NigeriaWest AfricaWhat's NewWorld

100 years of Afrobeat & Pop Music in Nigeria – Africa Facts Zone

Story Highlights

  • Palm-wine music from 1922 to 1944:
  • High-life and civil war from 1945 until 1969:
  • From 1970 until 1999, Afrobeat and Oil Dominated the Music Scene:
  • Naija hip hop and Afrobeats during the years 2000–22:

In 1914, when the northern and southern protectorates of British colonial rule were combined, Nigeria became a modern state. As the grandfather of legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, Reverend Josiah Ransome-Kuti made his first official attempt to commercialize and “popularize” Nigerian music in London in 1922.

The research began with four distinct periods: the foggy years, the interactive-budding phase, the liberal period, and the mononationalist period.


Palm-wine music from 1922 to 1944:

For the first 22 years, popular music practices in urban Nigeria had a hazy or ambiguous direction in which they emerged. Two global wars, as well as domestic economic and political strife, slowed the rise of popular music during this brief period. Young men were encouraged to enlist in the West African Frontier Force, a British military unit that fought in Africa.

Musician Domingo Justus and political activist Ladipo Solanke both recorded their first albums during this time period. The banjo and other plucked string instruments were used to accompany the early recordings, which were performed in the manner of a Yoruba church hymn.

When the guitar arrived in Lagos, the Jùju music style began to take off. Yoruba’s pre-colonial Asiko music was reinterpreted in contemporary Yoruba language as jùju music, which features the primary instrument (the tambourine). Aronke Macaulay, a song by Tunde King, was released in 1937 and was the driving force for the movement.

In the new metropolitan regions, palm-wine music was born, displaying a mix of genres but mostly accompanied by guitars and banjos. Some of the most prominent advocates of the movement were Israel Nwoba and G.T Onwuka.  The Onicha Own Orchestra made an appearance, combining primarily Igbo instruments and singing in their native way to explore diverse societal issues and trends.

High-life and civil war from 1945 until 1969:

A new sociopolitical system arose from the Second World War’s ashes over the following 24 years, with Nigerians interacting and forming new relationships. In colonial Africa, a wave of decolonization and talk of independence spread.

As a result of this, a new generation of artists arose, who would go on to create a decolonized popular music culture via broad connections across countries and personalities. Because of colonial influences they had been exposed to from infancy.

Nigerian highlife music, as well as the highlife music of Ghana and other countries, developed around this period. As cultural exchanges between Africa and the West expanded, so did the spread of the disease. Africans in metropolitan areas were referred to as “highlife” because of the exclusivity of the term.

A lot of the music was performed in local languages, pidgin, or English but with basic Western tonalities and chords (like guitars and brass bands), as well as instruments (like brass horns) and instruments (like brass horns). Colonial military formations’ marching bands had a significant impact on the creation of highlife. Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya, Stephen Amaechi, Samuel Akpabot, and Rex Lawson were early famous exponents.

Women like Foyeke Ajangila and Comfort Omoge made their debuts in popular music during this time period. Jazz and twist styles from the United States were brought to Nigeria at the same time as Jùju was being promoted.

By 1969, the Nigerian–Biafran War had come to a conclusion.

From 1970 until 1999, Afrobeat and Oil Dominated the Music Scene:

Popular music in Nigeria saw its most varied and widespread phase during the age of political liberalism. After the war, local popular music styles and practices became more prominent in the U.S. and abroad. Imports of popular music from throughout the world, such as pop (Michael Jackson), rock (Beatles), and marabi (Miriam Makeba), also brought fresh influences.

With the blending of styles, new Afro-centric musical subgenres emerged. Afrobeat was the most well-known (Fela Kuti). Polyrhythms from Africa and Afro-American music, such as jazz and reggae, are combined in Afrobeat. Politics in the South and the civil rights movement in the United States shaped it.

Afro-reggae (Sonny Okosun), Afro-jùju (Shina Peters), and Afro-pop (Afro-pop) were also popular (Dora Ifudu). The number of women working in the business grew (Onyeka Onwenu, Salawa Abeni and others).

The first Nigerian oil boom raised the standard of living for the country’s middle class. The advent of pentecostal Christianity and the sophistication of Lagos nightclubs have also contributed to this. This boom in Nigerian deejays in the 2000s will be spearheaded by Ron Ekundayo and Benson Idonije. This time period saw a lot of crossover between mainstream and spiritual music.

100 years of Afrobeat & Pop Music in Nigeria - Africa Facts Zone

Naija hip hop and Afrobeats during the years 2000–22:

The dawn of the new millennium saw a dramatic transition in Nigerian popular music from a diversified to a single emphasis. Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration opted to follow a strategy of local content. This resulted in a greater emphasis on regional music in the media and on the airwaves. The “Naija hip hop” scene might benefit from this.

Afrobeat, highlife, and other Nigerian/African rhythms are incorporated into Naija hip hop via the use of computer-assisted technology. Rhythmic, local languages, and dancing forms are all present. Among the most notable aspects of the Naija hip hop movement is its expansion into Afrobeats, an intertwined mix of numerous Afro-based genres that has brought Nigeria the most worldwide acclaim and acceptance since 1914.

Plantashun Boiz, Lagbaja, 2Face Idibia/2Baba, Dbanj, Donjazzy, 9ice, Asa, Davido, Wizkid, Olamide, and Burna Boy are just a few of the noteworthy performers of this era.


Since public life was forced to shut down due to the worldwide COVID-19 epidemic, new online music structures and possibilities have emerged, helping to rein in the previously unfettered musical piracy. As a result, a larger number of skilled and younger artists were able to go it alone. COVID-19, on the other hand, resulted in significant financial losses for musicians and other industry employees.

Afrobeats, the offspring of the Naija hip hop explosion, is blasting its way into the worldwide soundscape in 2022. Since popular music in Nigeria has been around for almost a century, it indicates that the mononationalist age will remain for at least another generation (around three decades).


Related Articles

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Translate »
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x