The uniqueness of Yoruba Music Globally

Fela Anikulapo Kuti, a Nigeria icon of music

Yoruba music possesses unique qualities that distinguish it as a cultural phenomenon with a global appeal. The complex rhythms, dynamic beats, and rich tonality of Yoruba music have captivated audiences worldwide, making it an essential musical genre that transcends borders and boundaries. With roots dating back to ancient Africa, Yoruba music has a rich and storied history that has been passed down through countless generations.

Through the ages, Yoruba music has been a platform for storytelling, spirituality, social commentary, and celebration. Its influence can be seen in many musical genres including highlife, afrobeat, jazz, blues, and hip-hop, among others, and has contributed significantly to Nigeria’s musical landscape and extending beyond its shores.

Yoruba music has received significant praise for its artistic prowess, as evidenced by the comments of respected public figure, Reno Omokri, who is a renowned Gospeller, Author, and #TableShaker. In his statement, he acknowledges the distinctive quality of Yoruba music and its cultural significance from time in memorials.

He wrote:

For every decade of Nigeria’s existence as an independent nation, music of Yoruba origin has dominated our nation, and now it is dominating the world.

  • Bobby Benson dominated the 60s.
  • Abami Fela Kuti over dominated the 70s.
  • King Sunny Ade and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey dominated the 80s.
  • Sir Shina Peters and King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall dominated the 90s.
  • Paul Play Dario shared dominance with a non Yoruba artist (Tuface Idibia) in the 2000s.
  • D’Banj the Koko Master shared dominance with non Yoruba artistes (PSquare) in the 2010s.
  • Davido, Wizkid and Burna Boy (non Yoruba, but his music is obviously influenced by the late Fela Kuti) and Asake are dominating in the here and now. And not just dominating, but selling out stadia, like the O2 Arena and Madisson Square Garden, amongst others.
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Their female artistes are not left out. Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade, Asa, Simi, Teni, Seyi Shay, dominate locally and internationally with their girl power!

How do they do it, that even where they sing wholly or partly in Yoruba, their music is able to crossover locally and internationally?

Christy Essien Igbokwe was quoted as saying she would not have made a breakthrough in the music industry without her anthem Seun rere, which was performed entirely in Yoruba.

Throughout the Black world, no other ethnic group has been able to CONSISTENTLY breakthrough in the music industry internationally while singing wholly or partially in their native tongue. I am not saying that some others do not sing in their native tongues. What I am saying is that they have not been able to crossover internationally while singing in their native language.

Caribbean reggae artistes sing in English or patois. African American R’nB, Jazz, Soul and rap artistes sing in English. Black Brazilians crossover with Portuguese. Francophone artistes (with the exception of Manu Dibango), crossed over with French. South African artistes crossed over with English (with the exception of Brenda Fassie and Mariam Makeba).

Even the world’s top Francophone female artiste (Angelique Kidjo), did not crossover internationally, until she sang in Yoruba.

There is something about that language and the musical genres that the Yoruba have introduced that can permanently put Nigeria on the world map for good.

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As a powerful expression of cultural identity and artistic excellence, Yoruba music serves as a testament to the creativity and innovation of African musicians and remains a vital and enduring component of the musical landscape globally.

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