Is it time for Nigerian Artists to let Amapiano go?



In 2024, Amapiano predictably extended its dominance in the Nigerian soundscape. However, listeners including this writer appear to have had enough of the log drum-propelled genre that has held sway in the mainstream since 2021.

In the 2023 TurnTable End of Year Chart Asake‘s ‘Lonely At The Top’ (No. 1), Omah Lay‘s ‘Soso’ (No. 3), and Ruger‘s ‘Asiwaju’ (No. 4) all ranked high. These established artists with strong communities offered something outside of the popular use of log drum and it was accepted by the mass market.

However, Amapiano songs still had the largest market share as there are 17 Amapiano-shaped songs in the top 30.

While Asake and Seyi Vibez‘s infusion of Fuji, Apala offered excitement and Shallipopi‘s exploration of his Bini heritage delivered a refreshing take on Amapiano, the bulk of the Amapiano-propelled pop songs are built on a heavy reliance on log drum.

Those who found new angles to explore distinguished themselves as KCee did with the Igbo Oja flute in ‘Ojapiano’. However, even this seems to have taken a gimmicky turn with artists lazily combining just about anything with log drums in search of distinction and success.

With a lot already explored and offered, the Pop scene is littered with derivative log drum records with almost nothing to separate the songs of artists who are simply playing the popular game.

While these new sets of releases are not objectively lower in quality, they are products of a tired sound being consistently thrown at a spent audience.

Artists often tend to follow the trend and make whatever type of music is popular among consumers. Amapiano has been dominating the industry for the better part of 4 years and it continues to hold sway, so artists are obliged to play the mainstream game until something new comes along.

Feyisetan Ajayi who works in the PR & Marketing department of the record label Chocolate City Music tells me that it’s easy for artists and their teams to be swayed by the sound that appears most fitting for mass consumption and Tik Tok algorithm when choosing lead singles.

“From a marketing POV most times when we listen to a couple songs and we’re trying to select the lead single everyone basically pays attention to the most marketable song that can generate traction for the artist or excite listeners,” he said.

The culture journalist Chinonso Ihekire said that artists are drunk on the Amapiano hype because it’s working and the Nigerian pop scene has become stagnant because of this.

“It’s now being very forced. Artists are now putting out records that are heavily driven by log drums and totally reliant on the instrumentals with little creative effort,” he said.

Ihekire shares my view that only a few artists have attempted to add their defining touch to Amapiano with the others just following the trend of relying on log drums to score mainstream hits.

“You mostly have to give the artists what they want and often times, artists lean towards the mainstream,” BigFoot a producer said.

“It’s a high risk, high reward,” Jaiyesimi said. “It takes one person to change the sound and for the established artists, it’s a risk worth taking as they have the fanbase to cushion the effect if it doesn’t work,” the music executive Deola Jaiyesimi said.

BigFoot also shares similar sentiments. He said that artists can be more open to experimenting if they have a community to sustain such products.

“Take for example Burna Boy, in his last album (I Told Them), ‘Giza’ was the only Amapiano song. He did more of Hip Hop and he’s able to do this because he has a community that will appreciate the new sound,” BigFoot said.

Just as some consumers blame artists for being reluctant to try new sounds, some artists, especially emerging and non mainstream artists blame consumers and the media for their unwillingness to both discover and spotlight new sounds.

Ihekire, the journalist, told me that Nigerian music consumers are pedestrians; they don’t have it in them to push the boundaries of Nigerian mainstream music by paying significant attention to artists offering new sounds.

“Nigerian listeners are pedestrian’s listeners who will simply accept whatever the artists give them. If you consider this conversation about the need for new sound in the Afrobeats, you will find that it’s being led by curators and those who work in the industry and not by consumers. Tomorrow, if Asake drops another album where half the tracks are Amapiano, Nigerian consumers will simply accept it.”

I see it a bit differently. I think this is a cyclical situation such that while consumer acceptance shapes the soundscape, they have to choose from the music of the big artists with the resources to access listeners of all cadres.hen these artists lean towards log drums, consumers have little choice but to settle for log drums, which in turn popularizes log drum and make other artists with mainstream ambitions adjust accordingly.

The OAP Real Skillz told me that Amapiano is the leading sound and there’s hardly any way the radio won’t play a chunk of it because they want to give their listeners what they want.

“When I curate music, I make the effort to strike a balance across different genres but what gets the most attention is still Afrobeats,”he said.

The music executive and talent manager Lucky Freeman opined that experimenting has never been popular among the big artists who shape the mainstream. Instead, listeners who desire new sounds should look outside of the mainstream.

The music executive Excel Joab shares similar sentiments as he said that the new sound listeners crave won’t come from the big artists.

These big acts enjoyed success by kowtowing to popular demand, and they might not be incentivised to step away from a sound in which they are at the forefront.

There’s no need to hold a pessimistic view of the current saturation and diminishing return being experienced in Nigerian mainstream pop music as this is how art works.

There will always come a time when the music that dominates the soundscape becomes stale and in need of a new direction. Before Amapiano, we had the Pangolo pop sound, the Pon Pon sound, and the Ghana bounce/Banku music that dominated 2016 – 2017 courtesy of artists like Mr. Eazi, Tekno & Krizz Beat, and Runtown.

With the South African import appearing to have run its course, perhaps it’s time to look inward and try to evolve Afrobeats.

Ihekire told me that the Nigerian mainstream music needs innovation and creativity to break free of the monotonous loop it has consistently suffered from.

“Innovation and creativity is what we need to make the industry as profitable as it should be because when we have a lot of products to sell is when you can find more buyers” he said

Ihekire agrees with me that it’s time for Nigerian artists to ditch their penchant for waiting for an international sound to emerge from Ghana or South Africa so they can import, domesticate, and populate the market with it.

While the Nigerian Pop scene appears stretched, not resonating, and incapable of minting new stars, Street music is growing in strength, evolving, and delivering new stars that inspire hope in its capacity to someday become the leading mainstream genre.

Seeing the success of Kizz Daniel‘s ‘Twe Twe’ which is a blend of Nupe folk music with Yoruba Tubgba and Seyi Vibez‘s industrious combination of Apala and Orlando Owoh Highlife’s music in ‘Different Pattern’ suggests that the next soundscape dominating sound might lie in indigenous music. This is also noticeable in the growing exploration of Ogene and Gyration with Zlatan, Blaqbonez, Falz, Perruzi, and Timaya all deploying it in the last 12 months.

There’s also the possibility that the new sound might emerge from beyond Nigeria’s shores and inspire Afrobeats. One cannot help but think about the steady rise of the 3 step Afro-House brewing in South Africa where the search for a successor to Amapiano is in earnest.

Whatever might be the case, Amapiano enjoyed an illustrious run in the Nigerian music industry. It minted new stars and contributed to the global exportation of Afrobeats.

It will always be fondly remembered for the hit songs it delivered, the dance routine it inspired, and the moments it soundtracked. However, I think it’s time for the Nigerian music industry to go in search of a new sonic adventure.



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