60 Songs to Represent 60 Years of History and Evolution of Music in Nigeria
October 1, 2020 is a remarkable day in Nigeria's history as the country celebrates her 60th independence anniversary. For sixty years, Nigeria has survived as a diverse and colorful nation of industrious, talented, and resilient citizens. In the sixty years of Nigeria’s existence, the nation has been dubbed the Giant of Africa due to her population, resources, and huge potentials. For sixty years, Nigeria has struggled to live up to her potentials to fully earn the self-acclaimed title of ‘Giant Of Africa’.
However, if there’s one aspect that Nigeria has proven to be the indisputable Giant of Africa, it’s in entertainment, notably in music. For decades, Nigerian musicians have put Nigeria and Africa on the map with their sonorous music. Nigerian music has transcended the borders of Nigeria, uniting Africa, and grabbing the attention of the world.
For sixty years, Nigerian music has continued to evolve in talents, dynamism, audience, and impact, thus becoming one of Nigeria's biggest export. Today, as we commemorate sixty years of national cohesion, Turn Table Charts use this moment to celebrate Nigerians and the timelessness of Nigerian music.
To mark the diamond celebration, TurnTable Charts have put together a list of the biggest song for each year since independence. Sixty outstanding and most popular tracks that rocked Nigerian airways, clubs, parties, and streets. Sixty gigantic songs that became a second national anthem.
Three staff of TurnTable Charts compiled the list with each writer taking 20 years of music (1960-1979, 1980-1999, 2000-2019).
The year of release is considered as against the year in which the song gained prominence
Independence celebrations influenced popular music in Nigeria during the early 60s, which meant most of the early records were celebratory. This made artistes like IK Dairo and Haruna Ishola that could dazzle, delight and praise a party crowd were in heavy demand.
Highlife and Juju were the dominant genres during the 60s and 70s – though the influence of highlife reduced after the end of the Civil War, restricting the genre mostly to Igbos in the East. However, the few artistes that kept the style alive proved to the most dominant of the period; Victor Olaiya, “the Evil Genius of Highlife’ appears three times (the most of any artiste on the list), Celestine Ukwu and Chief Steven Osita Osadebe also appear on the list.
The late 60s and 70s saw the emergence of a new era of artistes whose music combined several traditional and foreign elements; from the bluesy guitar-based highlife-influenced Juju of Ebenzer Obey to King Sunny Ade’s incorporation of Jamaican dub and a new pattern of guitar-for-rhythm, drums-for-melody to Fela Kuti and Orlando Julius Ekemode’s Afrobeat.
It is quite impossible to determine the level of popularity of songs 1960-1965 period due to the limit of records and data (even though certain songs stand out as timeless ubiquitous records). However, a combination of several factors such as height of fame of the artiste, stand out track in a highly popular album and mentions on several noteworthy historical articles and editorials, gives much needed direction and insight.
A major feature of the Nigerian economy in the 80's was a dependence on petroleum following the oil boom of the 70's, but unlike the 70's, the 80's was characterized by declining economic conditions brought about falling oil prices. No such fall or decline could be noticed on the sociocultural scene as it continued to bubble and flourish.
This era witnessed an expansion of the Afrobeat genre influence by one fela kuti, the popularization of juju music beyond the borders of the country fueled by a healthy rivalry between the much venerated King Sunny Ade (KSA) and Ebenezer Obey, resurgence of reggae initially inspired by Bob Marley and then later helmed locally by Majek Fashek (his much acclaimed album prisoner of conscience would go on to become an important cultural touch stone). The local highlife scene was not left out as it continued to draw from and enjoy from the initial success of the genre from the previous decade.
The 80's ushered in some really great works of art in the Nigerian music scene, one of them is the album; Ever Liked My Person by Christy Essien Ugbokwe which happened to be the “Lady of Songs” sixth studio album and spurned the mega hit 'Seun Rere'.
King Sunny Ade's critically acclaimed and highly successful album Jùjú Music released in 1982 would go on to become a world phenomenon and peak at #111 on the billboard pop albums chart. Timeless songs which would go on to define the Jùjú genre like 'Esubiri Ebo Mi' and other intoxicating rump shaker. It is important to note that KSA’s Juju Music contained songs that have been released initially in Nigeria – hence why ‘Esubiri Ebo Mi’ is listed in 1976.
1989 could easily be the golden year of Nigerian music; Sir Shina Peters highly revered Afro Jùjú album redefined and reinvigorated the music scene in Nigeria (also replacing the Yo-pop championed by former bandmate Segun Adewale) released in 1989 to undeniable commercial success and cultural influence was recorded in a medley format but songs like 'Afro juju' stand out for its continued popularity and evergreen tinge of nostalgia it elicits till this day.
Mike Okri evergreen ‘Time Na Money’ was also released in 1989, and it has become a perfect soundtrack and reminder for Nigerians to stay on their feet in this hustle and bustle society. Other classics like King Sunny Ade & Onyeka Onwenu’s government-sponsored ‘Wait for Me,’ Ras Kimono’s reggae infused’s “Rum Bar Stylee” and Felix Liberty’s ‘Ifeoma’ also saw a 1989 release.
2000 ushered in a new millennium, a new decade of evolution following as well as the beginning of Nigeria's digital age, which had to go through the Alaba market before transforming gradually to a streaming market.
For the music industry, it was the birth of a contemporary Nigeria sound. The new sound which was a contemporary rebirth of Fela Kuti's Afrobeat took the world by storm and several artistes would be associated with the growth and popularity of the sound. The new wave of Afrobeats evolved as the years went by and every year was better than the last. Choosing the biggest songs or most important songs in Nigeria over the last two decades isn't an easy feat. However, using standard criteria such as reach, airplay, longevity, and timelessness, below is the biggest Nigerian songs of the last two decades 2000 - 2019.
The millennium got into a titillating start with iconic saxophonist Lagbaja who brought Nigerians to their feet with his hit single 'Konko Below.' Multi award winning artistes Davido is the only artiste in this era with two singles on the list, with his 2011 club banger 'Dami Duro' and his 2017 back-to-basics 'IF'. Starboy, Wizkid, also features on the list with his 2014 hit Ojuelegba, which transcended borders and took Afrobeats to a whole new level.
Perhaps is the closest two songs in one year would be Styl Plus’ ‘Olufunmi’ and 2Baba’s ‘African Queen’ – both songs proved to be smash hits, important and relevant. However, the timelessness of ‘African Queen’ gives it the slight edge. Another close call is that of 2016 with Runtown’s ‘Mad Over You’ picked ahead of Tekno’s ‘Pana.’