Genres Of Music

By: Samantha Tolbert

Nigeria is known as the heart of African Music. Nigeria has helped develop the West African Highlife, which developed many of the popular styles and genres of Nigerian Music. The most popular genres of music in Nigeria are folk music and popular music.

Folk Music

Folk music is the most traditional of all of the genres of music in Nigeria. Folk music relates to hundreds of tribes and ethnic groups in Africa that each use their own instruments and their own techniques. Folk music helps maintain the individual identity of each culture and passes along important information about their culture from generation to generation. Traditionally, folk music is always used to celebrate a ritual; whether it be strictly for entertainment, celebration of a wedding, a funeral, or it may be directly linked to agricultural work. According to the WikiPedia article Music of Nigeria, “work songs are a common type of traditional music. They help keep the rhythm of workers in the fields, river canyons, and other fields.” Whether these are farmers or field workers working together or women doing housework, the traditional folk music keeps their spirits high and helps them to perform daily tasks.

With there being hundreds of cultural and ethnic groups within Nigeria the largest are: Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba.



Hausa is a region located in Northern Nigeria, although they are not only located here, they are also in Ghana, Chad, and several other West African Countries.

The culture has contributed instruments to Nigerian music such as the goje and the one stringed fiddle. Each very unique in sounds to this culture. In Hausa there is the urban court music which is accompanied with praise signers and there is rural folk music which is more closely associated with dancing.


Igbo is located in the southeast region of Nigeria. Although they play a wide variety of folk music, there is not one main instrument played. They play the obo, the drums, lyres, and many more. There are also some instruments that are native to this culture such as the igba, ogene, and ekwe. The sounds of all of the instruments create a diverse array of sounds that is very distinct to their culture.


Yoruba is a culture that is distinct to the Southwestern region of Nigeria along the coast. In Yoruba, dance is closely associated with music. The main elements are, but not limited to: drums and singing. Juju is the most known form of music that emerged from Yoruba where the music is mostly influenced by the praise songs of several proverbs.

Popular Music

Popular music of Nigeria is not from one specific culture, it is a variety of music from different cultures that can be intertwined (being multi-ethnic). However, the popular music genre follows all of the traditions of each culture. The most prominent popular music selections are: palm-wine and the invention of jùjú, Apala, Highlife, Fuji, Ade and Obey, Afrobeat, Waka, and Reggae and Hip Hop.

Palm-Wine and the Invention of JuJu

Yoruba is a big influence in the palm-wine style that emerged in the 1920’s. This style was played widely in bars and was also the influence of the name of the drink “palm wine.” Although, the palm-wine music style did not last for long. Baba Tunde King was one of the larger musicians that emerged from the palm-wine style, but he wanted a style that was more unique to him, he helped create the juju style. This was the most popular style in Nigeria. The music took all of the cultural elements previously and amplified them, making the music livelier with electric guitars and other loud instruments. Some other prominent artist of Juju music are: Ogoge Daniel and Speedy Araba.


Apala music is another style of music that came directly from the Yoruba culture. This is a percussion based style that developed in the late 1930’s. The main purpose was to wake worshippers after fasting. This music was largely influenced by Cuban music. Haruna Ishola is the most well-known performer and also played a role in making the music more popular and then incorporating this style of music in fuji music.


Highlife music is known for its dance rhythms that were accompanied with the Western sounds that began in the coastal towns of Ghana. During the 1930’s three distinct styles emerged: ballroom dance style for the coastal elite, a village brass band style, and rural guitar bands playing a less Westernized style for a less Westernized audience. The most popular artists included Bobby Benson and Emmanuel Tettey.


Fuji music was popularized in the early 1970s by Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. Haruna Ishola also helps to incorporate this style. There was a long list of very notable performers of this music. The tradition of this style was to be performed to wake believers before dawn during the Ramadan fasting season.


Afrobeat was engineered in the 1970’s as a form of music that had a side of funk. It was founded by Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It can be classified as having elements of jazz, highlife, and apala styles of music.




Musical History

Popular Artists


Musical Elements


Related Articles

Related Music



"Music of Nigeria." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 10 Apr. 2011. <>.

Nigerian Music. 10 Apr. 2011. <>.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License