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Nigerian highlife music: a survey of the sociopolitical events from 1950-2005

Oghenemudiakevwe Igbi


Highlife is a popular music genre that crept into Nigeria in the nineteenth century and has since attained permanent recognition among Nigerian music types. Some scholars have carried out research on Nigerian popular music and highlife in particular, focusing on its evolution and classification. This notwithstanding, the number of researches carried out in highlife is still insignificant in comparison to other areas of music, even though its place in Nigerian history is incontestable given its social, political and economic significance during the struggle for independence and the period of the Nigerian civil war. Although highlife music is still performed in Nigeria today, several socio-political events have influenced its practice. The main objective of this article, therefore, is to discuss highlife, highlighting some events that unfolded in the socio-political space between 1950 and 2005, with a view to bringing to the fore, effects of such on highlife music and musicians during the period under study. In eliciting information, the writer consulted some existing literature on highlife music, listened to albums of progenitors of the genre such as Rex Lawson, Victor Uwaifo, Sir Warrior, Nico Mbarga and others. Findings reveal that socio-political factors, the emergence of new musical styles such as Afrobeat, Juju, Fuji and Hip-hop left a long-lasting imprint on the minds of highlife music enthusiasts, thereby influencing their taste and crave for highlife, and posing a threat to its already established prominence. This article recommends that more studies in the area of popular music (especially highlife) should be undertaken by researchers, and more highlife chairs should be created in departments of music across Nigerian universities.

Keywords: Nigerian highlife music

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2449-1179
print ISSN: 2006-1838