Tekno "Jogodo"

The 15 Best Nigerian Songs of the Year So Far

The best from Nigeria in 2018 (so far) featuring Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Olamide, Odunsi, Yemi Alade, Davido and more.

The emergence of the shaku dance craze has coincided with the proliferation of South Africa's gqom in Nigerian pop which we examined here back in March. Another sound, inspired by the "Soco Beat" (Wizkid) is gaining popularity: the work of producer Northboi. It has spawned impressive copies among which are "Pull Up" by Reekado Banks, "Askamaya" by Teni and "Tiwa's Vibe" by Tiwa Savage and "Overload" by Mr Eazi.

Our selections for the year include surefire by big name artists ( Davido, Yemi Alade) but also those who are influential in the so-called "alternative movement" (Odunsi, Santi), a few wildcard inclusions which bucked any pre-existing trends (Burna Boy).

Read on for our picks of the Best Nigerian Songs Of The Year So Far, listed in no particular order.

Wizkid x Ceeza Milli x Spotless x Terri "Soco"

Chance meets genius on "Soco" which exemplifies Wizkid's continuing rich form in song-making—which is in locked in step with the waviest trends in Afropop. The bubble and bounce of Northboi's production is what is otherwise called "palm wine music" in the way it combines elegant piano, patient bass and unintrusive drumming into a delightful beat whose sweet pockets are the receptacle for what is the perfect hook. New comers Ceeza Milli, Terri and Spotless turn out topnotch verses of their own whose cadence may take after Wizkid, but are no less impressive.

Olamide "Science Student"

For seeming to both glorify and denounce endemic drug use, "Science Student" drew opprobrium but also gained pop culture notoriety when it was released in January. Using the time-tested tools of a call and response hooks over heaving drums, Olamide deploys the growl and gravel in his voice to good effect, the slur and stank of his cadence emphasising the haziness of a high. In the video, director Unlimited LA opts for full theater with an extended dance sequence a la "Thriller" by Michael Jackson.

Mr Real x Idowest x Kelvin Chuks x Obadice "Legbegbe"

"Legbegbe" is said to be inspired by a true life account of a film producer who was accused of stealing iPhones in a Lagos market in 2016. Such a hopelessly consumerist product is the perfect populist pop culture reference which artist-producer, Mr Real, has fashioned into a well-judged hook. His deep melodious bass—a quality it shares with the production -is anchored by heaving drums and capable verses by vocalists Idowest, Kelvin Chuks and rapper Obadice.

Initially released in mid-2017, the song gained traction in quarters of Lagos and by December was a city-wide hit. It was a good fit for the shaku dance in what is a mix of astute song-making and good fortune that would propel the track all through 2018.

Olamide x Lil Kesh x Naira Marley "Issa Goal"

It's hard to imagine another well-crafted, crowd pleaser of a song that will better "Issa Goal" as an anthem for the Russia 2018 World Cup. The trio have joyously captured the rush and fever of a goal using memorable one-liners. Each one is humourous, memorable, and drawn from Nigerian or world football parlance. The video deepens the feeling with clips from Nigeria's Olympic gold at Atlanta '96, a glorious period in the country's sporting history which the Super Eagles will want to repeat this June.

Yemi Alade "Bum Bum"

Taken from Yemi Alade's third studio album, "Bum Bum," is comfortably perched between dancehall and galala on account of its plonking dembow percussion and throbbing bass lines. It's a production as solid as any in the genre, over which Yemi Alade comfortably darts from the clarity of structured R&B; to stank in mumble-sing.

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Falz "This Is Nigeria"

Released 20 days after Childish Gambino's state of the nation address of American societal ills, Falz's interpretation is every bit as critical and laudable as a clear-eyed view of a nation and its failings. Nigeria's moraliser-in-chief takes on rampant internet fraud, problematic prosperity gospel, President Buhari's careless comment on the country's "lazy youths," embezzled government funds, poor state of policing ("Police station dey close at 6, security reason oh") and much more. It's all tied together by production whose woozy synths and trap leanings are the joint work of Gambino and Ludovin, his long time collaborator.

Niniola "Magun"

More than any one artist, Niniola done a brilliant job of indigenising South African house music in the Nigeria music consciousness, frequently combining the sturdiness of Yoruba and the flair of Nigerian pidgin slang. "Magun" in Yoruba means "don't touch", a punishing delight she offers to a lover ("only foreplay is allowed for you"), a restriction that may intrigue said lover as will capitulation. The remix with South Africa's Busiswa deepens the cultural exchange and is given real zest by a jittery electric guitar and treated vocals but also by a commanding vocal performance by Busiswa.

Tekno "Jogodo"

While it has become de rigueur for a Nigerian artist to make a Pon Pon song, Tekno has made it his core sound track after track, refining his blueprint for "Pana"—memorable, humorous and intentionally playful lyrics about big love overtures—as he has on "Jogodo." This time he borrowed heavily from "Kpolongo" by Mad Melon & Mountain Black, whose biggest single "Danfo Driver" was a nationwide hit. Tekno scores high for how cleverly he has combined the melodies and arrangements of the group's galala sound with today's pon pon craze into a perfectly enjoyable song.

Burna Boy x Lily Allen "Heaven's Gate"

Fashionably out of step with any fashion in afropop, "Heaven's Gate" is the lead single off Burna Boy's 6th full length release, Outside, released in January, featuring English singer Lily Allen in revitalised form. Allen is a perfect, though unlikely, foil for Burna Boy who gives a stellar vocal performance that determinedly traces the jangle and zigzag of the guitar-led beat. The gravel and growl in Burna Boy's bass compliments the sweet and shrill in Lily Allen's falsetto, whether when intertwining or pulling from it, all which distracts from the song's lyrics about hardman posturing.

Wizkid x Spinall "Nowo"

Wizkid would seem to have carved out prime real estate over a narrow patch that does not exceed the perennial themes of adoration for women and the monied ways to court and impress them. Released in February, "Nowo" is one such example produced by Killertunes ( who made "Manya"), who combines the contrast of a bass drum with the sharpness of snare kicks and the airiness of a roving piano to make a shaku-fitted song which politely asks an impolite question—"omoge shoma jogede."

Tiwa Savage x Reminisce x Slimcase x DJ Enimoney "Diet"

Sarz' elegant production work on "Diet" is the happy marrying of South African house with Nigerian sensibilities, but a problematic one as it would seem to promote the use of codeine which has caused an addiction epidemic among some Nigerian youths. The gruff charm in Slimcase's voice and Reminisce's topnotch rap verse is matched by Tiwa Savage's own sung verse continuing her knack for tasteful sexual innuendos ("protein diet" anyone?) in her winning and honeyed singing voice.

Santi x Odunsi x Zamir "Alte Cruise"

"Alte Cruise" crystallises all that is portentous, progressive and, yes, a bit pretentious about Nigeria's "alternative" movement which is fronted by the musicians, but comprises of other creative sorts whose aesthetic pursuits would look like the simple rebuttal of all that is mainstream (afropop) and soulless (consumerism), but is in fact commensalism at play with the "cool kids" dependent on top layer pop for its underground vitality. The sun-dappled and plaintive piano on "Alte Cruise" is emblematic of much of the music that has come from the scene and on individual projects by the trio of Odunsi, Zamir and Santi. The accent on "alte" is a claim to refinement that would seem put on, but when pronounced, it recalls "authe", a pidgin abbreviation of "authentic;" returning to the coinage "alte" any lost dignity.

Dbanj x Slimcase x Mr Real "Issa Banger"

After last year's triumphant though under-praised comeback album in King Don Come, Dbanj kicked off 2018 with "Issa Banger" adapting the heady polyrhythms of South Africa's gqom onto a Nigeria street culture and language with real flair and sturdy support from Mr Real and Slimcase, who match the Kokomaster in vocal and physical presence, their effervescence every bit as infectious as his, making even richer the propulsive percussion and gloomy base that characterises a gqom beat. Issa schmanger!

Simi "Gone For Good"

The naturalism in Simi's song-making and aesthetic choices has a real charm and accumulative power for simply being earnest and devoid of sensationalism. "Gone For Good" is about a former lover whose return has rekindled in her a set of mixed emotions yet to find any resolve. She writes with mental acuity about a lover who, even in his absence, is able to manipulate his hold over her ("cause you knew all along i was doing okay without you"). The orchestral grandness of Oscar Heman-Ackah's production is led by a somber piano for the first third after which a swell of violins is joined by bass drums, afoxe and gongs making for a charged crescendo of feelings and a satisfying end that will easily suggest emotional closure.

Davido "Assurance"

Never one for small measures, Davido's ode to the new love in his life, Chioma Arvil, came with the news that he'd also purchased a Porsche for her with "Assurance" as a number plate. What will win some over is just how earnestly Davido sings the winsome lyrics, and what may in fact make the song the new lover boy anthem.

Follow OkayAfrica on Spotify and Apple Music for more of the latest African music.


This Is What Rotimi's 'Walk With Me' EP Listening Party Looked Like

The Nigerian singer held an intimate listening party on the eve of the release of his new EP, 'Walk With Me,' at Brooklyn's Okay Space.

Walk With Me, Rotimi's new and highly anticipated EP, dropped Friday—giving us a seven-track peek into who the singer and actor truly is sonically.

The night before, the Nigerian-American crooner gathered over 100 tastemakers and day-one supporters to Brooklyn's Okay Space—the shared gallery space between Okayplayer and OkayAfrica—for an intimate listening party celebrating the release, as well as his music video for "Love Riddim" which also dropped this week.

The night was simply a vibe—folks enjoyed libations and bites from The Suya Guy, with sounds by DJ Tunez. Rotimi opened the gathering up with a thoughtful prayer, with the music video reveal to follow. The singer then walked the audience through each track from Walk With Me, opening up about the creative process of how each track came to life.

Following, Rotimi engaged in an even more in-depth Q+A session with OkayAfrica's arts and culture editor, Antoinette Isama, where he touched on his experience touring with Wizkid back in 2011, his thoughts on the continued rise in popularity afrobeats is having in mainstream music, his hopes for the future and more. Tunez then ran the EP back when the party ensued, as the project is full of tracks that are worthy of being on repeat.

Listen to Walk With Me below, and be sure to take a look at photos from the listening party by Nerdscarf Photography.

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CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16: Director Ladj Ly and Almamy Kanoute attend the photocall for "Les Miserables" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

How To Survive Cannes Film Festival As a Black Filmmaker

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind.

Cannes Film Festival is one of the world's most prestigious gatherings bringing celebrities, filmmakers and actors claiming to celebrate the world's best film. Although the festival is way behind Sundance or the London Film Festival regarding diversity efforts, it remains the place to be if you're a filmmaker—especially a Black one.

I, myself, am a Black French filmmaker who was invited to Cannes as part of their scheme for young film lovers—3 Days in Cannes—open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 28. The scheme, which launched in 2018, requires young hopefuls to write a cover letter showing their passion for film. It ultimately gives young people the opportunity to discover the international selection of films showed at Cannes.

READ: Black Women Are the Future of French Cinema—When Will Cannes Catch Up?

Being in Cannes for the first time was a wonderful experience, but it can be tough to navigate as a Black filmmaker if you're not prepared for it. So, here are top tips.

1) Don't be a person of color—especially if you're Black (Just kidding. But still.)

Cannes is a beautiful, posh city in the south of France. It is part of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur, an administrative region where the far right party Rassemblement National (formally known as the National Front) hits record-breaking highs. Despite the fact that the festival is incredibly international, at times it can feel pretty racist, like a sunny, idyllic version of 1960s Alabama, where a party of more than one Black person gets routinely rejected from some clubs/bars/restaurants. On top of that, the staff and some of the security working at the festival can be incredibly aggressive and rude to you and in French. If you don't understand it, it's even more confusing.

To avoid it, try to stick to the official Cannes parties, or hang out in international hotels like the Miramar or the Radisson Blu Hotel—which are used to an international crowd. You can also stick to parties at the various country pavilions near the Film Market.

2) Stick to the African Pavilion

At the festival, most countries have their own pavilion. But because the festival believes Africa is a country, all 54 countries are gathered in one pavilion. This pavilion also includes the Caribbean, since Jamaica, as life would have it, is also an African country. In the African Pavilion, there was even talk on how to submit films if you're a filmmaker of Indian descent (despite the fact that India had its own pavilion).

You're not African? That's okay, no one cares. Pan-Africanism is still alive, I guess? Thankfully, out of the many pavilions, I did find the African Pavilion was the best one the most welcoming and whose schedule was the most open and clear. Because Cannes is such an exclusive festival, most of the parties and talks won't be communicated outside of those who are supposed to attend.

The African Pavilion, however, requires you to sign up to their newsletter. You then access their app where you can see the schedule, the talks to attend and the party they planned. The only downside is that they were understaffed, so some talks and events were cancelled last minute and with limited communication.

If you're a Black French filmmaker, speaking English is a must to get the most out of the pavilion. If you're an English-speaking filmmaker, try to make friends or meet people who speak French, as some of the talks/discussions might not have professional interpreters.

Also, go to the events organized by diversity in Cannes. Now, if you're a Black filmmaker who would rather not stay in the community for fear of being pigeonholed? Unless you're part of a talent scheme run by the festival...good luck getting others to support you.

3) Be ready to WAIT to see films and to party

On average, I waited 1 hour 40 minutes for each film I wanted to see in the official selection program. And I purposely chose not to see the famous ones like the Pedro Almodóvar or Quintin Tarantino's films. I also waited almost two hours to see a film from the Un certain regard selection and didn't get in—despite my pass. Now, Un certain regard has the most highly sought after films, even more so than the Competition, because they tend to select the best among indie international films. To get in for sure, you need a "Un certain regard" pass, so they need to invite you themselves. Even if you have a ticket at the counter, you might not get in unless you wait two hours (standing) or choose to attend the early screening or the late ones (and still, you should be ready to wait 1 hour for these).

You need a pass AND a ticket to see the films from the official selection and walk the red carpet up to the Grand Théatre Debussy. For the ACID, Director's fortnight, Semaine de la critique, and the Official selection's films not shown on the red carpet, you just need a pass—and to be ready to queue for at least 45 minutes.

I wouldn't recommend getting the Cannes cinephile pass as it has a low priority. I saw people waiting 2 hours to see a film and not getting in, while people with professional Black passes arriving 10 minutes before the screening walking past them. Because the Cannes festival is for professionals, they have, unfortunately, priority over members of the public.

Now, with the parties at Cannes, word on the street is that they are not as legendary as they used to be. Even if you get invited to one, you still need to wait an hour. It's not because they are over capacity, but rather they feel the need to pretend that they are. Unless you're a VVIP. And if you're one, why are you reading my article?

Anyway, despite not being as glamorous as they used to be, they remain so exclusive that if your name is not on the list, you might need to sell your first born to attend.

Thankfully, you can avoid it by being smart. When I arrived in Cannes, I was dead set on going to parties to network. Since almost all of them are invite only, I went to the parties at the pavilions, like the UK one, the American one (which costs 20 euros because Americans are always about their money) and the African Pavilion—that were kind enough to facilitate networking by introducing me to fellow filmmakers. God knows how talking to strangers and building new relationships can be difficult, and they made it easier.

4) Make friends with distributors or people working for the Mayor's office

The whole point of the festival is to sell films. Tickets are sparse for most people, so some badge holders wear their Sunday Best and stand outside the grand theater, holding signs asking for tickets. It makes sense that distributors are incredibly powerful, since they have the power to buy and sell films internationally. They are given way too many tickets that should be given to people waiting for hours outside.

So, if you make friends with distributors, they will always have a handful of spare tickets, even for the big ones that everyone wants to see. They also have tickets for the big parties as well. Press badge holders also have priority since they are responsible for a film good or bad media coverage. So they have a handful of tickets too.

People working for the Mayor's office also have tickets because they work closely together since the festival brings so much revenue to the city. Make friends with them, as well as film students and you'll get tickets. Don't know where to find them? Social media is your friend.

There is also another way to get tickets to films: the staff. For example, I couldn't get tickets to see Mati Diop's Atlantiques. I walked to the ticket counter and saw a Black woman with a great hairstyle. My instinct KNEW I had to tag along. I asked her if she needed help. She was looking for the same tickets. We asked someone at the ticket office if they could help. They said they had nothing. But one of the staff members saw us and said she could try to help us. She came back with two tickets and that's how I got to see the film. I got lucky and was cunning. So be nice with the staff, they can help.

5) Be ready for anything

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind. Since you're spending so much time waiting and walking from venues to venues, you won't have time to eat unless you bring food you've made before hand. You're not allowed to eat inside the theaters and if you walk the red carpet, you food is thrown out beforehand. You can try buying food and drinks in the morning and finish it by the time you walk the red carpet. I'd advise buying it at a supermarket like the pricey Monoprix. Or the nearby McDonald's. It's cheap, warm, almost always open and a great way to socialize! Young filmmakers, as well as those from Britain and the States will come to McDonald's to eat since it's one of the places they know best. Why not strike up a convo there?

Also, don't forget your power bank. Your phone will get out of battery for sure, especially if you post content on social media.

Finally, despite its reputation, the festival is incredibly badly organized. You will be told that your badge is not allowed to watch films at other selections, or you would be given the wrong directions and will be lost in the croisette on your way to see an obscure film.

Chill, be ready to walk and use Google Maps. And enjoy!


Julie Adenuga: "There Are Young Artists In Nigeria Who Are Changing the World"

In an exclusive interview, the Beats 1 radio presenter opens up about her Nigerian heritage, documenting Homecoming in Lagos, and London being an important hub for afro-fusion sounds.

Julie Adenuga sits at the intersection of two continents.

As an affable tastemaker who transforms banal interviews into engaging conversations with some of the most famous artists in the world, Julie is leading the global dialogue on new music from her daily radio show, which broadcasts to over 100 countries.

The North London native of Nigerian descent hails from a musical family, her brothers are artists Skepta and JME, and has risen from the underground as a self-taught presenter on former pirate radio station Rinse FM to being one of three lead DJ's with her Beats 1 show on Apple Music.

A champion of homegrown talent in the UK and across the African diaspora, Julie is a purveyor of the afro-fusion genre, as is evident in her recent Homecoming documentary, which captured the fresh innovators from the Lagos music scene, and her DON't @ ME club nights, which has featured Ghetts, Lady Leshurr and The Compozers as residents.

Chosen as one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women celebrating extraordinary women from Africa and the diaspora, we speak with the presenter and broadcaster on owning her Nigerian identity, the responsibility of spreading afrobeats and why London is a key location for the genre.

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