Nigerian music has greatly evolved over the years with many diverse styles, genres, and fusions being birthed. Today we’re going to explore the Alternative music movement in the industry.
What is alternative music?
Alternative music could be defined as “other” or “different from the status quo” in the industry. It has varied meanings depending on the type of industry, location or even genre it is ascribed to. For the Nigerian Music scene, we may describe Alternative music, sometimes called “Altę” as any music that may be outside the usual type of genres that are often commercialised like dancehall, party, R&B, hip-hop, street-hop, etc. Alternative music is not a specific type of sound, but it is often the minority, revolutionary type music in any music space; it could be an unusual music type , a fusion of genres or even simply a re-invention of a popular genre.
Now that we know what we’re taking about, let’s explore our journey to where we are now with this movement.
We’ve had a lot of alternative style musicians over the years. It is hard to pinpoint exactly where it all began. But let’s go to a more recent revival of the movement – let us go back to 2007 when Asa happened to us. She took the Nigerian music industry by storm when she released her first platinum self-titled album – Asa produced by her collaboration with Cobhams Asuquo. The headlining single – “Fire on the mountain”, which mirrored the insanity of the world we lived in became a sort of anthem; young or old, male or female, we all found her songs to be refreshing compared to what all the singers/ artistes that where giving out monotonous, albeit danceable tunes on almost a daily basis. She was a welcomed relief.
Songs like “Jailer”, “Bibanke”, “360”, “Eye Adaba”, we simply couldn’t get enough of her play on words, her subtle yet powerful sound, her ability to use small metaphors to speak big truths. It was as though we were lost, and she had come to find us. Her follow up album – Beautiful Imperfection about 3 years later was a testament to this genius.
It seemed we had seen it all until slowly but surely more and more alternative truly profound message-filled music and musicians started popping up as well. She had paved a way.
Let’s briefly talk about some of them
This multi-talented musician and singer also found a way to our hearts with his single “Zuciya Daya” and subsequent songs in albums such as “Super Sun”, “Gbayi Child” and the more recent “The Light”. His series of super successful live concerts has only helped to demonstrate that there is indeed a huge audience for his alternative style music in Nigeria. He has received multiple accolades and mentions around the world for his truly ground-breaking music like on the BBC, MTV, Vogue, Boston Globe and Rolling Stone.
He is heavy on philanthropy, having been involved in some impactful programs most notably the RTIST HUB, a program for Emerging artistes in Lagos.
With the release of “Sade” a highlife cover of One Direction’s “Story of My Life” In 2015, this 32-year-old set a pace in motion. Fusing highlife with pop and world music in a truly eclectic way. He has gone on to cement his name in the Nigerian Music sands of time with catchy and deeply moving tunes like “Ire”, “Orente”, “My Life” and subsequent album – “Gold”. Interesting facts, he had been rejected twice by Project Fame (their Loss!!) and he has been named “King of Photoshop” with his interesting skill of editing photoshop image of himself with other celebrities.
Another truly peculiar and distinct sound. We fell in love with her light hearted “Jamb Question” delivered with her easily identifiable light and easy voice in collaboration with Falz. This talented Singer/Songwriter is one of the foremost female record producers and sound engineers in the industry.
Fun Fact: Simi and Adekunle Gold recently had their , I guess brilliant minds stick together.
So, what contributed to the success of alternative movement in the Nigerian industry
Timing: One of the hardest factors to measure is timing. The release date, the planning, the readiness of the people to be early
adopters of new trends, etc. all come together to determine success of the music.
Social media: It makes music easily accessible. This has helped many alternative musicians find their audience and their niche quicker and with more ease. A spot-on example would be Falz, who was able to build the relevant fellowship for his music with his hilarious videos and innovative promotion techniques e.g., the Sweet Boy Association announcement in anticipation for the song.
Record labels, producers, promoters, media(radio): Of course, after the success of some of the music discussed, more and more record labels are willing to sign these artistes. Record producers are also working better to accommodate these sounds with some of the artistes become producers themselves to better create their sound. There is an identifiable market now for it so that promoters can put more alternative sounds out and these songs are getting more airplay on radios, etc
Artistes: The artistes, willing to create the music of course are a big part of the success doing a lot to connect with audience and create ingenious ideas to promote them.
The alternative music industry has found stable footing in the music industry. It’s here and here to stay. Can’t wait to see how it evolves.