Dissecting the tension between the older "gatekeepers" and newer artists in the Nigeria.
"It feels like I am working, but I can't enter the inner cycle of the music industry," says Dimeji (not his real name). He is a 27-year-old singer based in Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital and music hub, where thousands of musicians hustle daily in the search for opportunities for their careers.
"Everyone needs to know someone to get a leg in, and the industry is all about relationships. I'm tired men," he despondently declares as we sit in a roadside restaurant in Victoria Island. Victor isn't the only hopeful artist with that feeling. There is an unspoken consensus about the Nigerian music industry that the scene is ruled by a political circle of powerful people, who control key affairs and opportunities within the space. They are regarded as both gatekeepers and chess masters, dictating the pace of movement, who rises and falls, who is blacklisted, and who receives a fair share of favours, deals and endorsements.
On Saturday, May 5, 2018, the country's most prestigious music award ceremony—The Headies—was held, in Lagos, with winners in the 25 categories. The aftermath of the awards saw a backlash on social media from viewers and music enthusiasts who believe that the recipients of key awards were undeserving of their trophies, citing industry and tribal politics as the reason why they carried home accolades.