There is no argument about the fact that in Nigeria today, one industry which is getting stronger and creating real value is the music industry, which has become a multi-billion-naira playing field.
Over the years, several musicians have made names for themselves in addition to wealth and affluence while also wielding influence on brands and upcoming musicians who look up to them.
With entertainment now regarded as the next big boom for Nigeria after Oil and Agriculture, NET profiles some of the biggest Nigerian musicians of all time. Read on.
K1 de Ultimate is currently regarded as the king of Yoruba praise singing music. Beyond album sales, K1 earns eye-watering performance fees for appearances at parties and political functions where he sings the praises of prominent personalities who in turn lavish huge sums on the Ogun state-born musician. He is also a member of the ruling All Progressive Party, APC and sources reveal that he also gets mouth watering contracts from the government.
32 years after his demise, the music of legendary Apala musician, Haruna Ishola has achieved legendary status. Within his genre, he was regarded as the most popular singer. He also became the first African musician to own a record label. He founded STAR Records in 1969 alongside high-life Icon, IK Dairo. Haruna Ishola is one of the most commercially successful African musicians of all time and his records remain in high demand till date. His 66 albums are available on iTunes.
Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye aka King Sunny Ade is one of the richest Nigerian musicians of all time. With 2 Grammy award nominations to his name and millions of albums sold worldwide, KSA is an artistic and commercial powerhouse. His considerable wealth has been garnered over the years from album sales, concerts, endorsements and top-rated concerts which he performs at. In 1982, KSA signed with Island Records in a multi-million Naira deal, which was the biggest deal for an African artiste at the time.
Singer, Actress, Politician, Reality Show judge, Journalist, Administrator…ageless singer, Onyeka Onwenu has seen it all. With several hits and platinum-selling albums, the Imo State-born ‘elegant stallion’ has made enough money to rank as one of the richest entertainers of all time. She is a former Chairperson of the Imo State Council of Arts and Culture and currently serves as Executive Director of the National Centre for Women Development. Also a highly respected actress, Onyeka has featured in about 13 movies including the 2013 adaptation of ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ which also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton.
Despite possessing a Marxist ideology and approach to life, Fela Anikulapo Kuti remains one of the richest entertainers of all time. Fela sold millions of records while his concerts both home and abroad were always fully packed with revelers wanting a dose of his spiritual delivering. Fela owned and operated Kalakuta Republic, a commune settlement in Lagos where hundreds of people lived. He single-handedly catered for these apostles who were a mix of relatives, protégés and loyal fans. Fela performed at several concerts and festivals abroad making him by far one of the most successful African entertainers of all time and the biggest influence to contemporary musicians.
Getting nominated for 4 Grammy Awards is no mean feat. Over the years, Femi Kuti has built up a huge following in the United States and across the world. As the undisputed King of Afrobeats, Femi Kuti has performed in Germany, Brazil, USA, Monaco and several other locations around the world. He is one of the richest Nigerian musicians ever.
Sikiru Ayinde Barrister
Acclaimed as the father of Fuji music, late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was highly successful during his era. The Ibadan born musician made millions in albums sales and charged premium performance fees at special concerts and parties. In his lifetime, Barrister was a darling of many music lovers who eagerly snapped up his albums.
Yinka Ayefele, OON is a Nigerian music producer and gospel singer. He is the originator of Gospel-Tungba (a highly percussive gospel music). With several hit albums to his credit, Yinka Ayefele remains one of the most successful musicians in Nigeria. The CEO of Fresh FM, an Ibadan-based radio station, is equally a sough-after entertainer at parties. He reportedly charges as much as N3 million per show.
He might be an Evangelist now, but legendary musician Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi is one of the biggest musicians to have come out of Nigeria. With hundreds of hit songs and millions made in album sales, Obey was at some point the highest grossing musician in the country, which further fueled his perceived professional rivalry with KSA.
With over 10 albums to his credit, Sir Shina Peters was the golden boy of the 90s. His early albums, Ace (Afro Juju Series 1) and follow up, Shinamania have been regarded as some of the most successful albums by a Nigerian music act. At his peak, his album went double platinum and this came with a flow of wealth and affluence. Shina is also one of the first Nigerian music acts to build a multi-million naira mansion. In September 24, SSP as he is also called landed a mouth-watering endorsement deal with telecoms giant MTN.
From a humble background in Bariga, Olamide has grown to become one of the biggest artistes in Nigeria at the moment. With millions of records sold and big figure endorsement deals with Etisalat, Guinness and Sure Bet, Olamide is most definitely balling. Olamide also rakes in money from his YBNL label which houses popular acts like Lil Kesh and Adekunle Gold.
Read: Why I fear for Olamide
HKN boss, Davido is fast growing from being an ‘Omo Baba Olowo’ to a ‘Baba Olowo’ in his own right. He is the prince of the new generation of Nigerian pop stars who regularly gross 8 and 9 digit annual incomes. His debut album, O.B.O broke record sales across the nation and he is also a brand ambassador for MTN. His HKN Gang also controls a large fan base with massive turnout at concerts. The ‘Fans Mi’ singer is currently on a sold-out tour of the UK.
Classy whips, landed properties in choice areas and all round affluence. Wizkid no doubt is one of the richest entertainers in Nigeria. Months ago, the Starboy boss dumped MTN for rival company Globacom in a huge porting drama. Wizkid is also a Pepsi ambassador and continues to rake in hundreds of millions from concerts and corporate events.
Psquare is perhaps the richest music group on the continent. With sold out concerts and massive record sales of their albums, they rake in hundreds of millions annually. The duo is also believed to have the largest endorsement deals in Nigeria after renewing their ambassadorial deal with Globacom. They also have a deal with Congolese beer, Skol while one half of the group, Peter was in 2014 named as a brand ambassador for Olympic Milk.
Mavin boss, Don Jazzy is one of the industry’s biggest fishes. Despite not having a single album release, the top music producer has become one of the richest in the music industry. From his days with Mo’Hits, Don Jazzy has built up a huge financial empire. In addition to the contributions of Tiwa Savage, Dr Sid, Korede Bello, Reekado Banks and Di’ja to his Mavin empire, Don Jazzy also has numerous endorsement deals including MTN and Loya Milk.
Born Stephen Oladipupo Owomoyela, Dr. Orlando Owoh formed his Omimah Band in 1960, and over a musical career of fourty years, he became one of Higlife music’s leading proponents. With the Omimah Band and later the Young Kenneries and the African Kenneries International, Owoh maintained his popularity in Nigeria, even as tastes moved to the newer Juju and Fuji styles. He had over 45 albums to his credit. Orlando died on November 4, 2008.
Africa’s most successful modern pop star, 2face Idibia recently celebrated his 40th birthday with a massive concert tagged FORTYfied. The Hypertek boss makes huge returns from concerts, record sales while he has also invested in real estate. The singer also has a thriving nightclub business with outlets in Ikeja and Festac. A few months ago, 2face also landed a multi million naira deal with Airtel.
Acclaimed for his deep and culturally rich lyrics, Saheed Osupa has come a long way in the music industry. He released his first album in the mid-90s and became an instant hit among young music lovers. So far he has dropped over 20 albums and he recently ventured into recording pop influenced songs to appeal to his hip hop loving fans.
Tiwa Savage has evolved from being Mavin first lady to becoming the queen of the Nigerian music industry. With successive hit songs, Tiwa is one of the biggest musicians in Nigeria at the moment and despite her maternity imposed hiatus, the singer’s name continues to buzz as fans anticipate her return to doing what she does best. Tiwa months ago renewed her endorsement deal with MTN. She also has deals with Pepsi and Forte Oil.
He has consistently been criticized for not having a hit since splitting with former producer-partner Don Jazzy and he is enmeshed in a debt scandal. It would normally seem abnormal for such a person to remain successful, but Ogun State born artiste D’banj like the proverbial cat with 9 lives, remains one of the richest music acts in the industry. He also controls some of the biggest endorsements available. Only days ago, the Koko Master was presented with a brand new Porsche Boxster as he was unveiled as the new ambassador of IT hardware retailer, Slot. D’banj also has current endorsement deals with Ciroc, Globacom, One Campaign and Apple.
Oliver De Coque
Chief Dr. Oliver Sunday Akanite in his lifetime enjoyed a rich career which established him as the biggest Eastern Nigerian musician. With 73 albums to his credit, Oliver De Coque who started music at the age of 17 grew into one of the richest music acts from Nigeria. He made a name for himself by praising his countrymen on his tracks which further made him a commercially successful musician.
She was the Tiwa Savage of the 80s and 90s. Queen Salawa Abeni till date remains one of the most successful female musicians to have come out of Nigeria. She also popularized Waka genre which was inspired by a fusion of Fuji and Apala. She was once married to Kollington Ayinla and they had 3 kids together including rapper, Big Chef.
The Little Orphan from Jos’ was what he was known as which translates to what became his stage name. Dan Maraya Jos remains the most successful musician from Northern Nigeria despite starting off as a one-man band. As a solo performer, Dan Maraya emerged the leading praise singer in the north and it wasn’t long before his music spread across Nigeria and beyond. He died on Saturday, June 20, 2015.
Nigerian Lady of Songs, Christy Essien-Igbokwe remains one of the greatest Nigerian musicians. She began singing in the East as a secondary student but later went on to become a successful musician and actress. Christy also emerged as the first female president of PMAN in 1996 leading the male-dominated industry. Her popular song, ‘Seun Rere’ has at various times been remixed by contemporary Nigerian artistes.
Bukola Elemide better known as Asa delivers a distinctive, conservative soul influenced genre of music that has made her one of the highest grossing musicians in Africa. Asa who is currently based in France has toured across Africa and several other continents. Asa is one of the most successful on the continent.
Late Ikorodu born entertainer, Bobby Benson even in death is regarded as one of the richest entertainers of all time. The former boxer and sailor began his career in London in 1944 when he joined the Negro Ballet in touring Europe. He later met his wife, Cassandra, a half Scottish-half Caribbean beauty with whom he formed the Bobby Benson and Cassandra Theatrical Party. Bobby Benson was one of the wealthiest musicians in his time. He established the Caban Bamboo, a nightclub which he later converted into the Hotel Bobby.
Once described as ‘the Evil Genius of highlife’, Dr Victor Olaiya has enjoyed a great music career spanning over 6 decades. After performing with several bands including Bobby Benson’s Jam Session Orchestra, Victor formed his own band in 1954. Known for his mastery of the trumpet, his music has taken him across the world. A monumental period in the life of the singer was when he was enlisted in the Nigerian Army during the civil war as a performer. Olaiya and his band raised the morale of Nigerian Army servicemen and he was awarded the rank of an honourary Lieutenant Colonel. The legendary musician however drew his inspiration from the late American singer James brown. Victor Olaiya is no doubt one of the most successful Musicians ever in Nigeria. In 2013, he was able to worm his way into the hearts of younger generation as he teamed up with 2face Idibia and the duo made a remix of his legendary joint, Baby jowo.
General Kollington Ayinla
At a time when Fuji was the contemporary genre of music in Nigeria, one man who reigned like a colossus was General Kollington Ayinla. The Kwara-born musician who has 105 albums enjoyed a successful spell in the music industry which was more fueled by his widely publicized rivalry with Barrister.
For an individual born on the same day Nigeria was getting her independence (October 1, 1960), it wasn’t surprising he went on get national accolades. Bright founded his genre of music which he named Zigima Sounds which went on to captivate the entire nation for over a decade. His songs like Committing Suicide and Oyinbo Mentality became national anthems while his energetic performance on stage and style of storytelling with his music also made him a darling of many music lovers.
From being a Short Black Boy from Jos who came to Lagos via night bus to becoming the CEO of the biggest record label in Africa, MI Abaga has paid his dues. With 3 successful albums and scores of awards to his credit, the rapper is regarded as one of the most successful rappers in Nigeria.
Cardinal Rex Lawson has been described as the greatest highlife musician of all time despite his short spell in the industry. The talented performer who began his career performing alongside the likes of Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya and other top acts died in 1971 at a young age of 36. However, his songs continue to make waves as a younger generation of singers continue to remix his tunes. His song ‘Sawale’ was remixed by Flavour into ‘Nwa Baby’ (Asawo) which became his breakout single. Rex was also regarded as one of the richest musicians ever.
Lagbaja is the Afro-beat musician, song writer, instrumentalist who has been inspiring minds with his powerful style of music since 1993.
While many of his songs simply entertain, most are about serious social issues. He passes impactful serious messages in humorous ways and continues to use his music as a catalyst for the emergence of a better society.
With loads of hit albums under his belt, Lágbájá has also taken his music beyond the shores of Nigeria, performing in festivals and venues around the world.
IK Dairo is acclaimed to be the father of Juju. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he introduced many forms to the genre making him the earliest star who performs Juju. Born Isaiah Kehinde Dairo in 1941, he remains one of the most successful music acts to have come out of Nigeria. He performed at major concerts in Europe while also touring several cities of the world. IK Dairo is also the first African musician to be honoured by Queen Elizabeth of England with the title of Member of the British Empire (MBE). The late musician was also a lecturer in the Ethnomusicology faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle. One of his sons, Paul ‘Play’ Dairo has also gone on to make a name for himself in the music industry.
Sir Victor Uwaifo
At 74, Benin-born Victor Uwaifo is still waxing stronger and performing with an energetic zeal only found in the younger generation of artistes. However, you shouldn’t be deceived as this man has been in the industry for ages. He has had the kind of career that would make anyone green with envy. As a young man, Victor got a first class from the University of Benin after initially bagging distinction at Yaba Tech. He is an artist, a sculptor, musician, politician, athlete and lecturer. He is also a Professor of Arts at the University of Benin and once served as the Commissioner for Arts and Culture in Edo state. He started his musical career by performing with Bobby Benson’s high-life band while his songs especially Joromi and Guitar Boy remain classics. He is currently signed to 2face’s Hypertek Records.
8 years after his death at the age of 71, Osadebe remains one of the biggest influences to upcoming musicians in Nigeria. The legendary musician who is one of those who popularized Highlife came into prominence after releasing his first album in 1958. He was revered for his style of Highlife which earned him full audience whenever he performed at nightclubs and concerts. One of his numerous songs, Osondu Owendi remains popular till date.
Fuji music is currently one of the oldest genres of music in Nigeria. And one man who can be credited for the continued existence of Fuji especially among young people is Kwara state-born, Pasuma Wonder. With a career spanning over two decades, Pasuma has paid his dues and has continued to garner accolades from all over. He is also the most successful crossover musician in the industry having recently released his debut hip-hop album featuring some of the biggest pop musicians in Nigeria.
Also read: Nigeria’s most bankable musicians
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