The Nigerian music scene is booming. Importantly, emerging acts have proliferated in the industry more than before and whether they swing towards popular sounds like Afrobeats, which has since become a mainstay, or the quiet rebellion of alternative, or splicing new genres altogether, these new voices want to be heard.
Have we been paying attention? At YNaija, we have curated this list of exciting talents that are on the trajectory to become something bigger. Some might not be on your playlist just yet, but watch out for them.
1. Gigi Atlantis
With just a slim collection songs released so far, Gigi Atlantis has been nothing short of a revelation. Her 2018 single Tequila Crush marinates in slinky guitar chords, a sepia-toned quality of a memory gone blurry, perhaps aged with time, perhaps obscured by nostalgia. 2020, currently, might look like an apocalyptic hellscape but Gigi’s 2020 is rather positively uplifting. But it’s Wahala on the Rocks that shows a much evolved artiste, or maybe it’s just a kind of higher confidence. Featuring Fasina, Gigi’s sultry vocals is never subdued, fashioning her as the latest anti-pop artiste with the world as her oyster.
2. The Cavemen
Biological brothers Benjamin and Kingsley Okorie are lead singers of The Cavemen, a Lagos-based band pioneering the highlife fusion genre – an alchemy of afrobeats, jazz, soul and highlife. They seem to have built a small cult of fans in digital spaces and underground physical events, taking the lo-fi aesthetic and sensibilities of highlife luminaries like Oliver De Coque and Osita Osadebe and creating a jazzy, slithering sound, while predominantly singing in Igbo. Singles like Bolo Bolo and Osondu are sharpest cuts from their offerings.
3. GoodGirl LA
GoodGirl LA feels like what happens if Wande Coal and Teni had a lovechild. Born Euphemia Ekuma, GoodGirl LA’s first single Faraway, released in 2018, is a yearning for a love seemingly unattainable. The emotive lyrics and dreamy tones, not forgetting the signature Brandy-esque vocal runs, establishes GoodGirl as a serious singer. Her debut EP, 2019’s La Confidential is an Afropop confection. Through the gauzy, smoky edges of her voice lies GoodGirl’s versatility, and perhaps it’s her superpower.
4. Yinka Bernie
One of Yinka Bernie’s early singles, 2017’s Silhouette, has got replay value. Vividly painting a picture of meeting a woman he’s interested in for the first time, the song is loopy and psychedelic while Yinka sings in that bedroom-y drawl that complements his baritone. His 2018 three-track EP Façades offers luscious soundscapes, his take on alternative R&B and elements of neo-soul and jazz bewitchingly effortless, accompanied with guests verses from Idris King, Amaarae and AYLO. Self-taught producer, Yinka calls his sound of beautifully, uncomplicated music ‘‘maximum cruise” and it feels so apt.
5. Dwin, the Stoic
Born Edwin Madu, Dwin the Stoic is the lead singer of the alternative indie band Ignis Brothers, who have released materials since 2018 with Braveheart and Alien at Home. His debut album Heavy Heart is deliciously sonic, coaxed with raw instrumentation that complements Dwin’s shifting emotions from sadness to euphoria.
6. Tim Lyre
Tim Lyre’s versatility as a producer, singer and songwriter puts him in a pantheon of rare indie talents. From the hedonism of 2017’s Relax, features and collaborations within the grapevines of the alternative scene, to his just-released polygenre EP, Senpai, Tim won’t be pigeonholed.
Piggybacking off a portfolio of creating hits for other artistes as a producer, Adey has finally decided to pursue a path in music with his new solo project Akiba, with its opening track Fugazi evoking 90’s Craig David R&B and its two-step beat. The hard-to-pin-down EP plays with genres, but one thing is certain: Adey’s syrupy R&B vocals is one you would always want to return to.
8. Joyce Olong
”Music is me and I am music. Whatever I do there’s music in it” Joyce told Pulse in 2017 interview. That same year, she released her debut EP Merci Beauté (Thank you beautiful) which launched her into the uncertain, choppy world of music. The ”neo-soul” label has been slapped on several dozen new artistes, often by those looking to establish some kind of umbilical cord with the old greats. Joyce, who plays the sax and other instruments, describes her sound as Afro-soul and Merci Beauté is a thesis on identity, gratitude, and love.
Okay Africa describes Buju as a ”blooming Afro-fusion artist you should know” in an interview this year, and it’s not farther from the truth. Born Daniel Benson, Buju is quietly shaking up the music scene with radio-ready singles – the tropical L’enu, which already has a remix with Burna Boy, and the Spiritual with Zlatan.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies and reading comics and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.