These 5 Clichés Are in Every Nigerian Music Video About Love

From the village to the wedding party, we take a look at some of the most common tropes used, or perhaps overused, in Naija music.

Nigerian pop music becomes ever-more obsessed with love songs over the last decade. While there's no doubt that Naija wedding receptions have benefitted from this wave, originality hasn't. Like any good sub-genre "Afrobeats love songs" videos have a few, err, recurring themes.

While we’re not saying that artists aren't doing a good job—most of these songs are dance-floor favorites—we are saying they could be a bit more original. After all, it never hurts to try something new.

Below we take a look at some of the most common tropes used, or perhaps overused, in Naija music.

The Romanticized Village/Traditional Story

The story typically follows that a young woman catches the eye of a man, and he sings and dances in an effort to win her love. The visual aesthetics for these videos are a central part of the plot, as they are usually set in villages with vast fields and plantain trees with their large green fronds on every corner. The women often have their hair in braids or plaits, and the men wear wrappers around their waist, or caps on their heads.

Occasionally, one can also expect to see some romance between a royal and a commoner, as we see in Flavour’s "Gollibe." The setting for these videos are often idyllic, and there is the sense that the love exhibited here is unpretentious, and far away from the trapping of city life. Indeed, there is a quite a bit of romanticization in the idea of a traditional self, and it is no surprise that this is one of the most popular ways artists choose to demonstrate the idea of an unadulterated, authentic love. Other examples of these videos are Mavins "Adaobi," Tiwa Savage’s "Ife Wa Gbona" and Chidinma’s "Kedike."

 Young Love

Handholding, elusive winks and note-passing in class. These are some of the all too necessary ingredients for a depiction of fresh, budding love in much of Nigeria’s pop music. While a slightly older song, Banky W’s "Yes/No " captures the giddy romance of junior high school, and echoes Chidinma’s resolve to stay with her own long-time love in her song "Fallen in Love." This is that kind of true love that prevails over time, and I am sure anyone who has had a childhood sweetheart finds these videos to be reminiscent of simpler times when we were told to face our books, but found ourselves reading love letters in the dark.

Trifling Men

Is it even possible to talk about love without talking about boyfriends who have 4 different cellphone networks for 4 different girls? In this trope, Yemi Alade is queen, pulling out a string of songs such as the ever popular "Johnny," "Ferrari" and more recently, "Tumbum." Full of theatrics and playful humor, this trope often attempts to destabilize male power in relationships, and centers the woman’s needs. In an industry that is primarily male, Alade’s music does the work of interrogating the societal roles of men and women, and illuminates some of the material tensions in relationships.

The Wedding Party

Mo ni komole ma jolo! It would be impossible to speak about tropes without mentioning the almighty wedding party. Loaded with an iridescent assortment of aso-okes, elaborate beads, canes and of course, fistfuls of naira carpeting the floor, these videos depict the dopeness of primarily Igbo and Yoruba wedding ceremonies. These are the kinds of weddings we imagine ourselves at, with champagne glasses in our hands and naira stuck on our sweaty foreheads. Examples are Flavour’s "Ada Ada," Iyanya’s "Applaudise" and Wizkid’s "Pakuromo."

Forbidden Love

Is it a father waiting at the gate, or the skeptical mother who pretends you do not exist? Here, the agony and determination of separated lovers maneuvers around difficult parents, ethnic boundaries and social categories. Simi’s beautiful croons in "Love Don’t Care" elaborate on this matter, and we see it come up again in Chidinma and Banky W’s "All I Want Is You," Davido’s "Aye," and recently DJ Juls’ "Give You Love." The way it usually ends? True love wins, even when forbidden.

Debbie Frempong is a student of religion and politics living in Boston. You can find her tweeting @franticcurls on twitter. 

Photo by KOLA SULAIMON/AFP via Getty Image

#EndSARS: 1 Year Later And It's Business As Usual For The Nigerian Government

Thousands filled the streets of Nigeria to remember those slain in The #LekkiTollGateMassacre...while the government insists it didn't happen.

This week marks 1 year since Nigerians began protests against police brutality and demanded an end to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The #EndSARS protests took the world by storm as we witnessed Nigerian forces abuse, harass and murder those fighting for a free nation. Reports of illegal detention, profiling, extortion, and extrajudicial killings followed the special task force's existence, forcing the government to demolish the unit on October 11th, 2020. However, protestors remained angered and desperate to be heard. It wasn't until October 20th, when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators at Lekki tollgate in the country's capital, Lagos, that the protests came to a fatal end. More than 56 deaths from across the country were reported, while hundreds more were traumatized as the Nigerian government continued to rule by force. The incident sparked global outrage as the Nigerian army refused to acknowledge or admit to firing shots at unarmed protesters in the dead of night.

It's a year later, and nothing has changed.

Young Nigerians claim to still face unnecessary and violent interactions with the police and none of the demands towards systemic changes have been met. Fisayo Soyombo the founder of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism, told Al Jazeera, "Yes, there has not been any reform. Police brutality exists till today," while maintaining that his organization has reported "scores" of cases of police brutality over this past year.

During October 2020's protests, Nigerian authorities turned a blind eye and insisted that the youth-led movement was anti-government and intended to overthrow the administration of current President Muhammadu Buhari. During a press conference on Wednesday, in an attempt to discredit the protests, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed hailed the Nigerian army and police forces for the role they played in the #EndSARS protests, going as far as to say that the Lekki Toll Massacre was a "phantom massacre with no bodies." These brazen claims came while protesters continued to gather in several major cities across the country. The minister even went on to shame CNN, Nigerian favorite DJ Switch as well as Amnesty International, for reporting deaths at Lekki. Mohammed pushed even further by saying, "The six soldiers and 37 policemen who died during the EndSARS protests are human beings with families, even though the human rights organizations and CNN simply ignored their deaths, choosing instead to trumpet a phantom massacre."

With the reports of abuse still coming out of the West African nation, an end to the struggle is not in sight. During Wednesday's protest, a journalist for the Daily Post was detained by Nigerian forces while covering the demonstrations.

According to the BBC, additional police units have been set up in the place of SARS, though some resurfacing SARS officers and allies claim to still be around.

Young Nigerians relied heavily on social media during the protests and returned this year to voice their opinions around the first anniversary of an experience that few will be lucky enough to forget.

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How CKay's 'Love Nwantiti' Became the World's Song

Nigerian singer and producer CKay talks to OkayAfrica about the rise of his international chart-topping single "Love Nwantiti," his genre-defying sound and the reasons behind this era of afrobeats dominance.