Lessons from Ajegunle-style music in the 90’s

I have always enjoyed the style of music that came out of Ajegunle in the late 1990s and early 2000s. While they might be considered razz by many, there’s a melodious and obvious old-flair that makes them enjoyable. In addition, I love listening to them because of the stories that are being told in the songs.

Artists like Daddy Showkey, Baba Fryo, and African China were some of the popular voices that pioneered and promoted this style of music. Although their songs had different lyrics, they mostly told a similar Nigerian story, which is also similar to what Fela narrated in his songs. I realized from the stories in these songs that Nigeria has always had the same problems: corruption, bad government, police brutality, disregard for citizens, and failure to maintain infrastructure.

Many Gen Z Nigerians, like myself, believed there was a better Nigeria that once existed due to all the stories we were told. As time went on, we realized that there wasn't, in fact, any better version. It was already in a bad state and got progressively worse. African China’s "Crisis" has major similarities to present-day police brutality in Nigeria; its lyrics also suggest that the style of killings that happened on October 20, 2020, following the End SARS protests isn’t a new occurrence. His aged song "Mr. President” also details the full scale of bad governance that present-day Nigerians witness today. It’s safe to say that Nigeria has never really had good times; we only adapted to constant decline. Another pioneering artist of this genre, Edris Abdulkareem, simply summarizes this in his song when he says, "Nigeria Jaja Jaja. Everything Scatter Scatter."

These concerns keep me awake at night because I am optimistic and want Nigeria to be a better place than it is now, but when I log on to Twitter and see the mindset of its citizens, I am filled with rage and disgust. Is there a reason why we still deal with religious killings, lawlessness, tribalism, and misogyny and vote for leaders who are bad and lack vision? Most days, I have nowhere to channel my rage but my work.

Here's my curated playlist of old Ajegunle music for your listening pleasure!

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