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Top legends of Nigerian Music: Celebrating the Musical legends that Shaped Nigerian Music

Updated on September 22, 2015

Sir Victor Uwaifo

Image of Sir Victor Uwaifo
Image of Sir Victor Uwaifo | Source

Nigerian Music Icons

Nigerian music has many music genres like highlife, calypso, juju, Fuji, hip-hop, reggae music and many traditional indigenous sounds. Many musicians shaped the music scene over the years creating memorable songs winning both domestic and international accolades.

The list of Nigerian music legends is endless but to mention a few like Rex Lawson, Orlando Owoh, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, and Fatai Rolling Dollar. Other musical icons include Fela,

Onyeka, Orlando Julius, Shina Peters, Salawa Abeni, Oliver De Coque, 2face and many more.

Below we have listed a few of the music legends that shaped the Nigerian Music scene.

Fela and Band members

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Fela and Band membersFela
Fela and Band members
Fela and Band members
Fela
Fela | Source

Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Fela Anikulapo Kuti was born Fela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome- Kuti on 15 October 1938. The Ransome-Kuti families are from the Yoruba ethnic group and are notable philanthropist, academic scholars, and right advocates.

The multi-instrumentalist singer, composer, and songwriter pioneered an exceptional genre of music popularly referred to as Afrobeat. Afrobeat was an infusion of classic, jazz, highlife, and

African rhythms to produce an amazing sound blended into a rich pulsating beat.

The sound encompassed traditions rhythms with an infusion of funk, jazz, highlife, and repetitive African chants.

His father was a ‘protestant’ minister while the mother was a feminist activist during the anti-colonial era. Fela a multi-instrumentalist specializing in the saxophone, keyboards, guitar, and drums. Fela sang most of his song in Pidgin English, complete with political and activist innuendos.

The upper-middle class graduate of music from the prestigious Trinity College of Music embraced musical activism to make a positive change in the society. Fela through his music tried to enlighten the common-man about corruption and injustice in the Nigerian society.

Notable associates of the musical icon include Victor Olaya, Sandra Smit-Izsadore (Black power movement), Hugh Masekela, Ginger Baker, and Lester Bowie. Other associates are his activist brothers Beko Ransome-Kuti, Dr. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti and his cousin Professor Wole Soyinka the Nobel laureate.

Fela was beaten and incarcerated on several occasions by the military dictatorship for his activism. He died on August 2, 1997 from health related complications.

Sikiru Ayinde Barrister

Sikiru Ayinde Barrister
Sikiru Ayinde Barrister

Chief Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister

Chief Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister in his life’s time had many accolades and numerous chieftaincy titles both in the entertainment world and in traditional institutions. Named the doctor of music by his teeming fans Sikiru Barrister developed an amazing vocal dexterity and surprisingly graceful dancing style despite his large frame.

He mastered a complex vocal style laced with moral and religious teachings usually associated with Islamic scholars. He worked as a stenographer and served in the army during the Nigeria civil war.

Dr. Barrister became a pioneer innovator of Fuji music, which essentially is a spin off sound between Apala and Juju music. Fuji music is a Nigerian music genre improvisation between Were-music and Ajisari traditional music. The music sound was used to wake Muslim Faithfull’s during the Islamic religious festival called Ramadan.

His innovative experimentation and Islamic recital dexterity created a crossover sound he called Fuji garbage. Chief Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barristers musical compositions gravitated between slow and fast tempo beat. Achieved through a blend of high shrill vocalizations, chants, modern and traditional drums set, like the talking drum, hand held shekere and stylized guitar play.

His over twenty-man band played various percussion instruments in a unique blend of sound which had elements of aaro, juju, gudugudu, sakara and apala music that was enthralling and difficult to categorize.

Christy Essien Igbokwe

Christy Essien Igbokwe
Christy Essien Igbokwe | Source

Christy Essien Igbokwe

Christy Essien Igbokwe found fame early in life as a cast member of The New Masquerade television dram aired on Nigeria Television Authority. A chanced meeting in 1977 with the cast and crew while working on her music career brought about meteoric rise to the 18-year-old songstress.

Nigerians of that era still marvel at her interpretation of the role of Akpenor the troublesome wife of Prince Jegede Sokoya. Four years on Chief Christy became a hit maker with chart toping songs like Seun-Rere, Hear the Call and a hit album titled Ever Liked My Person.

A recipient of many international and national awards she became the first female president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria. Her music contained many moral messages and had a basic up-tempo beat that were simplistic charming and trendy.

Other notable contributions include her charity work with the less privileged of the society, many projects in Rivers, Enugu, plateau and Akwa Ibom states. The Nigerian Lady of Songs was born 11 November 1960 and died 30 June 2011.

Sir Warrior

The Oriental Brothers International Band was a colossus group that ruled the eastern music scene in the 1970s. With over ten gold and platinum records and an amazing N7.8 million records sold worldwide the band is among the most successful groups in Nigeria.

The meteoric achievement was possible with the inclusion of Dr. Sir Warrior becoming the bandleader. Unfortunately, the amazing band was bedeviled with breakups and two separate bands with identical sounds ruled the music scene.

The different splinter groups include Dr. Sir Warrior and his Oriental Brothers international, prince Ichita & the Great Oriental Brothers band and the Oriental Original. The Imo indigene alongside his band created an ethnic style of highlife using Igbo vocalization, interjections of Congolese guitar pickings and infectious rhythms.

The traditional Igbo sound was a highlife blend that encompassed deft composition and repetitive mellow rhythms.

Sunny Ade

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Sunny AdeSunny Ade
Sunny Ade
Sunny Ade | Source
Sunny Ade
Sunny Ade | Source

Sunny Ade

Sunday Adeniyi popularly known as king Sunny Ade the juju music maestro was born 22 September 1946. Born into a royal family his music career started with icons like Victor Olaya and the Federal Rhythm Dandies Band before started his own band.

Sunny Ade’s juju music was an infusion of sounds, which includes the talking drum, guitar, shekere, conga drums, and modern drums. His music was a cacophony of exciting sounds from high placed tempo to deliberate slow beats.

Sunny Ade’s expertise on the pedal guitar, vocal dexterity, accompanied by a large band and his amazing dance steps is unforgettable. Sunny Ade is an international star and icon with sound tracks on the Hollywood film Breathless, and the comedy One More Saturday Night.

The multi platinum record artist twice nominated for the Grammy awards is currently active runs a foundation and several businesses.

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Dan Maraya

Dan Maraya a Hausa man from the northern part of Nigeria is best- known for his vocal dexterity and Kuntigi instrument. He learned his musicality from local musicians later specializing in the Kuntigi instrument in his one-man band. The Kuntigi instrument is a single string oval shaped can covered with goatskin and played like a small guitar.

The Plateau state indigene Adamu Wayya from B’ukur Jos was born in 1946. He started his musical career in Maiduguri at an early age. Musicians who generally play the traditional instrument Kuntigi are soloists and their songs have moral antidotes with repetitive musical notes.

Most songs played by Kuntigi soloists have a rapid tempo sound delivered in a fixed song format. Adamu Wayya later called Dan Maraya Jos specialty was praise singing of his favorite heroes and personalities.

His songs also covered social commentaries, hard work, sang about the civil war and the common-man. Other recurrent themes in his songs talked about faithfulness, marriage, divorce and other problems in society.

Adamu Wayya use of the local instrument promoted Northern Hausa culture and traditions; he died on 20 June 2015

Kuntigi instrument

Kuntigi guitar
Kuntigi guitar | Source

Rex Lawson

Rex Lawson
Rex Lawson | Source

Rex Lawson

Rex Lawson was born to Calabar and Igbo parents in 1935 and is regarded as the king of highlife. Highlife was a popular genre of music played in clubs, parties, and social gatherings. The music had a rich repertory, deep emotive music that had some suggestive and playful innuendoes.

The maverick trumpeter and bandleader dominated the music scene in the mid sixties with hit songs like Sawale, Love Adure, and Nwa Baby. Rex Lawson played with notable musical icons like Chris Ajilo, Bobby Benson, Victor Olaya, The amazing Maliki Showman, and Sammy Obot.

The highly talented musician who died in an auto crash in 1971 at 36 is loved and immortalized through various remix of his evergreen hits.

Victor Olaya

Victor Olaya
Victor Olaya

Victor Olaya

Victor Olaya born in Calabar in 1930 is a highlife musician bandleader and Trumpeter. The amazing Trumpeter is an Ijesha man from Ekiti and he formed his band in 1954 called The Cool Cats. From 1960 until 2012, he has releases over twenty Lps, Cds and albums to the delight of his large fan base.

Although his band name has changed severally over the years his infectious highlife, and music stays the same. His music influences include James Brown, Tony Allen, and collaborations with E.T Mensah and Sammy Akpabot band.

Notable achievements include playing the state ball in1956 for Queen Elizabeth II and 1960 independence when Nigeria became a republic in 1963.

Victor Olay mentored many successful musicians today and is still presently active.

© 2015 femi

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