7 Nigerian Singers Advocating For Socio-Political Change Through Music
Music is a powerful tool that has been used many times to engineer social change. As much as the Nigerian music industry is predominantly saturated with songs that are meant to entertain, there are also songs aimed at educating the masses as well as calling for societal reform.
Over the years, a number of Nigerian music stars have made it a point of duty to release protest songs as their way of advocating against the ills and wrongs in the society.
Through their lyrics, they have also called out the Nigerian government for its actions and inactions, asked for accountability and better governance.
In this list, we take a look at some of the Nigerian singers who are strong critics of the Nigerian government through their songs:
Veteran Nigerian rapper Eedris Abdulkareem is no doubt one of the most vocal critics of the Nigerian government. Most of his songs reflect the minds of the common masses as to the state of things in Nigeria. At the peak of his career, Abdulkareem got the attention of then-president Olusegun Obasanjo through ‘Nigeria jaga jaga’, a song which implied that the country was in disarray. His third album “Jaga Jaga” highlighted corruption and suffering in Nigeria and the title track was banned from radio by ex-president Obasanjo. Years down the line and his songs still resonate with the masses and the message of his lyrics hasn’t toned down. His 2017 song “Trouble dey sleep” sees the rap star call out public office holders while also criticising government leaders who patronise foreign establishments.
“There is fire on the mountain; and nobody seems to be on the run; oh there is fire on the mountain top; and no one is a-running.” These lyrics from Asa’s “Fire On The Mountain” hit is one that wholely captures the Nigerian situation. With a lot not working well in the country, it is as if everyone is okay with the mediocrity in the nation. Described as the “next generation’s voice of African protest” by the HuffingtonPost, Marc Amignone in an article describes her as “a little bit of Bob Marley, a chunk of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, add some India Arie pre-mixed with Miriam Makeba and Angélique Kidjo and finish it off with a whole lot of Yoruba classics like King Sunny Ade.” Her songs have a politically conscious tone to it infused with social commentary messages. Even she admits that Bob Marley and Fela Anikulapo Kuti are the two biggest influences in her career.
Musician Femi Kuti is the son of Fela Kuti and he inherited his father’s passion for both music and activism. Heis music is politically inclined as he sings about political corruption, poverty and primitive living conditions suffered by Nigerians. His album Africa for Africa emphasized “Bad Government” as a problem in Africa. With songs like “Politics Na Big Business” and “Make We Remember,” Femi continues to call out the Nigerian government and remind the people of the need for social change. For a very long time, Femi has been using music to inspire, change and motivate African people.
The youngest son of Fela Kuti, Seun like his father is also a musician and activist. He took an active part in the 2012 Occup Nigeria protest. In 2019, on Jidenna’s 85 to Africa album Kuti voiced an outro of a song with these words: “I believe it’s time for an African peoples powered highway. A highway that will connect the Diaspora and Motherland. A global highway for African people all over the world to rediscover themselves. To remember that the only thing that unites black people, globally, the only thing we all have in common is that we are from Africa”
Veteran Nigerian galala singer John Asiemo popularly known as Daddy Showkey is another strong and vocal critic of the Nigerian government. His song “Fire Fire” reflects on the situation in Nigeria and he calls for ‘fire to burn all the bad people that don’t want the country to progress’. The song became something close to a national anthem at the time. He has continued to be an activist for social reform and a loud voice in organising anti-government protests.
Although it is too early to liken him to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, many Nigerians claim that rapper and actor Falz remind them of the legendary figure that is Fela. The socio-political consciousness that marks their songs is one that many Nigerians find welcoming in an industry where music content appears to be heading in the same direction. Falz’s 2018 controversial hit “This Is Nigeria” is a criticism of corrupt politicians, places of worship and the security forces. His album “Moral Instruction” boasts of songs criticising politicians, corruption, police brutality, prostitution, social injustice and internet fraud.
Self-acclaimed ‘African Giant,’ Burna Boy samples heavily from Fela’s music. Songs like “Collateral Damage” and the recent “Monsters You Made” off his “Twice As Tall” album are protests about Nigeria’s problems. In ‘Collateral Damage,’ the Grammy-nominated singer names the symptoms of Nigeria’s dysfunction — the embezzlement by the political class and police brutality.
On ‘Soke’, he mentions and complains about the lack of water and the non-existent power supply in Nigeria. He then gets to the real reason nothing changes and nothing has changed with regards to the culture of protesting:
“If e vex you, dem go call MOPOL/dem go come o/Carry you go.”