Nigerian music is more than just entertainment; it’s a cultural phenomenon that’s woven into the country’s fabric. With a rich and diverse musical heritage, the country has produced some of the most celebrated artists and sounds that have made waves both locally and internationally.
From the soulful melodies of Highlife to the energetic rhythms of Fuji, Nigeria’s music scene is a melting pot of different genres that are popular across the country. Every genre, in a sense, has its own history, distinctive tone, and cultural importance that are intricately entwined with the country’s identity.
So in this article, we are gonna dive deep into some of the most common music genres in Nigeria. Whether you are a die-hard fan of Nigerian music or just curious about the genre, we gotcha covered with an inside look into the dynamic world of Nigerian music.
As we all know, Afrobeat was one of Nigeria’s most popular music genres. This genre was developed in Nigeria in the late 1960s by Fela Kuti who, with drummer Tony Allen, experimented with different contemporary music of the time. Afrobeat combines traditional West African sounds, such as Yoruba music and highlife, with American funk, jazz, and soul influences.
It is important to distinguish between Afrobeat and Afrobeats since the latter helped to define the former, which made its debut in West Africa in the 21st century.
Afrobeats is a wildly popular genre in the music industry today, but it is important to note that it emerged from its predecessor, Afrobeat. While the two genres share some similarities, they are not the same thing.
Afrobeats is actually a mix of many different genres, such as British house music, hip-hop , R&B, and traditional African drum beats, just to name a few. This genre was developed in the 2000s and 2010s and was given the name “Afrobeats” to make it easier for UK listeners to understand and appreciate the diverse sounds coming out of West Africa.
What makes Afrobeats so distinctive is its signature beats (electronic or instrumental). These signature beats are what really give the genre a distinct sound that sets it apart from other music styles. These beats are so important that they often take on a lead role in the song, sometimes even overshadowing the lyrics.
Many talented artists have contributed to the growth and popularity of Afrobeats, such as Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, and Yemi Alade.
Gospel music has become a significant genre of Nigerian music, serving as a form of motivational Christian music. This genre was introduced to Nigeria by Portuguese Catholics in the late 15th century for missionary work and was primarily sung during church worship services.
The first recorded Nigerian gospel artist was Reverend Josiah Jesse Ransome-Kuti, a product of the Anglican Communion’s CMS, he compiled Anglican Communion hymns in Yoruba and composed other songs in the language, earning him the nickname “The singing minister” for winning converts through his music.
In 1925, Revd. Ransome-Kuti recorded 43 songs under Zonophone Records (now Warner Music Group), making him the first Nigerian to record gospel music.
Another significant figure in the birth of Nigerian gospel music was Ikoli Harcourt Whyte, who wrote over 200 songs and raised a choir that ministered around Nigeria.
The Nigerian gospel genre is one of the most common genres in the country and has produced gospel artists such as TY Bello, Sinach, Frank Edwards, Nathaniel Bassey and Tope Alabi, among others.
Highlife is a type of music that originated in Ghana in the 19th century and has since spread throughout Nigeria’s musical landscape. The genre is characterized by its jazzy horns and an ensemble of multiple guitars that lead the band.
Highlife is particularly renowned for the peculiar two-finger guitar approach it employs, which is characteristic of African music. Despite having its roots in Ghana, highlife has subsequently migrated to other West African countries like Nigeria, where the Igbo highlife has emerged as one of the most common genres. Igbo Highlife is a cool blend of both traditional Igbo music and classic Highlife tunes, with the guitar serving as the key instrument in most cases.
Juju music is a popular style of Yoruba music that originates from traditional Yoruba percussion. Due in large part to the efforts of well-known performers like Tunde King, it became significant in the 1950s. Jùjú music derives its name from the Yoruba word “juju” or “jiju,” which means “throwing” or “something being thrown.”
Shina Peters, King Sunny Ade, and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey are just a few of the well-known musicians from this genre. There is also a subgenre of juju music called Afrojuju, which blends juju music with Afrobeat. This genre was popularized by the renowned artist Shina Peters.
Alté is another common genre in the Nigerian music industry. It is a fusion genre of music that combines elements of afrobeats, dancehall, reggae, rap, hip hop, soul, and alternative R&B.
The term “alte” which refers to unconventional and individualistic and non-traditional modes of self-expression through music and fashion, was first used in the 2010s by the Nigerian music group DRB LasGidi. The music was first featured in the 2014 song “Paper” by Boj.
Popular alte musicians include Odunsi, Tems, Lady Donli, Nonso Amadi, Tay Iwar, Ayra Starr, Amaarae and more.
Fújì genre is a Yoruba musical style that developed from wéré music, which was used to awaken Muslims before dawn during Ramadan.
During the 1950s and 60s, Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister popularized wéré music and came up with the term “fújì” after seeing a poster advertising Mount Fuji, the highest peak in Japan.
Fuji should not be confused with the Yorùbá words “fuja” or “faaji,” which mean leisure or enjoyment, even though they may sound similar.
Fújì has gained popularity among Yoruba communities, and some of its most well-known artists include King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, Ayinla, Pasuma, and others.
Although there are many genres and more are constantly being created, these most popular genres demonstrate how Nigeria’s diverse cultures and customs are reflected in a number of music genres, each with a distinctive sound that is adored by Nigerians of all ages.