Alternative Music in Nigeria – Ogunleye Oluwakorede

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Alternative music; one of Nigeria’s fast rising sound which has been gaining attention from music lovers recently.

Alternative in music will relate back to the development of alternative rock in the 1980s which became widely popular in the 90s. It is totally distinctive from the mainstream rock music from inception. This is now where the controversy will lie; soft rock, hard rock, punk rock and other related rocks is a sub genre of rock music and why can’t they be considered as a genre. This is simple! They are not definitive and independent enough to be addressed as a genre. This is also related to the Hip hop-Trap relationship in Black culture. Trap may be one of the fastest growing sounds but it still lacks a definitive structure, short length of time and still relies on basic rap structure.


In early music, alternative music is usually considered as anticommercial and antimainstream but ironically alternative radical style has accepted commercial prospect just as the original sound by the people.

Let us bring it back to Nigerian music industry; Boj in an interview with notjustok gave his own view on what alternative music is but he was unclear about it but I will totally agree with him on the sound as being a vibe for ‘dance and chill’ .

According to Urban Dictionary ‘Mainstream music is a music that is always played on the radio and the TV, and is on the top 40 list on every music software like iTunes and Spotify’. Leave out the ‘top 40 list’ but I am sure the definition is explanatory enough. If it is a no, let us check another one. Mainstream is current thought that is widespread. It includes all popular culture and media culture, typically disseminated by mass media. So, can it be concluded that Nigerian alternative music is not popular or disseminated with the use of media? This is really divisive, even the artistes who claim to be under this wavy sound cannot strongly describe what it is about from the music they make. The conflicting perception of this sound has not given it the strong ground to be a new genre in Nigerian music industry. It seems like new artistes outside popularly known dance music or afro pop, are trying move from this area by creating an alternate channel which is ‘alternative music’.

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The rise of alternative music has been a serious debate. Some say it has existing as far back as the release of Asa ‘Asa’ album in 2006. Brymo also claimed he created alternative music particularly after the release of popular hit song, ‘Ara’ in 2011. The new generation of alternative artistes believe that their sound during the 2010s gained wider attention from music fans. Imagine a genre with no clear source, no regular style or dynamics and no constant top artistes. Aramide has been nominated for alternative category multiple times but she has described herself as an afro-soul singer. Simi has been nominated and popularly addressed as an alternative artiste but ‘Simisola’ album is a work of full pop elements and has further won 2018 best pop album category over Wizkid’s ‘SFTOS’ album. The media has a lot to play in addressing some of these issues and should also avoid creating unnecessary genres and sub-genres without having a good research work and firm understanding about it. Simi has particularly shown a complete distate for this trend. At the 2018 NEClive conference, she asked a valid question about alternative sound. In her words, she states: ‘Alternative to what?’ She added, there are better options and it is not that these songs are not great on their own and not inferior to any. It is high time someone cleared the air about what the sound really means.

In a while, no artiste has been successfully able to create or recreate a certain style for the sound. The sound is not encompassing enough to be independent as a genre; it needs other mainstream music to project itself. That is why you will hear familiar things like alternative RnB, alternative pop, alternative Hip hop and other related things.


Alternative sub -genre around the world tend not to conform to the tradition rudiments of the mainstream music. Alternative music in Nigeria has to be identified specifically because two things can only happen to an alternative sound which is to either suffer mainstream decline like alternative rap or replace and evolve the existing genre and receive commercial momentum like alternative rock.


By Ogunleye Oluwakorede


About Me

Ogunleye Oluwakorede writes majorly on entertainment, history and socio-economic matters. He has previously released works like album reviews and content information. He is also a music critic and analyst particularly on Nigerian music entertainment.

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Instagram: omo_baba_ogunleye

Snapchat: horluwakorex

Twitter: horluwakorex_

Whatsapp: 08144651530


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