With the exception of the really popular ones, many Nigerians (especially young ones) are unaware of many folk artistes that Nigeria has had. A lot of them told beautiful stories in indigenous tongues, pidgin, and English. In this article, I will discuss 5 indigenous Nigerian folk musicians you probably didn’t know, some of whom may no longer be alive.
Dan Maraya Jos
Full name, Adamu Wayya Maraya, born near Jos, Plateau State. Dan Maraya whose name literally means “The Little Orphan of Jos” was widely known for his use of trademark Kuntigi (a small, single-stringed traditional lute normally oval-shaped sardine covered with goatskin) while performing his famous praise songs.
His songs were very famous among most Hausa-speaking Nigerians. He was often invited to sing in traditional gatherings, marriages and different other local and national ceremonies. His first and perhaps the most popular of his music is Wak’ar Karen Mota (meaning “Song of the Driver’s Mate). Others include Jawabin Aure (meaning Discourse on Marriage), Auren Dole (meaning Forced Marriage), and Gulma-Wuya (The Busybody). Dan Maraya died on 20 June 2015 at 69.
Mike Ejeagha is a Nigerian folklorist, songwriter, and musician from Enugu State, Nigeria, Mike Ejeagha started his career in music in the mid-20th century. Also known as Gentlemen, Mike has been influential in the evolution of music in the Igbo language for over 6 decades. His first hit was in 1960.
Mike Ejeagha is a distinct story-teller accompanied by guitar style and his lyrics are laced with proverbs; lending his music a didactic style. He writes his own music and his lyrics are in Igbo language. Mike Ejeagha said in 2004: “Life at old age is quite enjoyable, especially when the Almighty God gives you good health”.
Ejeagha has contributed over three hundred recordings to the National Archives of Nigeria produced during his fieldwork to investigate Igbo folklore highlife music.
Beautiful Nubia and the Roots Renaissance Band is Nigeria’s foremost contemporary folk and roots music group. Formed and fronted by songwriter and poet Segun Akinlolu (aka Beautiful Nubia), the group’s songs and albums have achieved cult status among their loyal and growing fans spread across the world.
Beautiful Nubia’s songs are built on rich folkloric traditions and native wisdom but his message is universal in thrust and theme: value life, respect for nature and learning to live in peace with others. His music speaks for the voiceless and champions the dream of a balanced society where individuals are truly free and equal. It preaches love and tolerance but also urges people to stand and defend their rights when trampled upon anywhere in the world. His most popular songs include: ‘Seven Lives’, Jangbalajùgbú, and ‘What a Feeling’.
Bastile ALake is the undisputed originator of waka music. As far back as 1960, during Nigeria’s independence ceremonies, Alhaja Chief Chief Batile Alake was the only WAKA musician to perform in the State functions that ushered in Nigeria’s independence from Great Britain; she welcomed Her Royal Highness the Queen’s representatives to the country. Batile Alake first performed for Queen Elizabeth in 1956 and has since had a number of audiences with Her Royal Highness.
A Tribal Queen herself, Batile has appeared on dozens of albums, mostly for the distinguished Nigerian label, Leader Records. These albums have themes related to all ceremonial occasions like Marriage, Child Birth, Burial Rites, etc. This very talented composer, singer, and dancer has performed to appreciative audiences both at home and abroad.
Though Batile Alake passed away in 2013, Leader Records together with its Brooklyn, NY partner, Community 3, stand poised to promote her memory and musical compositions going into the future. All the sounds on this album were transferred in 1994 from the original analog masters created in the 1960s. The sound has been remastered and balanced by Brooklyn record producer Albert Garzon to ensure the utmost sonic fidelity.
Bright Chimezie is known for the infusion of comedy in his music which he uses efficiently to get his message across. He calls his genre Zigima music. His sound is essentially a mix of traditional Nigerian music and Igbo highlife fused with chanted vocals. In these songs, he tells comic stories – most of them real-life experiences.
In 1984, he released ‘Respect Africa’ which shot him into the limelight and in 1987, he released ‘Life of Yesterday’ returning in 1989 with ‘Oyibo Mentality’ and then ‘Ogbono Soup’ in 1990 which dominated charts. ‘Life na teacher’ in 1995 and then ‘Prophet Chukwuma – my experience’ in 2001.