Musical History of Nigeria

By: Nicholas Lazo

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Nigerian music can be split into two groups traditional and contemporary. Traditional focuses around ceremonies, celebrations, and religion as well as other parts of life. While contemporary music is centered around sharing music as entertainment purposes. This difference is where the history of Nigerian music separates. Before the western influence all of the music that happened in Nigeria was traditional. However music in Nigeria was different depending on what region anyone was from. On a larger scale then traditional music would be music that people think of as African drum music.

Before the Western influence on Nigeria not much changed culturally. This fact of a stable Nigeria will lead me to start my history at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At this period Nigeria was at its largest point of cultural shift. This shift would come mostly from religious change coming from cultures that had been in Nigeria and Invaders. Religion then would be the factor, which would restyle Nigerian music the most through out its history. The nineteenth century started off with Islamic unrest. This caused many people in Nigeria to take in Muslim culture causing them to create a Hausa style of music. Which basically consist of Muslim religious hymns and rhythm with traditional African music.

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After this Islamic conquest throughout Nigeria a new religion started to reign dominate. Although Europeans had been in Nigeria because of the slave trade since the fifteen hundreds there influence had not been prominent till the middle of the nineteenth century. This is when missionaries and slaves from other colonized countries were coming in the strongest. Slaves at this point were coming back to Africa due to the slave trade stopping at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Due to English rule within Nigeria most of the natives religions were prohibited leaving missionaries room to work. This all caused Christianity to become the dominant religion next to Islam. The fact that the natives couldn’t practice their religion also caused them not being aloud to practice their music.

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At this time then many of the Nigerians had to learn the European hymns as well as study their musicians. They also learned how to play European instruments, which later would interweave into Nigerian music. So after English oppression in the early twentieth century Nigerians would finally be able to mix there traditional music with what they learned from Europeans. An example of what they learned would be where most of the traditional Nigerian music would be learned by being taught, they finally could write music down to be learned.

At the beginning of the twentieth century then Nigeria would learn other music genres from there English rule. Those like Waltz, Slow Foxtrot, Tango and other forms but also would learn from other cultures. Like when the radio came into picture the Nigerians started to hear other culture music, which would play into Juju. Thus around the middle of the twentieth century Juju became big. Taking in cultures music like that of Brazil and Caribbean countries. And continued on mixing styles like Calypso, Meringue, Cha Cha, and even African Highlife. Juju keeps on changing cause Nigerians keep adding different cultural music. This is the case for all of Nigerian music, which is taking in other cultures and adding it to theirs. Even to their traditional music.


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