Happy Nigerian Independence Day to everyone out there. Can you believe Nigeria as we know it is “technically” 56 years old? Even though politcally we’ve been through the grinder much more than we’d like as a country, creativity wise, we’ve probably been the best in the continent, and one of the best in the world.
Seeing as we’re here as a top music blog bringing you the best in music, and knowledge on what we know, we’re bringing you the 25 most iconic songs in Nigerian History. Are these the best songs? Arguably. However this list features the songs that became the standout hits that defines eras and generations in Nigeria.
Sir Victor Uwaifo – Joromi
One of the pioneers of Highlife music in Nigeria, Sir Victor Uwaifo released this wonderfully composed song, Joromi, that has come to define the 60s era and the origin of highlife. Decades later it still sounds just as fresh even for those not born when it was released.
Rex Lawson – Love Me Adure
Rex Lawson in his short life was able to not only set the platform for many highlife musicians (especially in the east) for years to come, he put out this wedding classic that is still being played and covered by many bands in Nigeria today.
Fela – Lady
Fela was as politically charged of an artist as you’d find anywhere in the world, and one of his most iconic hits was a stab at the colonial influences on the African Woman. Besides the message, Lady is a wonderfully put together and very groovy jam. Instant party starter.
Fela – Water No Get Enemy
Another of Fela’s iconic hits, Water No Get Enemy, became the symbol of his international significance and his pro-black stance. The song is listed by many hip-hop artists in America was one of their musical influences.
Onyeka Onwenu – Ekwe
You can easily substitute in a number of Onyeka Onwenu’s hit songs and not many will argue with you. Onyeka Onwenu was easily the defining artist of the Nigerian 80s pop music era, and Ekwe typifies exactly everything she was giving us in that period.
Olu Maintain – Yahooze
When you have the Secretary of State of the United States (Colin Powell) dancing to your song then you know you’ve reached somewhere. Olu Maintain’s Yahooze and the dance that came with it was the biggest thing going from 2007 all the way into 2009.
Dbanj – Oliver Twist
Say what you want about Dbanj and his career after Mo-Hits, what you can’t take from him is this outstanding parting gift he got right before leaving the label he started with Don Jazzy. Oliver Twist is not only Dbanj’s biggest song, it’s one of the most internationally renowned Nigerian songs of the past decade.
Chief Osita Osadebe – Osondi Owendi
More than just a song, this has become somewhat of a saying among Igbo people. Simply translated to “It dey sweet some people, it dey vex some people” this iconic track was not only the best thing going in 80s highlife, it’s been covered and sampled dozens of times. The most popular from MC Loph & Flavour.
Mike Okri – Time Na Money
In the days of flower dresses, bright colored Hawaiian shirts, and choco milo gifts for dance contests, this song will probably play in the background. Mike Okri not only blessed us with this timeless dance hit, he gave us an everlasting message also; Time is Money afterall 😀
Sir Shina Peters – Afro Juju
Almost 9 mins of non-stop dancing, instructions, praises, and reasons to be happy. Shina Peter’s Afro Juju is the ever lasting party song to cap off any Nigerian party till 2099. From the old, young, papa, mama, sister, brother, and everyone in between, once this song hits with its iconic intro, you already know what to do. Omoge dance with your chest…
Femi Kuti – Bang Bang
If Femi Kuti was a rapper in the 90s, “you can’t stop the shining” would’ve been the perfect line for the follow up on this song. Even though the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation banned this song in Nigeria, it didn’t stop ‘Bang Bang Bang’ from being an international hit. And who really follows NBC bans anyways?
Prince Nico Mbarga – Sweet Mother
Is there anything else to say about this song? If you have a mother (which I’m sure we all do and/or did), then there’s absolutely no way this song doesn’t hit the spot when it’s played. Though before his death in 1997 Prince Nico Mbarga gave us many tunes, ‘Sweet Mother’ will forever be the greatest gift he gave Nigerians.
King Sunny Ade – The Way Forward
By the time this song came out, King Sunny Ade was already a legend in juju music. In 1994 though, he put together an all-star squad and released ‘The Way Forward‘ (a song against ethnic violence at the time). A lot of times, “Nigerian Unity” songs are kinda lame, but this one was probably the hottest song in that period. Plus there were at least 5-6 different languages in the song.
2face – African Queen
Do we need to explain this one again? Any list about greatest songs in Nigeria will always feature 2face’s African Queen for all the right reasons. You can point to this track as the song that helped transition Nigerian music into the modern era.
Flavour – Ashawo Remix
Among many Igbo people, Flavour is already the legend of his generation, but time will tell where he ends up in Nigerian music history. However, this track (which funny enough is a remix and a remake) is his biggest hit ever, and one of the hottest dance songs of the past 5 years. Not only in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole.
Christy Essien Igbokwe – Seun Rere
For anyone born in the 80s, you probably heard this song on the radio all the way into your teens. It was one of the most popular songs on the 80s and got so popular that many artists from other African countries sang their version of the track. Though she passed in 2011, Christ Essien Igbokwe will forever be remembered for this wonderful song which translates to “do good” in Yoruba.
Daddy Showkey – Dyna
Daddy Showkey scored a major hit with Dyna for so many reasons. It was catchy, danceable, and most of all it told a story of ‘Dyna’; A story that everyone could really get with – from those in the ghetto to those in VI. Showkey was one of the hottest acts in Nigeria in the 90s, and this song was one of his many highlights.
Oliver De Coque – Ana Enwe Obodo Enwe
The meaning of the song alone is already legendary (“We own the city/region“), and when you think of those that get the honor of having this song played for them, you know this song is not for small children. Oliver De Coque and his iconic beard created this classic igbo song signals the moment you’ve made it into the big leagues. Living In Bondage the movie also helped push the song nationally.
9ice – Gongo Aso
You’d be hardpressed to find a bigger club hit from Nigeria over the past decade than this. 9ice’s song Gonso Aso, from his similarly titled album, was the biggest dance hit in 2008, and years afer that. Even till date, it’s one song you can play at a party and get the floor to get hype.
Asa – Jailer
Lyrically it’s one of the most outstanding songs ever put out by a Nigerian artist. While we’re known for our dance and party songs, Asa showed Nigerians and the world, that Nigerian music is multi-dimensional. It’s no wonder she scored an international record deal shortly after this record was released, and has not looked back.
Bright Chimezie – African Style
Bright Chimezie traveled to oyimbo man country, ate pounded yam, had the police called on him for trying to commit suicide (by eating pounded yam) and then wrote a song about it. I mean how epic is that? Ok whether or not he actually told a true story, African Style is another iconic song in the history of Nigerian music.
Junior & Pretty – Monika
Before it became fashionable to be a rapper in Nigeria, Junior & Pretty introduced us to the perfect Nigerian rap song. Telling the story of a village girl (Monika) that was a love interested, Junior & Pretty put out this wonderful song that was not only catchy lyrically, but had the infectious melody to go with. Makes you ask, what the hell happened to rap in Nigeria?
Remedies – Shakomo
It’s a sampled song that ended up becoming a party joint in a unique era of Nigerian music. A song like that today might not have the same impact, but in the late 90s to 2000s it was the Nigerian party jam that would make it into rotation amongst all the others foreign hits that DJs spinned at the time.
Ice Prince – Oleku
Is it the best rap joint from its time? No. And say what you want about Ice Prince now, but Oleku was the rap song that smashed the door off the hinges for mainstream commercially viable hip-hop in Nigeria. If folks like MI, Rugged and Mode opened the door, Ice Prince with Oleku took it to another level. Between the rap and the hook (by Brymo) it was the perfect commercial rap song. It’s no surprise there were thousands of covers.
Majek Fashek – Send Down The Rain
Legend has it that after Majek Fashek performed ‘Send Down The Rain‘ in Lagos, it rained continuously for months and the city was flooded. Ok, I really wasn’t there, but no doubt between the song and the story that goes with it, it’s one of Nigeria’s most iconic songs from an iconic artist.
Do you have more songs? Or agree or disagree with my list? No problem, drop a comment. In addition, I took the of creating a playlist of these songs on iTunes. Happy Independence Day!