Ariya Repete… Keeping Indigenous Nigerian Sounds, Cultures Alive

The Ikeja City Mall, Lagos, was recently transformed into a cultural arena, as fun loving Nigerians stormed the venue for the grand finale of the Ariya Repete, a music reality show designed to promote indigenous Nigerian sounds, particularly in the southwest.

After three months and 11 events across eight cities, the music spectacle finally came to a sensational conclusion in Lagos, with top rated artistes such as King Sunny Ade, Olamide, Taye Currency and Pasuma on the bill. For the finalists, it was an opportunity to battle for the N20million grand prize and share the big stage with established stars.

The first major performance of the evening came from Taye Currency. The Fuji veteran was in his true element as he engaged the crowd. A charismatic performer, Taye got the excited crowd grooving, as he belted out songs from his rich repertoire.

By the time veteran juju artiste King Sunny Ade mounted the stage, the crowd went wild in excitement. Though ‘old skool’, KSA as he’s fondly call, is indeed in touch with the younger generations; they danced to his beats and sang the lyrics. Over the years, KSA has continued to prove that age is nothing but a number, whilst also offering a timely reminder of his immense talents as a stage performer and master guitarist.

Wrapping up the night were Wasiu Alabi Pasuma and Goldberg Brand ambassador, Olamide. From Eni Duro, Oil and Gas and others hits, the hip-hop star took his fans down memory lane. However, it was Pasuma that capped off the night with a stellar performance that was fitting of the occasion.

Hosted by actor Odunlade Adekola, highpoint of the night was the Ariya Repete grand finale contest, which saw the finalists take their turns on stage to impress the judges, as well as the crowd. Goldberg Lager, sponsors of the music project, set out to find the next big star in three categories of Yoruba Hip hop, Juju, and Fuji.

The finalists were selected from the just concluded semi-final, which held at the Trans Amusement Park Ibadan last week, whereby 15 contestants participated. The six eliminated contestants from the 15 include Taofeek Adeyinka and Wasiu Onilewura (Fuji category); Seun Adebayo and Muyiwa Alayo (Juju category), Ayeni Olajuwon and Ashley Oluwasegunn (Yoruba Hip-Hop category), leaving the rest to slug it out for the grand prize.

For the judges made up singer Yinka Davies, renowned music producer Puffy Tee, and Afro Juju music creator Sir Shina Peters, it was a tough task choosing from the bunch of talents having showcased themselves. As for the audience, almost everyone cheered his/her preferred contestant, though some were more interested in watching the rich cultural display. In the end, the judges made the final call and winners merged.

Before Ariya Repete 2019, Mayowa Alayo, Sulaimon Adeyemi and Yomi Johnson were just aspiring artistes with nothing but a dream and bags of talent. Today, these gentlemen have found fame and fortune. While Mayowa clinched the prize for Yoruba Hip Hop category, Adeyemi was declared winner in Juju catgeory, while Johnson won in Fuji category.

For the winners, it has been a riveting journey so far and all three have rightfully earned their stripes, after three months of consistent performances across southwestern Nigeria. Though it’s now left for the winners to prove themselves in the industry, kick-starting their music career with a stage performance alongside Olamide, and a share of 20 million Naira, is indeed not a bad way to launch out.

Mayowa Alayo, who clearly couldn’t contain his excitement after he was announced winner by the judges said, “I still think I’m dreaming, I can’t believe I won, I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me and Goldberg Lager, Thank you!”
No doubt, the Nigerian music industry has exploded in recent times. The hyper activities on the scene has, no doubt, upstaged the days of yore when local TV and radio stations feed the public with foreign songs, especially from the United States. A period when the craze for foreign songs, which most listeners barely understood the lyrics or even make any sense out of them, were in vogue; everyone just played along.

Today, the story has changed; we’ve made noticeable impact with our music culture. From Ghana to Kenya, Ivory Coast, Zambia, South Africa, Congo… even across Europe and America, sounds from Nigeria are gradually making impact.

Interestingly today, music is no longer a lazy man’s hustle; it’s now one of the quickest springboards to fame and fortune for young people. Credit should go to the current crop of Naija artistes, who have succeeded in pushing our brand of hip-hop beyond boundaries with little or no input from government.

Though our music culture, which recently began to gain international recognition has evolved over the years, the advent of the Internet and social media revolutionised the global scene, thereby bringing entertainers closer to their audience.Unfortunately, Nigeria’s indigenous sounds seem to have been left out in what could be described as ‘musical colonisation of Africa.’ Aside from what some individuals were able to achieve through self-effort, there had not been any major interest in the promotion and propagation of these indigenous sounds.

Over the last few years, there have been valid concerns over the possible extinction of some cultures and traditions. In fact, more recently, the CEO of one of the biggest technology companies in Nigeria expressed his concern at his kid’s linguistic expertise. His argument was that his kids can’t speak their local dialect and probably will never need to.

As expected, his comments caused a massive uproar on social media, with people sitting on various sides of the divide. His remarks may have been divisive, but there are some valid points in his core premise. We can only linger on our culture and traditions for so long and with more adoption of western ideals, we can expect to have more of such debates.

However, the challenge is an attempt to always trade our traditions for contemporary themes, when in reality we can combine both and forge something truly beautiful. Nigeria has the opportunity of enjoying the best of both worlds, and that is exactly what Ariya Repete aims to achieve.

Available records show that traditional music in Nigeria went commercial in the early 1900s and by 1910, popular musicians were already emerging into traditional genres such as Juju, Highlife, Apala, Afrobeat, Waka and Fuji and the rest.Juju, as an indigenous music style, took shape in the early 1920s and got popularised by the likes of Tunde King and Irewole Denge. By 1950, other artistes such as Tunde Nightingale, J. O. Araba and C. A. Balogun came into the scene.

Fuji music is arguably one of the most dominant ethnic music in Nigeria today. It began as a modification to a certain type of original music that was rendered solely to wake Muslims up during the Ramadan fast in Nigeria. That original music was known as Ajisari or Were music.

Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister is considered the creator of Fuji music and was a former student of Jibowu Barrister, who was an Ajiwere music performer. According to Ayinde Barrister, Fuji music has a little bit of different genres such as Apala, Juju, Aro, Afro, Gudugudu and Highlife in its makeup.

In addition to the inspiration provided by these different music genres, Ayinde Barrister blended the beats of the Sakara Drum (a Yoruba musical instrument) and melodic outputs of foreign musical instruments as used by Juju and Highlife musicians in order to create the novel form of his music.

But over the years, Fuji music has gone through various improvisations that continue to influence the style and content of the genre. With the use of horns, strings and musical progression, Ayinde Marshall incorporated a unique melody into Fuji music.At a time when Highlife and Juju were considered songs of the elite, Ayinde Marshall made efforts to broaden the appeal of the genre. He is arguably the most prominent Fuji musician alive and is seen as a mentor to most of the younger musicians – even those of other genres.

In a bid to preserve this rich Yoruba tradition and culture through music, as well as provide support for young talents in these genres, Nigerian Breweries Plc, through its Goldberg brand, conceived a music talent hunts competition tagged Ariya Repete seven years ago. The music project aims at developing drumming skills, juju and fuji music genres, while also rewarding up and coming talents.

This year, the organisers introduced an all-new category tagged Afro Pop. This genre of music epitomizes the great things that can be borne out of the fusion of the traditional and the contemporary. And there’s no greater example of this than with Olamide, who happens to be the face of the brand.

Olamide has previously admitted to listening to Jay Z, Tupac, and other foreign rap stars, and the influence of their sound is evident in his music. However, he manages to blend these inspirations with more traditional tropes, giving him a unique sound that has garnered both local and international recognition.

It’s no surprise he was one of the headline performers at the finale of Ariya Repete 2019. Joining him were also music veterans, King Sunny Ade, Pasuma, and Taye Currency. All of whom are traditional singers in their rights, but one look at them and you may have assumed they were foreign pop-stars. This was what the Goldberg team set out to achieve at Ariya Repete 2019. Not only did the brand intend to once again showcase the beautiful culture of the southwestern people, but it also aimed to celebrate its evolution.

Viewers at home could see this in the competition structure, the selection of Judges, the costuming and even the choice of genres. It’s the reason the media event that kicked off this year’s showpiece was themed, One Culture, One Voice, New Sound.

Usually, Ariya Repete Roundtable, a yearly intellectual discourse that focuses solely on Yoruba music, set the tone for the talent hunt, which is now in its third edition. The Roundtable seeks to promote a robust intellectual discourse among key stakeholders in the music industry including Fuji, Juju and Hip-hop musicians, music producers and record label owners, music enthusiasts, historians, art reviewers, critics and members of the academia.

Maria Shadeko, Senior Brand Manager of Goldberg & Life Lager, who spoke at the 2019 roundtable session expressed delight at the return of the talent hunt.

“Ariya Repete is a very special platform that allows us to showcase and celebrate the very best talents in South-Western Nigeria. Over the years, we have been able to continually delight our consumers with this initiative as well as provide unforgettable memories for winners of past editions. This year we are taking it further by not only increasing the prize money but also adding an all-new category. The theme of this year’s competition is ‘The Fusion’, and in light of this, we are looking for the next big artist who will dominate the Nigerian music scene.

She continued: “We, at Goldberg, applaud the innovative and inspiring fusion of traditional Yoruba music with contemporary music. This year, with Ariya Repete we want to celebrate this blend of both worlds. We believe that the 2019 Ariya Repete will be the best ever, which is why we are taking the experience to TV, to show all of Africa that Goldberg Lager believes and celebrates the amazing indigenous talents from southwestern Nigeria.” [THE GUARDIAN]