Demola Rewaju: 12 artistes that changed the face of music in Nigeria

by Demola Rewaju

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 Daddy Showkey – Hard to isolate him for this list but of all the ‘ghetto soldiers’, he occupies pride of place as the main voice and face of a group that includes Baba Fryo, Daddy Fresh, Nico Gravity and the ghetto generation that came after them of which Oritsefemi is the only one who we might say is still standing and African China is my favourite.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti – It may be argued that Afrobeat is a dead genre these days but if you look closely, the man Fela is a great influence on very many artistes, one of whom is Dbanj. Fela started as a highlife artiste (he sang Onidodo Oni Moinmoin) but modified it to include horns (Orlando Julius also did this), heavier percussion, less string and a fuller blend of the organ.

Afrobeat is not mainstream but for fans of the genre, solace can be taken in Dede Mabiaku (Dede who?) and Fela’s sons Femi and Seun, the former of whom plays a slightly different subgenre of Afrobeat.

9ice – Legend he is not but he surely brought the deep Yoruba lyricism and peculiar Fuji voice into mainstream music. His unique sound first hit us when he featured on 2Shotz’ ‘Make Dem Talk’ and lter on his own ‘Little Money’. Teaming up with ID Cabasa, they both created a unique fusion of Fuji and Hiphop. Stand up and pay homage – Jaywon, Dammy Krane and Isolate – 9ice is your trailblazer.

2face/Plantashun Boiz – When we were yet cramming Boyz II Men and New Edition lyrics into our head, 2face and co showed us that it was possible to sing in pidgin and still be romantic. Who can ever forget the lyrics of ‘You And I’ or ‘Knock Me Off’? R & B in pidgin doesn’t seem strange these days (the opposite may even be true if you ask Darey Art Alade) but back then, the Plantashun Boiz made pidgin cool for everything and particularly as a music language.

Daddy Showkey – Hard to isolate him for this list but of all the ‘ghetto soldiers’, he occupies pride of place as the main voice and face of a group that includes Baba Fryo, Daddy Fresh, Nico Gravity and the ghetto generation that came after them of which Oritsefemi is the only one who we might say is still standing and African China is my favourite.

Coming out with the unforgettable ‘Call My Name’, Showkey took the reggae influence of Bob Marley anchored in Nigeria by Orits Wiliki, The Mandators and Sunny Okosun for a period. Making the galala dance famous before Marvellous Benjy popularised (not innovated) suo. Showkey’s influence is a bit diminished today but can still be seen in several street songs and he (along with the enigmatic producer Nelson Brown) firmly put Ajegunle on the music map. [read more in this article about the Ajegunle artiste movement].

K1 de Ultimate – Anyone who reads this blog would be a little familiar with my great love for the progenitor of the Arabambi family of Fuji music. For any watcher of Nigerian music in its totality not just the mainstream trend, Wasiu’s influence cannot be denied. He is the bridge between the old legends of Fuji music such as Basiru Abinuwaye, Saka Olayigbade, Iyanda Sawaba, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister (who tutored him), Kollington Ayinla, Epo-Akara and co. Wasiu’s Fuji has the horns and arguably the strings as well. He once tried a blend of Fuji and Jazz but reverted to his ‘Classical Fuji’ and remains the undisputed king of ‘Alujo’ (percussive music).

If album release and sales would ever return to being the true measure of musical success in Nigeria, Wasiu’s sales are legendary. Fuji artistes release albums every other week and Wasiu’s songs are popular in the rural areas to the point where even kids know the lewd percussion beats. His fans rank among the truest fans in Nigeria and he successfully took Fuji to the elites who would ordinarily prefer Highlife or Juju music forms.

Jeremiah Gyang – With ‘Na Ba Ka’, Jeremiah brought the Hausa language to those of us who struggle to remember Dan Maraya Jos on NTA in those days singing in a language we couldn’t understand but with that infectious smile that never makes one want to stop listening. For Bez and those who would come after him, Gyang is definitely a game changer.

Nigga Raw – Yes, we had the real progenitors of Igbo music like Oliver de Coque, Osita Osadebe and other whom we cannot deny. They were the ones who gave us Highlife sounds with Igbo lyrics but Nigga Raw featured Klint d Drunk on that unforgettable ‘Obodo’ song and opened the way for artistes like Ikechukwu, Naeto C, Ruggedman, Ill Bliss, Lynx, Phyno and others to do the same. The myth all along had been that Lagos would never accept a song without the mainstream Yoruba language in it but Raw shattered the glass ceiling and changed the game forever.

Dbanj – Before he came onto the stage with Don Jazzy on the beat in the background, music wasn’t such an attractive occupation with little money coming in. Suggestive lyrics, sharp dressing and wild performances from him opened the way for artistes with swagger like Wande Coal, Davido, Wizkid, Olamide, Kcee and the rest of them to blossom with minimal talent but much hardwork. Dbanj, as far as music is concerned brought the show and the biz together and pushed showbiz into the forefront.

His first signing with Glo was fraught with controversy but that was the first time a major company would pay that heavily for an artiste’s endorsement. Still on top of his game, Dbanj continues to blaze the trail for artistes without the talent of 2face but who love music and know how to maintain the pop fan culture.

Sasha – confession: I once had a mad crush on the Ibadan born lawyer and fashion designer who was the first female rapper to be taken seriously. Weird MC released ‘Allen Avenue’ and then disappeared but Sasha held it down for other females to enter the rap game. With only one album to her name, Sasha still lives on her glory days and is accorded a measure of respect. She’s not the best – Blaise always had better flows in my opinion – but Sasha came out strongly first and brought a measure of respect to female Emcees.

Lord of Ajasa – Before Dagrin, Ajasa was and that cannot be taken away from him. His Yoruba rap was sometimes comic but always rhymed and sounded nice, earning him evergreen status in the industry. Younger readers wouldn’t be blamed for wondering who he is but he definitely influenced the game.

Omawumi – Her genre was fast dying and there was none to take up the mantle and dying legacy of Onyeka Onwenu and Christy Essien Igbokwe until Omawumi burst onto the scene with a powerful voice, a tad of sexiness but no overt nudity. Earning mega bucks with the best of them, Omawumi occupies a special place on my music list. [Read this article to know more of my thoughts on her music]. Chidinma, Yemi Alade, Seyi Shay and many others sound like her but never forget that she opened a door that was fast closing.

Asa – Nobody would have ever thought that any Nigerian artiste could take her Pop/New Age/Slow Funk/Soul genre and put it firmly in the mainstream. Even bus conductors know the lyrics of ‘Bibanke’ and many other hits off her first album. So massive was her success that Kelvin Luciano released another version of her first album while she independently put another one out. Bez, GT tha Guitarman and others like that owe her a lot of kudos for preparing the ground for their kind of music.

DJ Jimmy Jatt – He makes the list because he has an album so we can call him an artiste…technically.

Others blazed the trail – DJs Shina, Shy Shy Shyllon, Humility and others but Jatt took it higher and commands megabucks with companies that sponsor showbiz and respect with the artistes who perform. By gradually tuning our ears to hiphop sounds by Nigerian artistes, Jatt would be proud that any DJ can make any gig rock without having to play one foreign song today. With two albums and the hugely popular ‘Stylee’, Jimmy Jatt is a household name these days.

I would have loved to include P-Square who influenced the likes of Bracket and J Martins but their impact has not been strong enough to say they influenced the game definitely and this is a piece about those who changed the game…just some of them.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (3)

  1. But what of eedris abdulkareem who opened the eyes of naija musician †̥☺ making real money

  2. I kinda agree to this view sha…the peeps mentioned are real game changers but most of them couldn't keep up except for the likes of dbanj,2face,jimmy jatt…

  3. This list is somewhat dubious to be honest. You put Omawumi and don’t put Onyeka Owenu, you include Nigga Raw but put Osadebe as an addendum? Christy Essien Igbokwe nko? People who paved the way for these newer artists to soar. So make up your mind if it’s the NEW face of the Nigerian Music industry or the artistes who REALLY changed its face. Selah!

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail