The Evolution Of Nigerian Music And The Grammys’ International Influence Recognition

Grammys
“The Grammy is the biggest award globally that people recognize and most musicians look up to…with this win, African music – Afrobeats is here to stay as an acceptable genre of music”, the Executive Vice President of Chocolate City , Aibee Abidoye told CNN on Monday of Burna Boy and Wizkid’s win as the Grammys went down.
The earliest styles of Nigerian music were said to be palm-wine music and highlife, which spread in the 1920s and soonest, palm-wine became the primary basis for Jùjú, a genre that dominated popular music for many years. A few other styles such as Apala, derived from traditional Yoruba music (1930s), also found a more limited audience. By the 1960s, Cuban, American and other styles of imported music were enjoying a large following, and musicians started to incorporate these influences into Jùjú. The result was a profusion of new styles in the last few decades of the 20th century, including Waka music, Yo-pop and Afrobeat. Although Highlife and Jùjú were at the top of the Nigerian charts in the ’60s, traditional music – Odes and the many many kinds of folk music related to each ethnic groups and each with its own techniques, instruments, and songs – remained widespread. Traditional stars including the Hausa Dan Maraya, who was so well known that he was brought to the battlefield during the 1967 Nigerian Civil War to lift the morale of the federal troops.
Recording technology grew more advanced in the 1950s and the talking drum, electric guitar and accordion were incorporated into Jùjú – kudos to IK Dairo & the Morning Star Orchestra which formed in 1957. These performers brought Jùjú from the rural poor to the urban cities of Nigeria and beyond. Dairo perhaps became the biggest star of African music by the ’60s, recording numerous hit songs that spread his fame to as far away as Japan. In 1963, he became the only African musician ever honoured by receiving membership of the Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry in the United Kingdom but never got a recognition by the Grammys which started in 1958 and officially with a party in 1959.IK Dairo
In the 1960s when Igbo musicians were forced out of Lagos and returned to their homeland, highlife ceased to be a major part of mainstream Nigerian music, and was thought of as being something purely associated with the Igbos of the east. Its popularity slowly dwindled and was supplanted by jùjú and fuji but for a few performers – Yoruba singer and trumpeter Victor Olaiya (the only Nigerian to ever earn a platinum record), Stephen Osita Osadebe, Oliver De Coque, Celestine Ukwu, Oriental Brothers, Sonny Okosun, Victor Uwaifo, and Orlando “Dr. Ganja” Owoh, whose distinctive toye style fused jùjú and highlife – who kept the style alive.
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In the late 1960s, the first Fuji bands came to appearance. This genre was a synthesis of apala with the free-rhythmic vocals of ajisari (Muslim) devotional musicians and was accompanied by the sakara, a tambourine-drum, and Hawaiian guitar. Ayinde Barrister boomed Fuji music in 1970s while both Ebenezer Obey and Sunny Ade found larger audiences outside of Nigeria in the 1980s. While Obey became a brief star in the UK, Sunny sold far beyond expectations in Europe and the United States and his second international album Synchro System (1983), landed him a Grammys nomination in the Best World Music Album category.
The Afrobeats genre has been pioneered by late Fela Anikulapo Kuti – who was recently nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame too. Fela Kuti began performing in 1961, but did not start playing in his distinctive Afrobeat style until his exposure to Sierra Leonean Afro-soul singer Geraldo Pino in 1963. Although Kuti is often credited as the only pioneer of Afrobeat, other musicians such as Orlando Julius Ekemode were also prominent in the early Afrobeats scene, where they combined highlife, jazz and fun. By the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, Afrobeat had diversified by taking in new influences from jazz and rock and roll and the masked and enigmatic singer Lágbájá became one of the standard-bearers of the new wave of Afrobeats, especially after his 1996 LP C’est Une African Thing meaning It’s An African Thing. Following a surprise appearance in place of his father, Fela, Femi Kuti garnered a large fan base that enabled him to tour across Europe.Fela Kuti
Waka came through popular songstress Salawa Abeni who had become nationally renowned after the release of Late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed in 1976, which was the first Nigerian recording by a woman to sell more than a million copies. Reggae surfaced in Nigeria through Terakota and by the 80s, Nigerian reggae stars included The Mandators, Ras Kimono, Majek Fashek, whose 1988 cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”, became an unprecedented success for reggae in Nigeria. Hip hop music was brought to Nigeria in the late 1980s, and grew steadily popular throughout the first part of the 1990s. Around the close of the decade of the 2000s, more hip-hop acts began to gain popularity. Notable hip hop acts in this era include Wizkid, Davido, Olamide, the African Giant Burna Boy, Vector, Yemi Alade, Tiwa Savage, Reminisce, Ice Prince and M.I Abaga.
In 2008, Sikiru Adepoju won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary World Music Album for his contribution to the title album of Mickey Hart’s group Planet Drum. In 2016, Wizkid got a nomination for his feature on Canadian rapper Drake’s 4th studio album but the award went and never touched the hands of the Starboy.
As Nigerian music grew and became an international export, the recognition it got from the global awards academy –  Grammys was nothing to write home about and was a thing of worry and many accused the Grammys of being racist and intentionally not recognising the hard work of Nigerians. All of the Nigerians who have ever been nominated, recognised or won the Grammy usually have connections with the international community – if not in record label, in citizenship – the likes of Sunny Ade, Sade Adu, Sikiru Adepoju and others.
History was about to be made in 2020 when Burna Boy was nominated for the Grammys Global Music Album but yet again, the award was clinched by legendary Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo. Making a come back with his Twice As Tall album, Burna Boy finally got the category and history was finally made. Wizkid also got the Best Music Video award in Beyonce’s Brown Skin Girl. Interestingly, the music video was co-directed by British-Nigerian filmmaker Jenn Nkiru, which means she also gets to have a Grammy. These leaves Burna Boy as the only and whole Nigerian to have clinched the award alone – without a collab with international group or act – and as a sole Nigerian (Sade Adu and the likes are of dual citizenship and are only referred to as Nigerians for the sake of their parents or places of birth.)
“When you think about Afrobeat, the original genre – that’s from the Kutis, who actually have been nominated for years, it has never really been accepted as a thing. It has always been sort of sidelined. But what we’re seeing now is an acceptance of the difference in the music. They couldn’t ignore Burna Boy… people think that he really epitomizes Afrobeats, so it makes sense that he would win”, Chocolate City’s Abidoye added in her conversation with CNN.
A Nigerian getting the Global Music Album is a lot for Nigerian music and we look forward that the representation of Nigerians in the prestigious global awards increases than it has in the past years. We also do hope that the Nigerian artistes would put more efforts than they currently do to keep the academy on its toes and leaving it with no choice than to have Nigerians win.
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Photos Credit: Getty
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