Forget Burna Boy, Naira Marley Is Nigeria’s Unsung Artiste Of The Year


Local man was sitting idly fidgeting his phone at a lounge late in the evening awaiting a friend, when the speakers in play suddenly booms, “Marlians, Marlians, Marlians, Marlians, Marlians, Marlians, Marlians

Gbese, gbese, gbese, gbese, gbese, gbese… “. A familiar smile played across my face as I was unconsciously nodding to Opotoyi by Naira Marley. 

While I was psychologically liberated hearing Naira Marley mumbled through his sexually-charged song, others around me showed even more excitement as the music played on. A few guys and babes pulled their chairs back, stepped out of their seats to gain more latitude to finesse the famous legwork. It was approximately 4 minutes of pure bliss around me before home training started to kick in quickly. “Hummm, Naira Marley has such an effect on these folks?” as I thought to myself, and by the way, these folks are christened Marlians! Despite heavy criticism from prudes, selective moralists, and mainstream media, Naira Marley seems like a grassroots politician that enjoys massive support from his constituents and wins elections too. 

How he became the King of the Marlian fandom is another reason for the cliche “no publicity is bad publicity”. The Nigerian musician whose real name is Azeez Fashola has always sold himself as a social nonconformist. In one of his best songs ‘Japa‘, the video shows  NM scampering from the police who are hot on his trail. Then he wakes up one morning in Nigeria and declares “yahoo no be thief”. That statement set him up for bigger things. 

Fast forward, Naira Marley was arrested together with his friends as he celebrated his birthday in connection with cybercrime. His handlers deserve big kudos as they kept the music going while he was cooling off in EFCC custody awaiting arraignment and later bail clearance. It was during this period that ‘Opotoyi’ was released. 

I snapped out of my reverie when my friend approached my table. We exchange handshakes while I expressed my displeasure in waiting for his lackadaisical self to show up. We exchanged a few bants and proceeded to leave the place when the monster of a beat by Rexxie came blasting through. 2 seconds and everyone screamed as ‘Soapy‘ came on, my Marlian friend told me “guy make this song finish then we move”, we had another location to be at and we were running late. 

Once again, Naira Marley was giving 3 minutes of joy to these folks around here then it hit me that Naira Marley makes music for the naughty by nature who have repressed their wild nature to evade instant judgment on morality. 

So far this year, Burna Boy is widely recognized as the artiste of the year all round, but you see, in this locale called Naija, Naira Marley won our hearts. He is Nigeria’s unorthodox artiste of the year. First we hated his guts and unconventional nature, then we canceled him but the Marlian movement only waxed stronger. 

The singer has lowkey done numbers some favourites can only wish for. The streams on ‘Opotoyi’, ‘Soapy’ videos stand at 5M each on YouTube,  ‘Pxta‘ is doing well over 3M and counting. So who has been watching these videos? If you have seen the above videos more than twice on YouTube I hate to tell you you are a Marlian. Apparently it is now cool to be a fan of NM or be closely associated with the dreadlocks sporting musician. 

Oh, Chris Brown danced to ‘Soapy’, Wizkid had to fit Naira Marley into the artistes lineup at his O2 Arena London concert and he stole the show. More high profile persons are associating with him or better still coming out of the closet as Marlians by nature. Aunty Toke Makinwa came out recently, ‘Soapy’ was so good Tanzanian Diamond Platnumz shamelessly hijacked the beats and made a song ‘Baba Lao’. One last one, Jack, CEO Twitter, was taught how to do the ‘Soapy’ dance while in Nigeria. 

My friend and I left the lounge to our next location where a birthday party was in session. Everyone was laidback and some were chatting in cliques. Then the DJ tried to get our attention, he took the microphone and announced “Marlians come forward, the rest f**k off, O yeee.” and he played the next song on cue ‘Pxta’. The rest is history. 

It’s been quite a year for Naira Marley and perhaps the artiste still marvels at how much influence he has wielded this year and also growing a set of hot-headed fans called Marlians, his biggest asset. Forget Burna Boy, Azeez Fashola aka Naira Marley is the unsung artiste of the year 2019.


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