Technically, that's not a new development , yet for most American music consumers, contemporary African music remains out of range. Nigerian Afropop, as it is often called, feels at this moment particularly bold, diverse, outward-facing—and well shaped to find success in the United States. What has changed in the interim is that Nigeria has quickly provided a center of gravity all its own. Afropop is a broad, omnivorous movement that incorporates the influences from dancehall to soca to hip-hop to the music of Ghana and South Africa.
But it's all sublimated into a final product that has a sound all its own. These diverse influences are unified through the complex grooves that differentiate West African music from the rest of the world, particularly in the West. By relying on a clave rhythm—this is the name for it in latin music—West African records offer more rhythmic variation from dancers. When it comes to a potential U.
Even Jamaican music has faced a continual uphill struggle to get recognition within the United States. For Nigerian music, the language barrier could prove similarly tough to overcome. But after an hour listening to Nigeria's intricate rhythms, traditional U. This is how Nigeria's scene points a way forward for the world's pop music—and suggests that if an American takeover doesn't happen, America may just have to play catch-up down the line. Spend even a cursory amount of time on YouTube and you'll find hundreds of popular Nigerian Afropop records from the past few years.
What follows are a few essentials from , records that defined the year's sound. Obviously, there's no way to sum up an entire flourishing genre in just five pieces; if you want to hear more, DJ Neptizzle from the UK put together a strong overview called Ultimate Afrobeats earlier this year. But for just a taste, check the five songs below. Along with Davido, WizKid is currently one of the continent's biggest stars, a superstar whose charismatic presence and melodic approach have helped to churn out hit after hit after hit.
Don Jazzy is one of Nigeria's most important producers, and "Surulere" was one of the year's most acclaimed songs. It also isn't the most rhythmically demonstrative of Nigeria's big records this year. But there's something novel about the way its build-and-release snare rolls in the lead-in to the chorus that imprints the record on the brain. For a well-written exploration of the song and its lyrics, Prince Oreshade wrote an interesting piece over at Citrus Live.
Women do play an important role in Nigeria's music scene. Tiwa Savage is probably the country's biggest name, and she's written behind the scenes for American recording artists like Fantasia. Her biggest solo record, the incredible "Eminado" , was released in late , unfortunately for our purposes—but you should probably hear it anyway. This summer, though, Yemi Alade's "Johnny" was far and away one of the biggest records—and the only Nigerian record I heard out in Brooklyn. If you want an example of the incredible potential for rhythmic complexity within Nigeria's music scene, the dizzying network of cross-rhythms in Lil Kesh's "Shoki" is perhaps the best example.
Their video swag is reminiscent of American hip-hop artists, and the content isn't far from it either, but the rush of the beat will have your heart subdividing in your chest. Mavins: "Dorobucci" [ft. Don Jazzy, Tiwa Savage, Dr. While not the first song liable to catch American ears, for a period this summer "Dorobucci" was Nigeria's biggest record by all accounts. It's a reminder that while what appeals to American ears is the intriguing mix of the unknown and the familiar, experiencing it from a remove still means that pieces of the puzzle are always missing.
Experiencing Afropop is not about replacing your current pop diet with Nigerian counterparts; it's important to recognize that the dynamics, pressures, and cultural values can be very different in a country of million people.
Perhaps the sweetest song of devotion yet written, Davido's "Aye" boils over with sincerity, its thicket of rhythms eventually taking shape as clean, piercing guitar lines cut through to provide a melodic counterpoint. Davido is one of Africa's biggest pop stars, on par with WizKid, but when he performed in New York in late summer, he was before a smaller, entranced audience of Nigerian-American immigrants.
Nonetheless, when he closed with this record, the entire audience sang the chorus back to him word for word with a stadium's worth of energy. By Sheldon Pearce. By Alphonse Pierre. By Madison Bloom. By Philip Sherburne.
By Eric Torres. Tags Year in Music Get Hot Links A daily roundup of the most important stories in music. Read More. The Pitch.