(Words by Chibundu Egboh)
These days, songwriters are accepted in the Nigerian music industry with a warm embrace. Although, it wasn’t always this way. A couple of years ago, songwriting was looked down on, everyone wanted to be authentic, or “authe” according to local slang. Artistes who used songwriters usually kept it hidden and unseen. It was seen as a slight on your name as a big-name artiste, not being able to create “authentically”. Therefore, needing to “borrow” to make good music was for rookies. This caused stagnancy in the industry for years, with the music scene devoid of fresh ideas and creative direction to explore.
There’s a popular saying “two heads are better than one”, right? Absolutely. In the music industry songwriters have been around for as long as musicians. Some of the greatest musicians from Michael Jackson, to Beyoncé, and to Drake, Rihanna and Kanye all used songwriters and are better off for it. Kanye West wrote “Find Your Love” for Drake, who in turn helped in writing “30 Hours” for Kanye West. PARTYNEXTDOOR and Sia wrote “Wild Thoughts” and “Diamonds” respectively for Rihanna also, and the list goes on. World music today would be nothing without songwriters.
The Nigerian industry has been more accepting of songwriters since the late 2010s. Apart from fueling established artiste’s creative juices, songwriting also creates a market where upcoming acts can make some money selling creative-direction for songs and even full tracks as well. With the current elite acts in Africa using songwriters, it seems songwriting culture is here to stay in the Nigerian industry.
In November 2017, Davido released “Like Dat”, one of his biggest songs to date. Few days before the song dropped, an unpopular and upcoming artist at the time declared that she wrote Davido’s new single and it was widely accepted. That artist, now a superstar is Teni Makanaki.
Many other Nigerian hits have had a songwriter’s golden touch. Ceeza Milli had writing credits on Wizkid’s “Soco”, Peruzzi wrote Burna Boy’s “Pull Up” off his Grammy-nominated “African Giant”, with WurlD showing his genius touch on Davido’s “Blow My Mind”.
In the next decade, the demand for songwriters will increase as the stigma associated with it evaporates. The Nigerian music industry will massively gain from this colossal shift for years to come.