The evolution of the indigenous Nigerian street sound?

The Nigerian street sound is a blanket description for everything we think soundtracks the inner-city soundscape and determine a culture behind it.

Lagos is the nucleus of Nigerian pop culture. If things fly in Lagos, they will fly in other locations because, there’s a subconscious approval when it passes through Lagos. Asides that, the multiculturalism of Lagos promotes unique concepts.

That said, the Nigerian street sound is not just what people enjoy, it’s a product of inner-city cultural inspiration by Nigerian lifestyles through music which define the industry direction for a particular time.

When it’s all said and done, nothing lasts forever; the baton is passed and trends change hands, giving way to new sounds which then rule for a while before expiring. The idea the Nigerian street sound is cultural as it is ephemeral.

In Nigeria, we seldom had definitive sounds that distinctively punctuate the soundscape. Out of the few we’ve had, the most distinctive remains galala, inspiring the konto culture.

Galala is a lifestyle, representative of the Nigerian inner-city struggles with Ajegunle as the heart and soul – although, it also misrepresented Ajegunle as mostly impoverished and dirt-stricken when it had good, elite zones.

This movement was, however, as synonymous with bare-chested, dreadlocked men in music videos, speaking like the atypical Nigerian youth, who came from the struggle as it was with the dance of the same name.

In 2018, Pulse describes it as, “Galala is the first true dance trend of the streets in the new millennium. The dance originated from the pseudo-reggae sound made popular by artistes like Ras Kimono, Blacky.”

The galala sound was inspired by the reggae obsession that spread across Nigeria like a wild zombie infestation from the 80s till the early 90’s. galala was, however, more uptempo with faster, more fashionable disjointed drum arrangement to enable you dance.

In some ways, the dreadlock and beanie culture that accompanied galala were also brought from the reggae era, but galala was then like more radical offspring of the reggae with more African drums and arrangement.

It is the Nigerian version of dancehall culture that inspired dance moves, rhythms, birthed sonic waves and made livelihoods for ghetto people who must have been subjected to damning indictment on their lifestyles..

At mainstream inception, it had the likes of Daddy Showkey, Baba Fryo, Daddy Fresh, Father U-Turn and a few others as flag bearers.

During the 2000s haze, acts like Marvellous Benji, Blackface, African China and Original Stereoman were poster boys for the madness it inspired and they continued the galala movement with their own unique approach.

But sadly, the social consciousness and political commentary of galala was probably too underrated.

These either come at fast-paced 120-130 BPM as in Terry G’s “Akpako Master” or 2shotz and Timaya’s “In Case You Never Know” more slowed down 100 BPM as on 2Shotz’s “Kpef Dey Go” or Timaya’s “I Don Blow.” These sounds are rich on the Galala/Konto influences.

The short reign then led directly into what was the infamous virality of Zee World, Damoche and Skally Mental with their very transient vaunting of vulgarity on wax that encapsulated Nigerian youth firmly within its grasp for the better part of 18 months and sadly sent well-meaning but fun-loving youth spiraling out of control on dancefloors across the nation.

The major dance that accompanied this era was alanta.

Overall and for impact, we have had more dance waves than distinctive sounds to impact and punctuate generations and that’s nobody’s fault. Our evolution just hadn’t caught up… Until recently.

The meteoric rise of street savvy acts like the proponents of the pangolo movement, Dagrin, Olamide – and his many minions and imitators – has culminated in and precipitated our most distinctive sounds since the galala movement was birthed.

The wobe sound – credit to Young John and Pheelz, base for Olamide’s hits liked “Duro S’oke,” “Owo Blow”, “Wo”, “Story For The Gods”, “Bobo” and so forth. The sound also aided the success of acts like Lil Kesh, who later aided the rise of the classic dance, Shoki.

The sound is basically a more organized and reworked, but slowed-down version of traditional Yoruba music that soundtrack public traditional events like masquerade dances, heavy on drums, hi-hats, toms, bells, triangle and other forms of percussion for dance-worthy rhythms.

The sound pretty much found itself a niche, but was appealing because it was basically bringing traditional Yoruba sounds to the mainstream, championed by a street king…
and whole lot…..