Image courtesy of the artist.

Lady Donli Is Quietly Breaking the Rules of Nigeria's Music Industry

We speak to the self-described 'Pan-African Rockstar' about her new single 'Wonda Wonda,' her hopes for the Nigerian music scene, artistic growth and why alté is more than a genre.

Lady Donli is "alté" personified. While the name is sometimes used as a blanket term for more experimental Nigerian artists who exist outside of the mainstream, Donli's expression of alté isn't just about the music she produces (which defies simple genre classifications, anyway). Rather, the idea of embracing the "alternative" exists in just about every facet of her lifestyle—from her personal style to her social views, to her creative output and self-possessed attitude. While the previous generation of Nigerian artists might have been more comfortable following convention, the 23-year-old artist, who's also one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020, represents a youth-led approach to doing things differently: "I'm part of a new generation of women that are just like, "Yeah, we're going to talk up a shit-storm," says Donli.

But of course, the music is part of it too. The title of her 2019 debut album, Enjoy Your Life also subtly hints at a desire to subvert. The artist, who was raised in Abuja and lives between Lagos and London, wanted to challenge the (very Lagosian) tendency to never slow down, by reminding herself to be present. "I was so worried about the next day that I wouldn't enjoy my day—even if it was a perfectly good day," says Donli. "I made Enjoy Your Life to remind myself, and others, that today's the day. We have to just take it and do whatever we can with it."

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Photo: Ifebusola Sotande.

Op-Ed: Afrobeats Songwriters Aren't Valued Enough

There is a lack of compensation and credit given to afrobeats songwriters, and the genre as a whole suffers because of it.

Instagram Live battles, in which songwriters and producers go head-to-head comparing the top records from their respective catalogues, have been the trend worldwide amidst the global lockdown due to COVID-19. As one would expect, Africans have tapped in and ultimately, the conversation has shifted to the lack of appreciation for the role of songwriters in afrobeats.

The general sentiment is this: afrobeats songwriters aren't valued and, as a result, songwriting isn't a lucrative career so the creativity of the genre has suffered.

It's true that in Africa there is a stigma attached to songwriting. Most artists have engaged a songwriter at some point but they will never admit it publicly. It's also true that afrobeats songwriters, at this stage, cannot have a lucrative full-time career.

Let's start by defining who a songwriter is. A songwriter is a musician who professionally creates musical compositions and/or writes lyrics for songs. The first important thing to do is to point out that there are two types of songwriters. The first kind of songwriter creates the composition (that is the sound, think of it like humming). The second type of songwriter creates the lyrics (think of it like rap, i.e. lyrics without melody). Many writers combine both aspects of songwriting.

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