The other day I was doing some spring cleaning and came across two cassette tapes that were more than a decade old. Ever since I can remember, I would spend hours listening to the radio trying to catch my favorite songs on the airways. I would buy blank cassette tapes and record my favorite songs on them using my green stereo, which I also unearthed while cleaning. Curious, I inserted the first cassette tape on the ‘A’ side and pressed play. “There’s always that one person that will always have your heart, you never see it coming ‘cause you’re blinded from the start…” crooned Usher to Alicia Keys on My Boo. I hit the fast-forward button and was transported back to my childhood filled with thought-full (and -less. Lol!) lyrics by Ashanti, Missy Eliot, Nelly, Mario, Eminem, All American Rejects, Linkin Park, etc. Y’all I was literally cleaning out my closet while belting out Peaches & Cream by 112. In 2018!!
If you read my last post, you know that I’m a music lover. What you may not have known is that I have an eclectic music taste. In addition to the Christian contemporary, rock, hip-hop, and R&B music that I grew up listening to, I also have a deep love for Nigerian music – afrobeats, high life, and traditional music. Thanks to my cassette tapes, I’ve decided to take you down memory lane. Below are twelve songs by Nigerian artists that transport me back to a specific time and place.
When Wande Coal was still a member of the Mo’ Hits Record label (today known as Mavin Records), he released quite a few songs that I still love to this day. You bad featuring D’banj was a close second, but I decided to go with this one instead. Wande Coal was the guy back in the day, and although he actually had nice songs with meaningful lyrics, such as Ololufe, I spent a lot of time listening to the less serious ones. Lol. I literally had this song on repeat throughout my university days, and these songs were hits at numerous African parties and weddings. This song features Ghanian duo R2bees.
2. Juju by Ice Prince
I remember vividly when Ice Prince came on the scene. I was in my first year of university, and I heard his song Oleku for the first time at an African Student Association meeting. While everyone was claiming that they were ‘feeling the boy’, somehow I always found myself playing Juju on repeat. I loved the catchy lyrics on this diss track aimed at his haters and to be honest it always made me laugh. Here’s an excerpt:
“Can’t even ball cause my haters tryna deflate
Some of them say that my album is worse than a mixtape (mumu)…
I got kicks so fly, Jet Li homie
I’ll be milking the game, no tea homie
Quit bothering the dog, so flee homie.”
Homeboy was done, and I don’t blame him!
3. Stop Pretending by Bez Idakula
By the time I was in university, I had already left my cassette tapes and even CDs in the dust. Everything was already digital, and I spent more time imbibing music online than on the radio. I remember one day while I was at my parents’ home during an academic break, I randomly stumbled upon Maga No Need Pay, a collaborative single featuring Omawumi, M.I., Banky W, Bez, and a couple other artists on Youtube. I was immediately pulled in by Bez’s voice and unique sound, which was very different from the typical afrobeats that was (and is) still very popular on Nigerian and African airwaves. I searched the internet for more music from this new artist, and stumbled upon Bez’s first well-known single Zuciya Daya, which means ‘One Heart’. Soon after that, he released More You and Stop Pretending. The latter is a song detailing a man’s [failed] relationships with different Nigerian women. Something that always stood out to me was the fact that he mentioned women from Nigeria’s three biggest ethnic groups. When he finally finds the ‘one’ he ends the song with my favorite line:
“You know I don’t have so much money ma
To take you shopping for all your clothes and jewelry ma,
But I do spend time and that is quality baby.”
4. Konko Below by Lágbájá
I don’t even know how I stumbled upon this song, but I’m so glad I did! This is an oldieeee, which I first heard and listened to throughout my college days. Lágbájá is an artist that fuses traditional Yoruba music with jazz; prominent in his music is the use of a variety of traditional Yoruba drums in addition to western instruments. I’ve heard this song being played over the years at different events and parties. Like Fela Kuti, Lágbájá’s music is timeless.
5. Pres du Coeur by Les Patrons (featuring J. Martins)
I love it when Nigerians collaborate with other Africans, whether those on the continent or in the diaspora. I heard it for the first time while in university, though this time in Pau, France. J. Martins teamed up with another Ivorian group, Les Patrons on this track. The group sings in French while J. Martins sings in Igbo and Nigerian Pidgin about how love has no boundaries. For all of you who are in long distance relationships, this one is for you.
6. Obianuju by Duncan Mighty
This song is dedicated to ‘iyawo mi’ (my wife in Yoruba), Mary. She introduced me to this song back in university, and I fell in love with it straight away. Anytime I want to laugh, na this song (see what I did there?!). But seriously, this song always brings a smile to my face, and anytime I hear this at a party I don’t even know how to act. For those of you still stuck on the fact that I called another lady my wife, please go and keep your fourteen years nonsense to yourself. 🙂
7. Yes/No by Banky W.
This newly-wedded husband has been crooning love songs for years, and this one had visuals and dance moves similar to those found in Neyo’s Independent Woman. However, the lyrics are very different. In this song, Banky W. is beseeching a woman to be his lover, and in the video you can see the drama/story unfold. I personally associate this song with the two ‘S’ in my life: 1. Senegal where this song played at parties and night clubs when I was a university student in Dakar and 2. My good friend, Samah, with whom I used to dance to this song.
8. Ada Ada by Flavour
I will always associate this song with the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, USA. That is where I saw Flavour perform this song while he was ‘whining’ to shrieks and screams from myself and other women in the crowd. My friends, I have no shame. None at all when it comes to appreciating the beautiful things that the Lord has made. Flavour was one of many Nigerian artists who performed that night. I especially love this song, because it was released during a time when several artists were ‘going back to their roots’ and displaying their culture or at least a more traditional view of Nigeria amidst all of the music videos that featured video girls and night life. This song and especially the video is very ‘Igbotic’ (means pertaining to Igbo language and/or Igbo people), and features a couple’s traditional marriage while Flavour can be spotted playing his guitar shirtless in true Flavour fashion. Lol.
9. Lovinjitis by Wizboyy Ofuasia (featuring Teeyah)
This song is another collaboration between a Nigerian and a fellow West African artist. In this song, Wizboyy was joined by Ivoirian-French singer, Teeyah, for a zouk-infused track where they both profess their undying love (or maybe lust) for each other. I especially love how he sings in Igbo, English and Nigerian Pidgin, while Teeyah sings completely in French. This song beautifully pairs my multi-cultural background. Whenever I hear this song, I always think of my time in Southern France and South-eastern Nigeria.
A friend first told me about this song when I was living in Montpellier, France a few years ago. I love this song so much for so many reasons. First, the sound is what caught my attention. The stripped downed instrumentals are paired with Isaac Geralds’ voice and afro-soul sound similar to that of Bez or Tim Dakolo. In this song, Isaac Geralds beseeches a young woman in Yoruba, Nigerian Pidgin, and English, “How long e go take you for you to fall in love (How long will it take for you to fall in love)?” The second thing that made me fall in love with this song was the video. We watch him trying to win over this lady, and when that doesn’t work he even gets his friend Stan Iyke to assist him by asking her in another Nigerian language (Igbo), but the latter gets distracted and instead serenades another woman in Igbo, Nigerian Pidgin, and English. Overall, I really love the collaboration between an Igbo and Yoruba artist, even if their mission was a bit foolhardy. Watch the video clip here to see how the story ends.
11. Fall by Davido
In Nigeria, it seems that we’ve gone from thirst to hunger. Similar to Tekno’s Wash, where he keeps talking about cassava and spaghetti (if you know, you know), it seems that Davido is another young man that is starving. Needless to say, apparently Senegalese people are hungry too, because I can’t even count on my hands and toes the number of times I heard ‘banana fall on you’ playing in the taxi, supermarket, beach, at parties, etc when I was living in Dakar, Senegal. To be honest Aye will always have a special place in my heart, due to the overall message that money can’t buy true love and that one’s economic factor shouldn’t be a disqualifier when deciding on a soul mate. But come to think of it, in that song which he released years before Fall, he was singing about ‘sweet poraro’ (read: sweet potato). I guess once famished, always famished.
12. Home by Joy Ike
I love Love LOVE me some Joy Ike as you all know well by now. It’s so hard to pinpoint my favorite song from her, but I will say that her song ‘Home’ holds numerous memories, which span across time and space, too many to hold or count. The concept of home is something that I’ve subconsciously been searching for my entire life, and it’s not until a few years ago that I realized that it doesn’t have to be one specific or even a physical place. I will say that this song holds fond memories for me in both Maryland, USA and Enugu, Nigeria.
I could keep going, but I’ll leave it there for now. Music is an instrument that connects and transports us, both on an individual and community level. Are there any Nigerian, American (or other!) songs that you listened to over your life and have stayed with you ever since the first time you heard them? Please let me know below, so that I can expand my ever-growing track list! ❤