger audience as she acquires fans and listeners from far and wide, a common language they speak is their love for Temilade Openiyi’s music.

It would later go on to be nominated for 4X Soul Train awards and would go home with the Best Collaboration Award.  First Nigerian Song to Chart on the Us Billboard Hot 100, and a Grammy nomination.

Tems would later go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Melodic Rap for her feature on Future’s “Wait for Me” featuring Drake, making her the first female artist to win a Grammy Award.

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