This does not mean Igbo music is the best, in my opinion a lot of them are crap and full of street language but the same also applies to music made by other tribes. However, the good ones we Igbos produce, simply outnumber the ones produced by members of other Nigerian tribes, it’s just simple math.
While lots of pundits criticize Igbo music for its “too much” praise-singing and mentioning of the rich and famous as well as its minimal use of string instrumentals, nobody can argue against the fact that Igbo music has taken over the Nigeria music scene in the past 2- 3 decades.
We even had protests in some Yoruba communities calling for a ban on Igbo music, from their radio stations and party houses so as to give Yoruba artistes the chance to showcase their stuff.
So why is Igbo music popular in Nigeria and even making waves internationally even with its “too much” praise-singing, ‘apparent’ lack of content and minimal use of string instrumentals? Well there is no one single reason but a combination of reasons which are outlined below.
1. Our Diverse Styles
Igbo language is a mix mash of over 50 dialects each with their unique sound, instruments, and style of music. This provides a vast resource of music samples and styles for Igbo artistes to draw ideas from, which contributes to the richness of our music.
A close listen to some of our songs will reveal different elements not only one Igbo dialect but from different Igbo dialects spoken in Igboland.
2. We Are Creative
Igbos have very little faith in the government. Quite frankly we never expect anything from it. When we want something done, we get it done through private efforts.
Back in the 90’s when Igbo music was hardly ever played by any local station outside Igboland, because of too much praise singing and exfoliation of dubious characters who have made money in the society as well as because of its lack of meaningful content and quality, rather than take to the streets carrying placards like some of our Nigerian brothers would do, we accepted responsibility.
We started making good music by cloning foreign music (mainly from Ghana), and from there blended it with our local style, forming a fusion of Igbo and Ghana sounds and called it Igbo highlife.
We did not blame others for the inadequacies of our music, we simply forged a way forward even if it meant combining sounds from Ghana with our local sounds.
3. We Are Wealthier Music Entrepreneurs
Pound for pound Igbos are the richest private sector business people in Nigeria who have substantial private investment in the Nigerian music industry. We have invested more money in music marketing and distribution compared to other Nigerian tribes. This can easily be seen in the quantity and quality of music marketers in Alaba, Onitsha, and Aba markets who hail from Igboland
4. We Are More Charismatic Musicians
Of course there’s no denying the Igbo swag which naturally transcends into everything we do. Ladies naturally love swag (which is why Nigerian ladies from other tribes love Igbo musicians) and as we all know, it’s women that determine music trends. Besides nothing makes music more believable than confidence.
5. We Are More Traveled
Igbos are more traveled than their other Nigerian neighbours. Yes I know other tribes would argue, but it’s the simple truth. Igbos are naturally curious, adventurous and more industrious. We travel more in search of greener pastures and bring back foreign cultures with us.
Igbos are avid travelers. There is no Nigerian state that there does not exist a strong Igbo community in an organized form some in their hundreds of thousands. And as we travel to other places, we bring along our music and export our latest ones from home.
For this reason our music are readily available in almost all Nigerian cities while the reverse is the case for the other tribes which is a pity when you consider the large music market in Igboland.
Hate us or not, Igbos are the best at what we put our minds to do and not just in Nigeria. Unfortunately, this applies to both the good and the bad. Our booming music and industry though, happens to falls into the good category.
Written by Dunu Okigbo