In the latest episode of Africa Avant-Garde, CNN International meets artists, producers, and industry veterans to discuss Nigeria’s burgeoning music industry. Often referred to collectively as Afrobeats, the sounds produced by this West African powerhouse encompass many genres.
Singer and songwriter Niniola distinguishes her sound as Afro House. She explains the genre and the African influences on her music, “I’m not an Afrobeats artist, my own genre of music is Afro House. Afro House is a fusion of African music, there’s the African influences in terms of the beat, and my vocals – I love to sing in Yoruba language.”
Music and musicians from Nigeria are gaining an ever-growing global audience. Niniola speaks about the universality of songs, “Music is a universal language. More than ever, I believe that now. You don’t need to understand the language a person is speaking. So long as the music is premium and world class, the world is gonna embrace you.”
Kenny “Keke” Ogungbe and Dayo “D1” Adeneye started Kennis Music, one of Nigeria’s best known music labels, in the late 1990s. They have long embraced the diversity of music coming out of Nigeria and are keen to stress that not everything should be grouped under the Afrobeats label, “I hope as we keep moving, the world will learn to recognise that everything that comes out of Nigeria is not Afrobeats.”
Obi Asika is the founder of Yam Carnival, a festival in London, England celebrating Black music, culture, and food. He tells CNN about why the carnival was created, “I’ve always wanted to give a platform to the African artists. I’m very interested in genres of music that people in my industry sometimes overlook because they feel that it’s not commercial.”
Asika is hopeful that African music will continue to grow in popularity internationally, but he cautions that the genre shouldn’t lose its African roots, “I hope that it keeps its foundations strong, and I hope that African people remain stakeholders in it – that it’s not just gobbled up by the industry, because then it will last forever.”
One of the performers at the Yam Carnival was Nigerian musician Yeme Alade. She describes her sound, “I like to call my genre of music Afropolitan. For me it’s a mix of highlife, Afrobeats, R’n’B and pop.”
Alade has shown the popularity of Nigerian music on the world stage. She speaks about her country’s music scene, “The music industry in Nigeria is ever-growing, it is huge. The music has spiralled out of control. It’s international, the entire world is into it, the spotlight is on Africa and we’re loving it.”
The programme also meets Don Jazzy, renowned music producer and founder of Mavin Global who speaks about how streaming is increasing the popularity of African music globally. And finally, singer and songwriter Falana tells CNN how the evolving sounds of Afrobeats are influencing her work.
While for some artists and producers in the Nigerian music industry the term Afrobeats is being misused, Africa Avant-Garde sees that the music itself is going beyond labels, beyond genres, and beyond borders as it extends its popularity.