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Reno Omokri

Reno Omokri

Let me reiterate for the umpteenth time that music of Yoruba origin should be studied as a course in Nigeria’s ivory towers because it has the capacity to not only rapidly change Nigeria’s negative international image, but also to take our economy out of the doldrums by attracting music loving tourists to our nation, the way Rihanna has done in Barbados, and even in death, Bob Marley is doing for Jamaica. 

For every decade of Nigeria’s existence as an independent nation, music of Yoruba origin has dominated our country, and now it is conquering the world. 

* Bobby Benson dominated the 60s

* Abami Fela Kuti over dominated the 70s

* King Sunny Ade and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey dominated the 80s

* Sir Shina Peters and King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall dominated the 90s. 

* Paul Play Dario shared dominance with a non-Yoruba artist (Tuface Idibia) in the 2000s

* D’Banj, the Koko Master, shared dominance with non-Yoruba artistes (PSquare) in the 2010s

* Davido, Wizkid and Burna Boy (non-Yoruba) dominate in the here and now. 

Their female artistes are not left out. Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Asa, Simi, Teni, and Seyi Shay dominate locally and internationally with their girl power!

And Yoruba music transcends race and language. It resonates beyond those who die Aj Yoruba. And, again, it is no coincidence that ALL Nigeria’s Grammy Award winners are either wholly or partly of Yoruba origin, including:

Sade Adu (1986), Babatunde Olatunji (1991), Sikiru Adepoju (1991) and Seal (1996), Burna Boy (2021), Wizkid (2021), Temilade Openiyi AKA Tems (2023).

The above are 100% Yoruba (if your father is Yoruba, the Yoruba consider you fully Yoruba). 

And then Burna Boy (2021) is partly Yoruba. 

How do they do it, that even where they sing wholly or partly in Yoruba, their music is able to crossover locally and internationally? 

Christy Essien Igbokwe was quoted as saying she would not have made a breakthrough in the music industry without her anthem, Seun rere, performed entirely in Yoruba. 

Throughout the Black world, no other ethnic group has been able to CONSISTENTLY breakthrough in the music industry internationally while singing wholly or partially in their native tongue. I am not saying that some others do not sing in their native tongues. I am saying that they have been unable to crossover internationally while singing in their native language. They do so by speaking English or some other colonial language. Rema is brilliant. But he is not projecting Nigerian culture. Pidgin English is not our culture. We need music that projects our culture. Nevertheless, he is still brilliant. 

Caribbean reggae artistes sing in English or patois. African American R’nB, Jazz, Soul and rap artistes sing in English. Black Brazilians crossover with Portuguese. Francophone artistes (except for Manu Dibango) crossed over with French. South African artistes crossed over with English (with the exception of Brenda Fassie and Mariam Makeba). 

Even the world’s top Francophone female artiste (Angelique Kidjo) did not crossover internationally until she sang in Yoruba.

There is something about that language and the musical genres that the Yoruba have introduced that can permanently put Nigeria on the world map for good. 

And it is not just in music. Also, in theatre (theatre is stage plays, not movies), the first Nigerian theatre company to have broken into the global theatre scene, as far back as the 60s, was Herbert Ogunde’s theatre company. The only other Nigerian theatre company to have broken through internationally is Wole Soyinka’s theatrical company. 

Nigeria needs to rebrand quickly from our unfortunate and undeserved international reputation for corruption and scams. And the best way to rebrand a country or a corporation is by projecting positive things about that entity that are ALREADY happening. Sadly, our government’s rebranding efforts focus on things they hope will happen. 

So, again, I call on universities and research institutes to do thorough research into this phenomenon to identify what makes that sub-sector of the music industry so successful so that already established acts can use that knowledge to further crossover. Young upcoming acts can act on it to make inroads into the music industry globally. 

Globally, music is a $5 trillion industry. Let us use what we have to corner at least 10% of that bottom line. 

Credit- Reno Omokri