The Nigerian sound is changing again, and this time we are loving it.
You might not have noticed, but we all are in the middle of a very crucial point in the music industry; where the culture resets itself by switching the sound. When this happens the consequences are felt by everyone, both fans and artists.
Fans benefit the most whenever change comes around town. They get a new type of music, which sounds fresh, contains a higher level of creativity, and connects better with everyone. They are fed a new motif of melody and songwriting that is at best, rejuvenating. And at worse, still preferable to what we have before.
But a new shift in the dynamics of music is a real problem for Nigerian artists. It throws them off balance, destroys all of their short term plans, and sends them back to the studio, with their tails between their legs and no hits. A change in the Nigerian popular sound leaves them exposed, and levels the playing fields. They are forced to scurry back into the countless studios of Lagos, begging producers to present their latest work, in a bid to seek a new hit.
This is what is happening right now.
Ever since Kiss Daniel’s ‘Woju’ picked up in 2015, the signs were present that a huge change was coming. The overwhelming embrace of the song by the public was a significant red flag to numerous artists, who knew that the public was ripe for something new, and Kiss Daniel had provided it. And trust Kiss, he didn’t just perform a single trick, he gave everyone an album filled with similar songs.
Kiss Daniel had created the spark that shifted pop music towards mid-tempo. Gone was the Nigerian music stereotype of high-tempos, muscular beats, and machine-gun delivery. People were tired. They wanted a new wave. That’s why Simi and Adekunle Gold could begin their conquest with popular backing. They represented something new.
In 2016, that dominant wave was accelerated. And the biggest beneficiaries were Tekno and Mr Eazi, who dominated and sealed their place as music stars, while the rest studied and chased the game.
Runtown and Davido have succeeded in cracking the code, with ‘Mad Over You’ and ‘If’ dominating. Skales almost did it with his ‘Temper’ collaboration with Burna Boy, although it has refused to grow into a super hit record. Lil Kesh is fine with ‘Shele gan gan’ proving to be his comeback record.
This is a scary time for artists. They either adapt quickly to create great songs, or they risk falling behind and losing their relevance. When change comes around, a lot of artists are chewed and spat out by the system. Nobody wants to be that man.
But while the current popular sound is presenting early winners, we shouldn’t forget that it is still new, and artists are not creating enough to sustain it. People are still in studios, recording and learning how to best deliver a hit record. No one wants to spend money on a new venture and lose. Hence the delay.
That’s why there is a scarcity of hit songs. Fans have resigned themselves to giving ‘If’ and ‘Mad over you’ a number of spins while we wait for the airwaves to be populated with hits. Ycee’s ‘Juice’ is already a clear favorite to have a great run. Wande Coal has ‘Iskaba’ warming up too.
And while all of the top guns chase this new wave, what do you think will happen to emerging artists who are looking to breakthrough? Their job is harder now. They are all caught up in the wave, and they have to deliver to even get basic recognition.
So as a fan, you have to chill, and wait for the system to sort itself out. The best music is on the way.