For many lovers and enthusiasts of urban Nigerian music, the Nigerian music industry begins and ends in Lagos and artists who try to make music and push their brands from other regions of the country are usually regarded as second class without much interest and prominence given to their contents.
This is visible in the way content from other regions is being received and treated in the Lagos market, how they don’t get playlisted, how these artistes are not considered for award nominations, even when most times, their works are arguably well put together than what most A-list Lagos based artiste proudly showcase. This conversation is for another day but for now, the focus of this piece is on the growing music industry revolution that is currently brewing in the Northern region of the country.
In the early days of what is today known as the urban music industry, many of the nations biggest music exports, especially in hip-hop had always come from the North or those who had their childhood influenced by the culture of Northern Nigeria. From the likes Eldee The Don to Eedris Abdulkareem, Modenine to the SWAT ROOTS and the whole Payback Tyme Records crew, and most recently the likes of MI Abaga, Jesse Jags, Ice Prince who also had to come to Lagos in search for greener pastures, Northern Nigerian migrants like their counterparts from the South-South and the South-East have contributed greatly to shape what we have today as the sound of Nigerian urban music.
However, for a region that has contributed so much to what is today the musical urban pop culture, it is sad to see they remain largely an underdeveloped music industry that can’t actively exploit the pool of raw talent it has and make the market there viable enough to hold its own. That way, those who desire to make it big, embark on the hopeful journey to seek for greener pastures in an already saturated Lagos market. Not everybody ends up finding these pastures.
In recent months, I have taken a special interest in music in the Hausa dialect. This was after I came in contact with a few songs done in the language on SoundCloud and it curiously made me make efforts to discover more music and what goes on in that market. My discovery was far above what I expected which made me wonder why most of the content from that market, especially the indigenous hip-hop songs don’t gain mainstream attention.
Interestingly, Nigeria’s top hiphop star, MI Abaga even recently featured on a solid tune with young Northern sensational rapper Classiq on the song ‘Gudu’ where the Chocolate City Boss executed his verse in pure Hausa dialect, perhaps the first time he had ever done. The Clarence Peter’s shot visuals sadly currently sit at a little below 20k views on YouTube.
To discuss these bugging questions and get first-hand insight as to what the industry is like in the North and the efforts being put in my players in the region to catch up with the rest of the country, I reached out to a worthy ambassador of the Arewa pop culture, Morell Akilah. Morell, an indigene or Borno state is one of the most popular indigenous Nigerian artistes, pushing his craft in Northern Nigeria. He has done songs with the likes of Olamide in ‘Anti-Social’, TY Bello, Flavour, and recently with fellow Northern Arewa Mafia, CLassiq.
In June 2017, Morell dropped one of the best urban cultural relevant albums ever titled ‘Musa Jikan Musa’ where he sang, rapped, produced and also co-produced some of the records. With a following of over 140k followers on his Instagram and operating in a market with the very low internet penetration, the engagements on the artiste’s comment sections show that Morell who is based professionally in Abuja caters to heavily to the pop music yearning of the average northern youth.
The musician in the course of our conversation reveals that apart from the inadequate media exposure and general disregard coming from the mainstream market for contents outside Lagos, the religious/conservative culture of the North has been one of the biggest factors have the limited the growth and acceptance of urban pop music and lifestyle in the region. According to Morell, music as it relates to urban pop culture only started getting fully accepted a little over 5 years ago.
He said: “Before in the North, because of the moral and religious background, once you are a singer or you do music, you are seen as a bad person and even the religion doesn’s support music because it is regarded as the act of devil worship. No mother would be happy to hear that her daughter is marrying a musician.
What The Future Holds
Morell believes that the future holds a lot of promise for the growth of the music industry as the general society get less conservative and become more receptive to popular urban culture and parents are now beginning to accept their children to be musicians and footballers and other crafts more than before. For them as creatives pushing the craft like others from other parts of the country, they are already on course in changing the narrative. The artiste says: “As the people travel to other parts for school and other things, they attend all these major concerts, they used it and when they are back home, they tell others that it isn’t a bad thing after all and now, there is interest in listening to more.”
Entertainment is a viable tool for engaging young minds and which is in huge supply in that part of the country that has been heavily destabilised by insurgency and other economic inadequacies over the years. Creating a thriving entertainment industry will not only positively engage the minds of the young ones, it is an emerging market that when it fully attains its full economic potentials will reduce the rate of poverty that has kept the young people of the North down for so long and made their minds easy preys for radicalization. The likes of Morell, Classiq, BOC, Kheengz, Deezell, Kiid Pro and Badman Alhaji are the current voices championing the new wave of Arewa music and urban pop culture.