In the shadow of Nigeria’s 61st Independence Day, Africa Is a Country radio stops over in Lagos on its tour of African club cultures inspired by the Ten Cities book project. Unfortunately, due to a host of factors beyond our control, I wasn’t able to link up with Mallam Mudi Yahaya, cultural activist and essayist for the book’s Lagos chapter. But his essays did serve as a guide in the curation of the songs featured in this episode. I cannot recommend his essays enough as they serve as a sort of corrective to the general narrative around “Afrobeats” circulating in the international media.
That narrative is one that focuses on individual artists’ success, propelled by a general surprise around Africans’ access to wealth, itself fueled by a long tradition of single African stories. At a time when Wizkid has sneaked his way into our daily subconscious via the banal stream of mainstream radio, even making it on to that holy commercial grail of US black radio that black international stars have been trying to crack for decades, we would be wise to remember that the push and pull dynamics of national history that have shaped the Lagos music scene (and its urban environment in general) are inseparable from the music itself.