Friday 7 January 2022


Music of Yoruba origin should be studied as a course in Nigeria’s ivory towers, because it has the capacity to not only rapidly change Nigeria’s negative international image, but also to take our economy out of the doldrums by attracting music loving tourists to our nation, the way Rihanna has done in Barbados, and even in death, Bob Marley is doing for Jamaica. 

For every decade of Nigeria’s existence as an independent nation, music of Yoruba origin has dominated our nation, and now it is dominating the world.

* Bobby Benson dominated the 60s

* Abami Fela Kuti over dominated the 70s

* King Sunny Ade and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey dominated the 80s

* Sir Shina Peters and King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall dominated the 90s. 

* Paul Play Dario shared dominance with a non Yoruba artist (Tuface Idibia) in the 2000s

* D’Banj the Koko Master shared dominance with non Yoruba artistes (PSquare) in the 2010s

* Davido, Wizkid and Burna Boy (non Yoruba) are dominating in the here and now.

Their female artistes are not left out. Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Asa, Simi, Teni, Seyi Shay, dominate locally and internationally with their girl power!

How do they do it, that even where they sing wholly or partly in Yoruba, their music is able to crossover locally and internationally?

Christy Essien Igbokwe was quoted as saying she would not have made a breakthrough in the music industry without her anthem Seun rere, which was performed entirely in Yoruba.

Throughout the Black world, no other ethnic group has been able to CONSISTENTLY breakthrough in the music industry internationally while singing wholly or partially in their native tongue. I am not saying that some others do not sing in their native tongues. What I am saying is that they have not been able to crossover internationally, while singing in their native language. 

Caribbean reggae artistes sing in English or patois. African American R’nB, Jazz, Soul and rap artistes sing in English. Black Brazilians crossover with Portuguese. Francophone artistes (with the exception of Manu Dibango), crossed over with French. South African artistes crossed over with English (with the exception of Brenda Fassie and Mariam Makeba).

Even the world’s top Francophone female artiste (Angelique Kidjo), did not crossover internationally, until she sang in Yoruba.

There is something about that language and the musical genres that the Yoruba have introduced that can permanently put Nigeria on the world map for good.

And it is not just in music. Also in theatre (theatre is stage plays, not movies), the first Nigerian theatre company to have broken into the global theatre scene, as far back as the 60s, was Herbert Ogunde’s theatre company. The only other Nigerian theatre company to have broken through internationally is Wole Soyinka’s theatrical company.

Nigeria needs to rebrand quickly from our unfortunate and undeserved international reputation for corruption and scams. And the best way to rebrand a country or a corporation, is by projecting positive things about that entity that are ALREADY happening. Sadly, our government’s rebranding efforts focuses on things that they hope will happen.

So, again, I call on universities, and research institutes, to do thorough researches into this phenomena, with the aim of identifying what makes that sub sector of the music industry so successful, so that already established acts can use that knowledge to further crossover, and young upcoming acts can act on it to make inroads into the music industry globally.

The globally, music is a $5 trillion industry. Let us use what we have to corner at least 10% of that bottomline.

By Reno Omokri

Gospeller. Deep Thinker. #1 Bestselling author of Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years. Avid traveller. Hollywood Magazine Film Festival Humanitarian of the Year, 2019.

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