Away from the usual applause that greets our more popular genres of music (i.e. Afro beat, Afro pop and even Fuji), the Nigerian Alternative sound has slowly begun forging a path for itself in recent times.
Nneka was the pacesetter, Asa has attained legendary status; Brymo is still Brymo, distinct as ever and Bez is in a class of his own. These are just a few of the alternative superstars we have presently.
However, there are a few other acts who are also aiming for superstar status. (I see you Temi Dollface and Bemyoda) If they would reach the heights attained by the names mentioned above depends on a couple of factors. (I’ll be listing them in a follow up article to this).
The tag ‘Alternative’ as regards the Nigerian sound is a source of debate from music lovers and critics alike. Some are of the opinion that any genre outside the more popular sounds mentioned above are to be considered alternative while others feel songs that are distinct in their use of live instruments should be considered as alternative songs.
Urban dictionary defines “Alternative music as a vast music genre that can be similar to pop music, or completely different.”
I call the artistes mentioned in this list alternative not because of their individual genres, alternative because they bring something different to the table.
This said, here are 11 Nigerian alternative acts you should look out for in no particular order.
A banker by day and musician the rest of the time, Yela describes himself as an Afrocentric R&B artiste. He released his debut EP ‘Gidi + the Undertow’ early this year and hasn’t looked back since. Songs that stand out on the EP for me are ‘Boxes, Dance Wiv Me and Johni Walka.
I remember seeing a video of Kaline playing the keyboard and I was so blown away that I had to go find out more about her. I didn’t even know she was Nigerian! Apparently, she is a singer-songwriter and pianist who has a BMus in Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music. Talk about talent. Anyway, listen to her single ‘Tell you of my love’ to understand my thoughts about her. Meanwhile anyone notice the Solange Knowles type vibe she has?
3) Ayo Awosika
If you haven’t heard any of Ayo Awosika’s music, I forgive you. I admit to being a stalker of this woman and her music ever since I heard of her last year. A singer – songwriter, music director and music teacher based in New York, she recently released her debut album ‘We Best Not Wait’ Ayo’s performance at the Lagos Jazz Series back in 2014 still stands out for me.
The energy Falana exudes when she performs is simply out of this world. And when she plays the box drum? Fire! Please anytime you hear she is putting together her pop up concert series, make sure you attend. Watch her ingenious cover of Fela’s ‘Lady’.
In the first 10 seconds of me watching Ranti’s ‘Iwe Kiko’ video, I remember thinking “Great! Here’s another Asa wannabe” but immediately the EDM type vibe kicked in, that thought went out of the window! Ranti’s new school folk singer style is working for her so far. Iwe Kiko was just the beginning. Her second single Bamiwo is even better.
6) Lindsey Abudei
My ‘romance’ with Lindsey Abudei started when I downloaded her EP ‘Brown’ sometime in 2014. Since then, I still play it regularly. It rarely happens but I LOVED every song on that EP. Now Lindsey has released a full length album ‘And the Bass Is Queen’ best believe this album is fire. In fact, it is yet to get a negative review from critics since its release. Well done Lindsey, well done.
7) Johnny Drille
If you think Mr Drille sounds like OwlCity, you are forgiven until I heard him speak pidgin in his hit single Wait For Me. This Project Fame alumni has continued to soar since Wait for Me. I can’t wait for him to release an EP or album.
This man singlehandedly produced over 90% of TY Bello’s debut album Greenland and ever since then, everything he has touched has turned to gold in my opinion. He made the switch to singing a few years ago and he has put out songs I consider to be collector’s items. Doubt me? Check them out yourself I Love You and the more recent Femi.
I initially had doubts about including MNEK on this list primarily because even though he is of Nigerian heritage (he was born Uzoechi Emenike in London) he is more popular abroad. Only 21, the list of people this dude has worked with is astounding. From Beyoncé to Madonna and Diplo, the list keeps growing. His cover of Vanesa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles will remain on my playlist for a long time. His chart topping single with Zara Larsson ‘Never Forget You‘ has brought him worldwide recognition.
10) Tomi Thomas
Most people recognise Tomi as part of boy band L.O.S but it seems as his hair grew out, he found his path as a musician. I particularly like the chemistry he has with his producer Benie Macaulay. He released his EP Black Couch Vol 1 recently. For me, his song Ready or Not is gold!
What I admire about Aramide is the professionalism with which her career is being handled. I happen to be on her mailing list anytime she has new music or a video to put out. The way the press release is drafted and its accompanying photos always impress me. Think I’m wrong? Run a Google image search for Aramide and you’ll get hi res photos of this delectable singer. Have you seen her website too? *claps* Listen to her recent quirky single (with Sir Dauda) ‘Funmilowo Mi’ and you wouldn’t be sorry.
Which new alternative act did I miss? Please drop a name in the comment section