Nigerian music is an extraordinary fluid mix of traditional African rhythms and Western jazz, funk, hip hop and soul. Nigerian musicians have both influenced and were influenced by generations of Western musicians.
All Around This World really shouldn’t be choosing favorites, BUT….. All Around This World’s favorite musician of all time is Fela Kuti, who was a powerful, complicated, FEARLESS musician who used his talents as a performer, lyricist and instrumentalist to directly confront both the debilitating injustices of colonialism and dangerously dictatorial Nigerian regimes. Known as “The Black President,” Fela began his career in the early ’60s playing highlife in clubs around West Africa and the UK. In the late ’60s, Fela encountered the American Black Power movement and American funk, both in the body of James Brown. Fela fused highlife and Brown’s hard-driving funk to create Afrobeat, and he fused Pan-Africanism and Black Power with his music to become one of the most politically powerful musicians of all time. See Fela in performance (in the rain) in 1971: shot soon after the Nigerian Civil War by Eric Clapton/Cream drummer and Fela friend Ginger Baker.
We’re also big fans of:
— King Sunny Ade (known in Nigeria as KSA) Ade is one of the fathers of juju music, a Nigerian form of party music that added Yoruba percussion to West African “palm-wine.” Ade’s long-time rivalry with juju-evangelist-turned-Christian-evangelist “Chief Commander” Ebenezer Obey helped make juju wildly popular in Nigeria from the ’60s until the ’80s.
— Babatunde Olatunji: “Akiwowo.” Nigerian percussion legend Olatunji is known throughout Africa as master of many of the continent’s most complex and culturally meaningful rhythms. He is most recognized in the West for his collaborations with the Grateful Dead’s Mickey Hart, though those in-the-know also have him to thank for inspiring comedian Andy Kaufman to learn to play the conga. You can see him on YouTube performing with “Drums of Passion.”