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Dispatch From Nigeria #1: Hitting the Ground Running

Banning Eyre and Sean Barlow are currently in Lagos, Nigeria researching the vibrant music scene for Afropop Worldwide‘s Hip Deep series. Here’s their first field report.

LAGOS, Nigeria, Jan. 26–First day on the ground in Lagos for Sean and Banning was action packed. We’re focusing on the roots music scene and are finding that it’s alive and well despite the dominance of Afrobeats and Naija pop. First stop was Ayo Balogun, self-proclaimed Queen of Juju, at her office in Ilupeja Ikesa. Juju is a bit overshadowed by fuji music these days, but Ayo says she still works three parties a week. Originally a gospel singer, she also keeps active with her social work foundation. We hope to catch her onstage tomorrow.

Ayo

Next to the King of Fuji, this time crowned by the former king, Alhaji Sikuru Ayinle Barrister. This man Saheed Osupa was a force of nature. Just sitting in his living room in Magodo Shangisa, without even any accompaniment, he sang eight or 10 of the songs from his 22 albums and had all of us rapt. He was fascinating on the roots of fuji, and its links with Nigerian hip-hop. Both fuji and hip-hop entail an artful balancing of “lewd songs” and “moral messages.” True life music. Can’t wait to hear Osupa with his band!

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Saheed Osupa

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Last stop was a concert at Freedom Park on Lagos Island. Wednesday night is Afro Spot night, a kind of open mic event with resident Afrobeat/highlife/variety band Seun Olota and Ecstasi.

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Seun Olota perfoms in Freedom Park.

There were rappers and crooners, and even a medical doctor who got up and did spot-on renditions of classic Nigerian highlife hits by Victor Olaiya. Yeni Kuti, daughter of Fela, was in the audience along with various Naija music luminaries. We made some excellent connections and are off to The Shrine to commune with the Kutis today…

Feature image: Saheed Osupa with a portrait of his mother. Photo by Banning Eyre.

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