Hey Mr DJ? A Brief Conversation with London-based Nigerian DJs

Hey Mr DJ? A Brief Conversation with London-based Nigerian DJs

It was not long ago that I watched London-based David Rodigan in a soundclash in faraway (yes from England) Jamaica. Did I just say Rodigan? Who’s that? For the benefit of those unfamiliar with this name that I grew up with even before I moved to England, here’s brief bio.

“David Michael Rodigan MBE (born 24 June 1951) is a British radio DJ who also performs as a disc jockey. Known for his selections of reggae and dancehall music, he has played on stations including Radio London, Capital 95.8, Kiss 100, BBC Radio 1Xtra, BBC Radio 2 and BFBS Radio.”

OK time to move on to the busness of the day (although some reference to BBC Radio 1Xtra is not farfetched as we woud soon find out), the unsung heroes of the internationalisation of the Nigerian Music sector.

Outta Naija

The sounds like one of my LinkedIn posts right? But it’s not trust me. That previous post had to do with Nigerian Movies, but this is more about the sounds. You can’t rewind a radio (my people used to say).

Hopefully though there would be a resurgent interest in articulating the Sights & Sounds of the Nigerian Entertainment Industry (or Creative Industries if you like) after this piece publishes. So let’s get it on (apologies Marvin Gaye, I got lost in music here, oops that sounded like Sister Sledge there).

The past few years have seen Nigerian music explode all over the world, from D’Banj scoring a number one in the UK with ‘Oliver Twist’ to Wizkid’s acclaimed sell out of the reverred London’s Royal Albert hall on Naija’s 2017 Independence Day.

 

Guardian Gateways, a collaborative project with the much-celebrated Boiler Room and the British Council not long provided what it tagged a ‘shared vision for Nigeria’ targeted at showcasing and ‘building cultural connections’ between British and Nigerian artists, is my point of departure in this article. The showcase got three most influential pioneers on the Nigerian Music Scene, Don Jazzy, DJ Jimmy Jatt and Dr. Sid, discuss the evolution of Nigerian music over the past two decades, the current musical climate in Nigeria, and how the term ‘Afrobeats’ can be problematic.

In the 17-minute YouTube video clip, a household name on the Nigerian DJ scene, Jimmy Jatt, citing traditional Nigerian music genres such as Fuji, Juju and (local) Reggae as being more appealing to more mainstream labels such as EMI Music, points out that the importance of Streetcred.

Regrettably, I am not particularly concerned about this line of enquiry or what the other crooners (Don Jazzy and Dr Sid) have to say about the matter in this post. So, readers might as well as watch the following video clip to gain some insight from the interview.

An Interview with Don Jazzy, Jimmy Jatt & Dr Sid Boiler Room x Guardian Gateways. Boiler Room Published on Aug 8, 2016.

In the interim, however, my conversation continues with the curators of this music genre, our unsung heroes – the DJs. Reverting to the 17-minute YouTube video clip, Jimmy Jatt points out that the big labels were not interested in what the streets were talking about. According to him, We DJ on the streets […] know what the people want.’

Jimmy Jatt contines in segment 11.44 of the video clip by alluding to the success of South Korean “flash-in-the plan” Psy and his celebrated “Gangnam Style” one-track wonder as a case in point. Thiis is about global recognition of music from unknown geographic spaces and places.

Talking abot globalisation and/ or internationalisation, the global distribution and international radio air play such as Hot 97 and BBC Radio One Extra also received mention in the interview alongside the rather “unexplained” success of a “son of the oil,” WizKid in the musical sacred sanctrum of London (captured in segment 12.20 of the video clip). As Jimmy Jatt pointed out, ‘it is taking longer [to] recognise the New Sound from Africa and/ or with African influences …Putting Nigerian Music on the Map.’ Indeed, it the putting of Naijabeats on the global map that accentuates my quest to take what many might see as “baby steps” in profiling the following London-based DJs of Naija (slang for Nigeria) roots through the use of a pilot and brief interview guide.

My select London DJs

Here are some of the responses I received from the London-based DJs whom I have had personal encounters with. Please don’t be fooled about their London base as these DJs also play at international events outside London.

Considering their normal day jobs and the part DJing activities in the run up to Christmas, I had to be rational in keeping my questions as brief and insightful as possible.

DJ SoGood

 

DJ Alexo

So here are my five questions I put forward to these musical curators, just to set the ball rolling.

1. How long have you been DJing in the UK? Does this include organising other Nigerian/ African themed events?

I have been doing DJ work in the UK for about 12 years now. Headlined events both locally in the UK and  internationally. [DJ SOGOOD].

I have been DJing now/ organising events, for 19 years [DJ Alexo].

2. What do you think of Nigerian music in general and London in particular?

Nigeria music has really come far and making waves all over the western world now. Nowadays you hear Nigerian music and by extension afro beats played on UK radio stations, shopping malls and even events all over UK. I quite remember back then when I started, `Nigeria music was not really popular. Other DJs and I tried pushing Nigeria music at any opportunity we could find. We were mostly playing the funky house, R&B, hip-pop and reggae [think David Rodigan again] music back then. [DJ SOGOOD].

Afrobeat music has taken over in most countries. You cannot attend any party or show without Afrobeats played. Even the Americans artist i.e. (Drake, Chris Brown & Cardi B) are all collaborating with Nigerian artist [DJ Alexo].

3. Who are your top 5 Nigerian DJs of all time and why? This list includes those in Nigeria and London or even Europe.

DJ Easy, DJ Blox, DJ Preston, DJ Adex, DJ Lanre (Factory 78). These names have really inspired me. I have good working relationship with them. I will recommend any of these names any time. [DJ Alexo].

4. What do think about Nigerian music and musicians?

Nigeria music is one of the best things out of Nigeria. The whole western world now is catching the Nigeria vibes. Nigerian musicians are really working hard. Most of the musicians now have their own record labels thereby helping other upcoming artists. There is a more collaboration between Nigerian artists and popular international stars as against what it used to be in the past. There is a sense of healthy competition among musicians which gives room for creativity. [DJ SOGOOD].

Nigerian Afrobeat artist should slow down, they release tracks almost every month, this has to be controlled. [DJ Alexo].

5. Where do you see Nigerian Music going in the next 5 years.

I see Nigeria music growing bigger and bigger. I see more Nigerian talents with more dynamic music creativity with different dance styles to say the least. [DJ SOGOOD].

If care is not taken, Afrobeat will be too diluted (monotonous) in the next 5 years. [DJ Alexo].

The conversation doesn’t quite end here.

Hey Mr DJ?

As I sign off on this piece here are some parting words. DJ Lanre (Factory 78), DJ Adex & Co [including DJ Xclusive], I have my sights on you come 2020. In the mean time and in between time, Christmas is very much upon us and tickets are selling out fast on LiveNation courtesy of SoGood.

The story continues in the New Year!

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