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Abisola Alawode: 11 Nigerian Alternative Musicians You Should Look Out For

Abisola Alawode

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FalanaAway from the usual applause that greets our more popular genres of music (i.e. Afro beat, Afro pop and even Fuji), the Nigerian Alternative sound has slowly begun forging a path for itself in recent times.

Nneka was the pacesetter, Asa has attained legendary status; Brymo is still Brymo, distinct as ever and Bez is in a class of his own. These are just a few of the alternative superstars we have presently.

However, there are a few other acts who are also aiming for superstar status. (I see you Temi Dollface and Bemyoda) If they would reach the heights attained by some of the names mentioned earlier depends on a couple of factors. (I’ll be listing them in a follow up article to this).

The tag ‘Alternative’ as regards the Nigerian sound is a source of debate from music lovers and critics alike. Some are of the opinion that any genre outside the more popular sounds mentioned above are to be considered alternative while others feel songs that are distinct in their use of live instruments should be considered as alternative songs.

Urban dictionary defines “Alternative music as a vast music genre that can be similar to pop music, or completely different.”

I call the artistes mentioned in this list alternative not because of their individual genres, alternative because they bring something different to the table.

This said, here are 11 Nigerian alternative acts you should look out for – in no particular order.

1) Yela
A banker by day and musician the rest of the time, Yela describes himself as an Afrocentric R&B artiste. He released his debut EP ‘Gidi + the Undertow’ early this year and hasn’t looked back since. Songs that stand out on the EP for me are ‘Boxes, Unpopular, Dance Wiv Me and Johni Walka. 

2) Kaline
I remember seeing a video of Kaline playing the keyboard and I was so blown away that I had to go find out more about her. I didn’t even know she was Nigerian!  Apparently, she is a singer-songwriter and pianist who has a BMus in Film Scoring from Berklee College of Music. Talk about talent. Anyway, listen to her single ‘Tell You of My Love’  to understand my thoughts about her. Meanwhile anyone notice the Solange Knowles type vibe she has?

3) Ayo Awosika
If you haven’t heard any of Ayo Awosika’s music, I forgive you.  I admit to being a stalker of this woman and her music ever since I heard of her last year. A singer – songwriter, music director and music teacher based in New York, she recently released her debut album ‘We Best Not Wait’  Ayo’s performance at the Lagos Jazz Series back in 2014 still stands out for me.

4) Falana
The energy Falana exudes when she performs is simply out of this world. And when she plays the box drum? Fire! Please anytime you hear she is putting together her pop up concert series, make sure you attend. Watch her ingenious cover of Fela’s ‘Lady’ HERE,

5) Ranti
In the first 10 seconds of me watching Ranti’s ‘Iwe Kiko’ video, I remember thinking “Great! Here’s another Asa wannabe” but immediately the EDM type vibe kicked in, that thought went out of the window! Ranti’s new school folk singer style is working for her so far. Iwe Kiko was just the beginning. Her second single Bamiwo is even better.

6) Lindsey Abudei
My ‘romance’ with Lindsey Abudei started when I downloaded her EP ‘Brown’ sometime in 2014. Since then, I still play it regularly. It rarely happens but I LOVED every song on that EP. Now Lindsey has released a full length album ‘And the Bass Is Queen’ best believe this album is fire. In fact, it is yet to get a negative review from critics since its release. Well done Lindsey, well done.

7) Johnny Drille
If you think Mr Drille sounds like OwlCity, you are forgiven until I heard him speak pidgin in his hit single Wait For Me. This Project Fame alumni has continued to soar since Wait for Me. I ‘can’t wait for him’ to release an EP or album.

8) Mosa
This man singlehandedly produced over 90% of TY Bello’s debut album Greenland and ever since then, everything he has touched has turned to gold in my opinion. He made the switch to singing a few years ago and he has put out songs I consider to be collector’s items. Doubt me? Check them out yourself I Love You and the more recent Femi.

9) MNEK
I initially had doubts about including MNEK on this list primarily because even though he is of Nigerian heritage (he was born Uzoechi Emenike in London) he is more popular abroad. Only 21, the list of people this dude has worked with is astounding. From Beyoncé to Madonna and Diplo, the list keeps growing. His cover of Vanesa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles will remain on my playlist for a long time. His chart topping single with Zara Larsson ‘Never Forget You’ has brought him worldwide recognition.

10) Tomi Thomas
Most people recognise Tomi as part of boy band L.O.S, but it seems as his hair grew out, he found his path as a musician. I particularly like the chemistry he has with his producer Benie Macaulay. He released his EP Black Couch Vol 1 recently. For me, his song Ready or Not is gold!

11) Aramide
What I admire about Aramide is the professionalism with which her career is being handled. I happen to be on her mailing list anytime she has new music or a video to put out. The way the press release is drafted and its accompanying photos always impress me. Think I’m wrong? Run a Google image search for Aramide and you’ll get a lot of hi-res photos of this delectable singer. Have you seen her website too? *claps* Listen to her recent quirky single (with Sir Dauda) ‘Funmilowo Mi’ and you wouldn’t be sorry.

Which new alternative act did I miss? Please drop a name in the comments section.

22 Comments

  1. Berry Dakara

    July 21, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Yay! I can’t wait to listen to all of them.

  2. Stanleychijioke

    July 21, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Apart from aramide and falana….. Didn’t knw about others until now… Guess I’ll try to get to know them very

  3. Bodunade

    July 21, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    12. Clay

    • Baby gurl

      July 21, 2016 at 9:04 pm

      I love Clay!

  4. Neo

    July 21, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Don’t forget Adaku yo! Dope as F!

  5. Yassss

    July 21, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    How do we get the Music?

    Please add Clay to this list!!! She’s pure talent!! Ogadisinma and Nenum are fire?

  6. Stephanie

    July 21, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    Who are these ppl?? What kind of list is this doesn’t have Clay?? Officially doesn’t know

  7. serendipity

    July 21, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Apart from Aramide who is my girl crush by the way, I haven’t heard of the others but I’ll definitely check them out. Alternative music is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, people go through my playlist and say its ‘depressing’ or ‘boring’, case in point my new roommate who tells everyone I’m weird because I won’t listen to ‘Panda’

  8. serendipity

    July 21, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Apart from Aramide who is my girl crush by the way, I haven’t heard of the others but I’ll definitely check them out. Bez is …amazing, i’m a super fan Alternative music is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, people go through my playlist and say its ‘depressing’ or ‘boring’, case in point my new roommate who tells everyone I’m weird because I won’t listen to ‘Panda’.
    P.S You guys should check out Asikey she is the truth, an amazing guitarist similar to Aramides style, her EP #Human is going to be out in August but her singles are out there.

  9. Eloangel

    July 21, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Bemyoda – His track ‘forever’ is refreshing

  10. Papacy

    July 22, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Bemyoda and Aramide. I fell for their sound at first listen. This clay everyone is raving about, had to go check out her music and I’m pleasantly wowed! Naija de try o. There’s this kid; Tay…had this single; in the box. Mad talent!

  11. Molademi

    July 22, 2016 at 3:48 am

    John Drille is an outstanding musician! I hope he goes far cos he is super talented.

  12. Becca

    July 22, 2016 at 10:13 am

    Bemyoda should definitely be on this list yo!

  13. Kyjuan

    July 22, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Bumi Thomas is another good one. London based. She opened for Asa about 2 years ago and she sounded amazing. She has an EP out at the minute.

  14. Tobie

    July 22, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    Clay is missing on this list. She’s Amazing!!! Clay! Clay!! Clay!!!

  15. Nana

    July 22, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Yeah….Yela is my colleague and a very talented upcoming musician. I wish them luck.

  16. Lily

    July 22, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    Boxes is one of my favorite. Yela is great at his music delivery, you guys should check him out! Big ups to the others!!!!

  17. khay

    July 23, 2016 at 8:32 am

    you missed aduke…she’s awesome

  18. Tina

    July 25, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Sir Dauda is one to watch o! From Sisi Oloja to all the songs he has been featured on (Falz’s How far to Eva’s War Coming and now Funmi lowo with Aramide) , you can tell that he is amazing. I hear he is set to drop some new tracks in a couple of weeks.

  19. Iphy

    July 29, 2016 at 3:34 am

    Yela… Is good to go… All da best bro. One Love

  20. ATL's finest

    July 29, 2016 at 6:02 am

    Haven’t heard of any of them, Not even one 🙁 well Thanks BN & I will listen to them.

  21. Bigfootinyourface

    August 16, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    I’ve listened to everyone on the list and they are legit amazing.

    A few additions to the list:

    Tomi Owo
    Odunsi
    Villy and the Xtreme Volumes
    Femi Leye,
    Clay
    Maka
    Xia
    Nonso Amadi,
    Emmanuel Nwamamdi (His cover of Sade’s sweetest taboo might just be the best thing you’ve heard for an evening by the sea)
    Lady Donli

    Not all of them are alternative, yet they are all indie fusion artists. E.g Tomi Owo is indie R&B, and hella refreshing to listen to. Villy and the Xtreme Volumes is a live band with a blend of afro, soul, blues (yes, good old blues swing) and they are something else.

    It’s interesting to see interest in alternative styles of music to nigerian popular urban music picking up.

    Enjoy!

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