Music of Nigeria  

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"In the early to mid 1970s, three of the biggest names in Nigerian music history were at their peak: Fela Kuti, Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Adé." --Sholem Stein

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The music of Nigeria includes many kinds of Folk and popular music, some of which are known worldwide. Styles of folk music are related to the multitudes of ethnic groups in the country, each with their own techniques, instruments, and songs. Little is known about the country's music history prior to European contact, although bronze carvings dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries have been found depicting musicians and their instruments. The largest ethnic groups are the Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. Traditional music from Nigeria and throughout Africa is almost always functional; in other words, it is performed to mark a ritual such as a wedding or funeral and not to achieve artistic goals. Although some Nigerians, especially children and the elderly, play instruments for their own amusement, solo performance is otherwise rare. Music is closely linked to agriculture, and there are restrictions on, for example, which instruments can be played during different parts of the growing season.

Work songs are a common type of traditional Nigerian music. They help to keep the rhythm of workers in fields, river canoes and other fields. Women use complex rhythms in housekeeping tasks, such as pounding yams to highly ornamented music. In the northern regions, farmers work together on each other's farms and the host is expected to supply musicians for his neighbours.

The issue of musical composition is also highly variable. The Hwana, for example, believe that all songs are taught by the peoples' ancestors, while the Tiv give credit to named composers for almost all songs, and the Efik name individual composers only for secular songs. In many parts of Nigeria, musicians are allowed to say things in their lyrics that would otherwise be perceived as offensive.

The most common format for music in Nigeria is the call-and-response choir, in which a lead singer and a chorus interchange verses, sometimes accompanied by instruments that either shadow the lead text or repeat and ostinato vocal phrase. The southern area features complex rhythms and solo players using melody instruments, while the north more typically features polyphonic wind ensembles. The extreme north region is associated with monodic (i.e., single-line) music with an emphasis on drums, and tends to be more influenced by Islamic music.

Epic poetry is found in parts of Nigeria, and its performance is always viewed as musical in nature. Blind itinerant performers, sometimes accompanying themselves with a string instrument, are known for reciting long poems of unorthodox Islamic text among the Kanuri and Hausa. The Ozidi Saga found in the Niger Delta is a well-known epic that takes seven days to perform and utilises a narrator, a chorus, percussion, mime and dance.

Afrobeat

Afrobeat is a style most closely associated with Nigeria, though practitioners and fans are found throughout West Africa, and Afrobeat recordings are a prominent part of the world music category found throughout the developed world. It is a fusion of American funk music with elements of highlife, jazz and other styles of West African music. The most popular and well-known performer, indeed the most famous Nigerian musician in history, is undoubtedly Fela Kuti.

Fela Kuti began performing in 1961, but did not start playing in his distinctive Afrobeat style until his exposure to Sierra Leonean Afro-soul singer Geraldo Pino in 1963. Although Kuti is often credited as the only pioneer of Afrobeat, other musicians such as Orlando Julius Ekemode were also prominent in the early Afrobeat scene, where they combined highlife, jazz and funk. A brief period in the United States saw him exposed to the Black Power movement and the Black Panthers, an influence that he would come to express in his lyrics. After living in London briefly, he moved back to Lagos and opened a club, The Shrine, which was one of the most popular music spots in the city. He started recording with Africa '70, a huge band featuring drummer Tony Allen, who has since gone on to become a well-known musician in his own right. With Africa 70, Kuti recorded a series of hits, earning the ire of the government as he tackled such diverse issues as poverty, traffic and skin-bleaching. In 1985, Kuti was jailed for five years, but was released after only two years after international outcry and massive domestic protests. Upon release, Kuti continued to criticise the government in his songs, and became known for eccentric behaviour, such as suddenly divorcing all twenty-eight wives because "no man has the right to own a woman's vagina". His death from AIDS in 1997 sparked a period of national mourning that was unprecedented in documented Nigerian history.

In the 1980s, Afrobeat became affiliated with the burgeoning genre of world music. In Europe and North America, so-called "world music" acts came from all over the world and played in a multitude of styles. Fela Kuti and his Afrobeat followers were among the most famous of the musicians considered world music.

By the end of the '80s and early '90s, Afrobeat had diversified by taking in new influences from jazz and rock and roll. The ever-masked and enigmatic Lágbájá became one of the standard-bearers of the new wave of Afrobeat, especially after his 1996 LP C'est Une African Thing. Following a surprise appearance in place of his father, Fela, Femi Kuti garnered a large fan base that enabled him to tour across Europe.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Music of Nigeria" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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