Collaborative Crescendo: Nigeria’s Musicians Riding The Digital Wave

Published 15 days ago
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Photos sourced from X; Photo by Asamaige Ogaga; Photo by troyezeq; Photo supplied

Nigeria’s musicians are leveraging digital technologies effectively to achieve global fame. FORBES AFRICA tunes into the latest smash hits showcasing the ascent of the Afrobeats genre.

Insufficient internet infrastructure and piracy issues aside, Nigeria’s musicians are riding the digital wave, leveraging off streaming services such as Boomplay, Spotify, Audiomack, and YouTube. This shift from live performances to a digital stage that is global has led to increasing collaborations with Western artists and worldwide acknowledgment. The rewards are substantial, with the Nigerian music streaming market projected to reach $107.40 million by 2027, according to Statista.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) forecasts Nigeria to be the world’s fastest- growing entertainment and media market, particularly in streaming music revenue, projected to reach $17.5 million in 2023.

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FORBES AFRICA explores the sounds and strategies employed by Nigeria’s artists to make the cut on a global stage, delving into individual stories that exemplify their digital success.


From Beats To Big Names Like Declan Rice

Nigerian rapper Tochukwu Gbubemi Ojogwu, popularly known as Odumodublvck, was elated when English professional football club Arsenal played his hit song, Declan Rice, during the announcement of footballer Declan Rice’s move to Arsenal from West Ham on July 15 last year.

Odumodublvck’s record label, NATIVE Records, tells FORBES AFRICA: “He made the dub without knowing how Arsenal would use it, and when we saw it used for the announcement, we were all excited. Declan didn’t even know it would be the announcement song, but being an Arsenal fan, it was a huge deal.”

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British rapper Skepta also celebrated Odumodublvck when his monthly listeners on Spotify surpassed one million in May last year.

“UNLIKE MANY ARTISTS WHO SING ABOUT INFLUENTIAL FIGURES AND GO UNNOTICED, DECLAN EMBRACED THE TUNE WITH GENUINE JOY AND LOVE.”

The two have a song together, Jangrova, also featuring Hollywood actor and musician Idris Elba.

Reflecting on the global success of Declan Rice, Odumodublvck narrates his journey, from garnering the footballer’s attention to establishing a genuine connection that led to a June 2023 meetup. “Unlike many artists who sing about influential figures and go unnoticed, Declan embraced the tune with genuine joy and love,” he shares with FORBES AFRICA.

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His EZIOKWU mixtape, rooted in his Igbo heritage, aims to showcase his Nigerian and African identity. Odumodublvck advocates embracing authenticity and actively sharing rich cultures with the world. Addressing the influence of the digital age on music, he emphasizes the importance of streaming platforms and social media for emerging artists.

The transatlantic collaboration with American rapper Wale and Bloody Civilian on Blood On The Dance Floor adds a unique dimension to Odumodublvck’s work. He expresses gratitude for Wale’s support and asserts his willingness to contribute music that resonates with everyone.

His advice for emerging talent? He stresses consistency and leveraging the power of social media, emphasizing the need to release content regularly.

The Self-Defined Emo-Afrobeats Star

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Chukwuka Chukwuma Ekweani, also known as CKay, a singer- songwriter and producer, reflects on his journey to becoming the first African artist on Bloomberg’s Pop Star Power Rankings, highlighting how it serves as a testament to the transformative power of the internet.

In 2021, CKay achieved global recognition when his hit song Love Nwantiti went viral and reportedly garnered over 15 billion views on global video-sharing app TikTok. Love Nwantiti translates to ‘small love’ in Igbo, a major language in Nigeria, where CKay is a native speaker.

“WHILE TRADITIONAL AFROBEATS HAS THIS AGE-OLD ALLURE, INFUSING THEM WITH TODAY’S DIGITAL SOUNDS CREATES SOMETHING UNIQUE, YET FAMILIAR… IT’S LIKE A BRIDGE BETWEEN THE PAST AND PRESENT.”

In a conversation with FORBES AFRICA, CKay reflects on the pivotal role of streaming platforms and online communities in his success. “The undeniable worldwide acceptance of Love Nwantiti still blows my mind. I believe the success boils down to relatability. Social media and digital streaming platforms, especially TikTok, gave it immense support at a global level,” he notes. “But the real MVPs [Most Valuable Players]? The fans. They took it, vibed with it, and truly owned it. Their love made all the difference.”

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CKay’s track Emiliana achieved platinum certification in France in 2022 and earned double platinum status in the United States (US). Additionally, he was honored as Time magazine’s Next Generation Leader in 2022.

As a self-defined Emo-Afrobeats star, CKay delves into the intersection of traditional Afrobeats and contemporary digital trends. “Emo-Afrobeats is all about feel and rhythm. It’s blending raw emotion with ageless African rhythms. While traditional Afrobeats has this age-old allure, infusing them with today’s digital sounds creates something unique, yet familiar,” he explains. “It’s like a bridge between the past and present.”

Navigating the digital age, CKay shares his approach to maximizing global reach. “Collaborating with other artists, support from social media, digital streaming platforms, my entire team, and most importantly, the fans connected the dots,” he reveals.

The pivotal moment of signing with Warner Music South Africa and Atlantic Records marked a significant milestone in CKay’s international breakthrough.

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Reflecting on these partnerships, he acknowledges, “The manpower, resources, and experience of a global music company definitely count. My management and the whole team played instrumental roles.”

His advice for emerging talent navigating this landscape is succinct: “Stay authentic, understand the digital landscape, engage directly with your fans, and don’t be afraid to experiment and collaborate.”

From Billboard Triumphs To  Jay Z’s Speakers

Lekan Osifeso Jnr., popularly known as Lojay, witnessed his song Monalisa, featuring Chris Brown and Sarz, rise to number eight on the Billboard US Afrobeats Songs chart, showcasing the blend of talent and digital prowess. Subsequently, he had the privilege of being featured alongside Davido and Chris Brown for the track Sensational, released in October last year.

In an interview with FORBES AFRICA, Lojay offers insights into making use of the transformative power of the internet. “The internet has opened the door for artists and music from all over the globe to be consumed by listeners worldwide,” he shares. “Afrobeats as a genre has definitely benefited from this, and even more importantly, independent artists like myself have been able to better take control of the narrative. It’s easier and more profitable now to share your music on virtually every platform available, opening the door for more unconventional and exciting ideas.”

Reflecting on Jay Z blasting Monalisa on the way to a Fourth of July party in New York, Lojay expresses the surreal nature of the moment. “Jay Z is a LEGEND! His music definitely impacted me in my younger years, more in my late teens when I started to pay more attention to detail, and to see him blasting my song on the speakers was one of those moments you just can’t make up! It’s far crazier than I would have imagined.”

This unexpected subtle endorsement from a global music icon reaffirms the impact of Lojay’s music on an international scale. On his collaborative journey with Grammy-winning producer Sarz and artists like Brown, Jess Glynne, Swae Lee, and French Montana, Lojay outlines his approach: “I let the music lead me to what feels undeniable rather than trying to stick to a style or working within the ‘confines’ of a genre.” With a substantial following across the US, UK, Nigeria, France, and Germany, Lojay unveils the magic behind connecting with a diverse global audience. “Everywhere I go in the world, the one thing that brings everyone and everything together is music,” he observes. His music becomes a conduit, blending different accents and tones to create a universal language.

Alliances With Usher, Diddy, And Dr. Dre

For Phillip Kayode Moses, aka Pheelz, the recognition of his music on a grand scale, such as the use of Finesse featuring BNXN in Ecuadorian footballer Moises Caicedo’s unveiling at Chelsea, is both exhilarating and affirming.

“It feels amazing to create something that is recognized on that scale and platform,” Pheelz shares with FORBES AFRICA.

His strategy on the internet? “It’s just about showing who I am and being unapologetic about it. That’s always how I have moved.”

Pheelz recounts the journey from the release of Finesse to signing with Warner Records. The song’s TikTok success became a catalyst, but it was a performance with Davido during his sold-out We Rise By Lifting Others concert at the O2 Arena in March 2022 that sealed the deal. “From then on, it was just meetings with so many labels every day. But Warner Records felt like home,” he says.

Exploring collaborations with French Montana and Bounty Killer on Finesse, Pheelz emphasizes putting music first. “Spreading the light and collaborating is a very important thing to do for the future to be brighter than it is.”

Pheelz shares the significance of performing at Essence Fest and making his US television debut on NBC’s Late Show with Seth Meyers. “Essence Fest felt like home, a slice of Nigeria abroad. The unexpected invitation from Seth Meyers left me mind-blown, showcasing my drumming skills on American TV.”

Being the first Afrobeats artist to perform at the BET Awards Pre-Show is a testament to Afrobeats’ global reach. Pheelz sees a brighter future for Afrobeats, envisioning it as a genre parent with different children creating beautiful music by merging with other cultures. Pheelz’s collaborations with Usher, Diddy, and Dr. Dre reflect a dream realized. He believes such collaborations propel the culture forward, breaking down barriers and infusing Afrobeats with global sounds. Pheelz sees these collaborations as a culmination of inspiration, tracing back to the roots of Afrobeats in funk and jazz.

Musical Alchemy: From GO To Global Glory

Augustine Okechukwu, popularly known as Tekno, reached new heights of musical alchemy when his 2017 hit GO sampled 50 Cent’s iconic In Da Club and found its way into an MSNBC interview with the rap legend. In response, 50 Cent remarked, “That feels great, man. It makes me feel young,” a testament to Tekno’s ability to bridge generations through his unique sound. His song Enjoy even became the closing song in an episode of the Emmy-winning TV series Ted Lasso.

With his unique sound and production style, Tekno has garnered attention from global icons like Beyoncé, Usher, and Swae Lee.

Despite facing challenges, Tekno’s recent album, The More, The Better, attests to his evolution as an artist.

Speaking about Tekno’s influence, CKay, a fellow artist, acknowledged in a post, “One day, we’re going to sit down and talk about how Tekno and Runtown’s music paved the way.”

Tekno contributed to the original soundtrack for Coming 2 America and earned RIAA Gold certification for the song If.

His impact is measured not just in accolades but in numbers, boasting over two billion streams across all digital service providers.

Reflecting on his journey, Tekno emphasized the global resonance of his work. In an interview with Uproxx, he shared, “These people [Elton John and Billie Eilish] that you mentioned are people that are making music on the highest level. It’s a good thing to know these kinds of people vibe with your work.”

Musical Maverick And Fashion Icon

Adekunle Kosoko, popularly known as Adekunle Gold, has showcased his musical prowess through recent albums like Tequila Ever After and Catch Me If You Can, featuring collaborations with industry luminaries such as Khalid, Pharrell Williams, Ty Dolla $ign, Steffion Don, and Lucky Daye. In 2022, he even released the 5 Star remix with Rick Ross.

On collaborations and musical instincts, Adekunle Gold, who recently moved from touring the US and Canada to the UK, lets the music decide, allowing it to dictate his collaborations without bias. When working with Pharrell Williams, he went in with an open mind, seeking a challenge. “I heard a few beats but I kept going back to a specific one and listening over and over again, then Pharrell added some choir vocals to it and I knew that was the one for me. It was as if he knew what I was waiting to hear on it,” he reveals to FORBES AFRICA.

Adekunle Gold’s ambassadorial role with Manchester United and the LFSTLR (Lifestyler) collection campaign showcases his influence beyond the realm of music. Adidas officially unveiled the LFSTLR collection in September last year, a line of football-inspired fashion representing top clubs under the Three Stripes brand, designed not only for the pitch but also for the streets.

“IT’S INCREDIBLE HOW FAR MUSIC CAN TRAVEL ONLINE. YOU CAN NOW HAVE AN ARTIST IN ABEOKUTA (CAPITAL CITY OF OGUN STATE IN SOUTHWEST NIGERIA) MAKE MUSIC THAT IS BEING LISTENED TO IN TOKYO (JAPAN’S CAPITAL), THANKS TO STREAMING AND THE INTERNET.”

As he shared on social media, “Went from watching the games from viewing centers in Ikotun [a community in the northwest region of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos] to being invited to watch at Old Trafford to actually working with and being celebrated by my favorite football club in the world. Wild! By all means, dream!”

When it comes to balancing acts from music to fashion to football, his expression knows no bounds. “I think it’s important as musicians and actually as human beings and creatives to have multiple mediums of expression. There’s music, there’s song -writing. I love the process of dressing up and deciding what to wear, that’s how I communicate and express myself sometimes,” says Adekunle Gold.

His presence alongside Naomi Campbell and Miguel at renowned fashion shows like Burberry Autumn/ Winter 2022 Runway Show and Pharrell Williams’ debut for Louis Vuitton at Paris Fashion Week last year underscores his multifaceted impact.

He considers art his escape when he needs a break from music. “Films and books have also been that medium for me. One day I know I will direct and act in a movie and I will write my own book. My favorite medium of expression has also been my personal letters to my fans, I get to tell them how I really feel and what’s really going on in my mind. If you’re not subscribed, please do, you’re missing out!”

Reflecting on the global recognition of Nigerian music, Adekunle Gold asserts its distinctiveness amid a sea of blended sounds. “Nigerian music, in all its variety, still remains distinct,” he declares. He urges listeners to recognize the diverse sounds — from Fuji to apala, waka, senwele (indigenous music genres) — that shape Nigerian pop music, carrying within them rich cultural narratives.

In the age of digital platforms, Adekunle Gold acknowledges the transformative power of the internet.

Recounting a pandemic- induced home studio venture, he marvels at the songs’ journey from creation to global recognition. “Going on tour back-to-back for the last three years and people knowing these songs word for word, it’s incredible how far music can travel online. You can now have an artist in Abeokuta (capital city of Ogun State in southwest Nigeria) make music that is being listened to in Tokyo (Japan’s capital), thanks to streaming and the internet… I hope that as the world opens its eyes to the talent that Africa has to offer, we are able to help and uplift so many young Nigerians just waiting for their turn like me to go from a graphics designer to a global artist.” In his words to Billboard, he asserts, “Hear it from me. Afrobeats is taking over the world!”