Entertainment

May 26, 2024

How highlife, Fuji, Igbo pop challenging Afrobeats

By Ayo Onikoyi

In the 60s and all through to mid 80s, local language genres, like highlife, Fuji, Igbo traditional music, Juju and others dominated the Nigerian music scene. Highlife, particularly, was a staple genre, not only in Nigeria but in most parts of West Africa.

Instead of Afrobeats, which is an evolution of the local language genres, it was foreign American Pop and Funk that held sway among the youths

From the early 90s onward, Nigeria found its musical identity, remarkably influenced by the music of Fela, the creator of Afrobeat (not Afrobeats), Sunny Okosun, Mike Okri and others who laid the foundation of what is now known as Afrobeats.

 Nigerian music, pre-Afrobeats era was tribally sectoral, as a particular genre was enjoyed by a sect of people of certain tribe. Like Fuji and Juju were enjoyed and still enjoyed by the Yorubas. Highlife, to a great extent, was more national in reach and spread. But the amalgamation of all these genres are what have constituted what is known as “Afrobeats” and they are not entirely devoid of the local languages and sound.

While Afrobeats remains the king, Nigeria’s music scene is experiencing a genre revolution. Spotify data reveals an increase in popularity across local genres:

With the popularity of Afrobeats and its incursion onto the world’s stage, local language genres died out from the mainstream Nigerian music scene. They only became the comforting tunes of the aged and the elderly to reminisce about the good old days

The rebirth

Perhaps, streaming has played a major role in the resurgence of the local language genres because statistics made available by Spottify show that they are back on the scene. And are growing fast to give Afrobeats a run for its money.

Spotify’s stats

Homegrown genres like Highlife (up 224%), Igbo Pop (up 303%), and Fuji (up 187%) are experiencing significant increase in listenership in the last 12 months

Highlife, Fuji, and Igbo Pop also saw listenership increase in Q1 2024 growing by 240%, 175%, and 270% respectively compared to Q1 2023

Top Artists: Fuji king K1 De Ultimate remains on top, while Highlife finds new life with Umu Obiligbo’s energy and Phyno for Igbo Pop

Top Tracks: Fuji gets a fresh spin with Adewale Ayuba’s Koloba Koloba, Highlife goes nostalgic with Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe’s Nwanem Ebezina and Igbo Pop gets a vibrant boost with KCee’s Ojapiano

Men dominate listeners of local music genres like Fuji (85%), Highlife (89%), and Igbo Pop (81%).

However, Gen Z (aged 18-24) is the leading age group across all the three genres, making up 32% of Fuji listeners, 31% of Highlife listeners, and 46% of Igbo Pop listeners

Interestingly, cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Katsina all top the charts for streaming these local genres – Fuji, Highlife, and Igbo Pop.

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