Understanding the Rise of Alternative Musicians in Abuja

Alternative sound
Alternative sound | © Dimitry B. / Flickr
Photo of Anne Adams
31 May 2018

Gone are the days when the major source of entertainment available to music lovers in Abuja, Nigeria were concerts headlined by hip-hop, Afrobeat, highlife, Afro pop, Afro Juju, Fuji and R&B acts. Homegrown alternative music in the city is on the rise and is actively taking the music scene by storm. Over the years, attempts have been made by some young and talented individuals to make Abuja an alternative music hub against popular and widely accepted mainstream music.

What is considered ‘alternative music’ in Nigeria?

The tag ‘alternative music’ as regards to the Nigerian sound, has always been a subject of debate for music lovers and critics. Some people are of the opinion that any genre outside the popular sounds, like Afro beats and other familiar sounds, are to be considered as alternative, while others categorize alternative music distinctively in their use of live instruments and bands. However, the genre is nothing like the mainstream—alternative music in this part of the world is typically regarded as more eclectic, producing artists that are considered unconventional, free-thinkers, and radicals.

Some of the young Nigerian artists making way for the ‘Abuja sound’ include Cef, Jessica Bongos, Tay, Sute, Lady Donli, Efe Oraka, Rubunu, and Davina Oriakhi to mention a few. You usually find them playing at organized concerts, catering specifically to the needs of alternative music lovers or across bars in conjunction with spoken words artists.

Events and hangout spots in Abuja embracing the genre

The Tamerri Festival is a three-day cultural initiative, bridging the gap for the ‘Abuja sound’ by creating a platform where these artists can truly express their music to a large number of Abuja residents and foreigners. The last edition recorded huge success, a large number of the ‘cool kids’ turned out to acknowledge the rise of good, unconventional music.

The Fusion Festival in Abuja is also an annual event that creates the same avenue for alternative artists to connect with their fans. Some of the bars that put together regular live sessions for the creatives and their customers include:

Classic Rock Cafe

Cafe, African, European, $$$
Map View

The Classic Rock Café is one of the oldest and most popular spots for performing alternative artists in the game. The beautiful vintage-themed café offers a serene environment with some of the finest coffee and food, while you sit, relax, and enjoy a Friday night of live music.

CCX Lounge

Cocktail Bar, African, American, European, $$$
Map View

The contemporary ambiance of the CCX Lounge, located by the lakefront of the famous Jabi Mall in Abuja, is a haven for alternative artists and their fans. Catch a break with friends from the daily hassles of the city, while you sip on a cocktail and soak up to an atmosphere serenaded by some of Abuja’s finest alternative musicians.

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@efeoraka Live on stage at #CCXLiveShowcase

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The future of alternative sound in Abuja

There’s still a lot of work and a need for more public acceptance in order to push this genre to gain the recognition it deserves. However, the artists in view are making a significant difference by standing firm against compromising on the western influence their songs have, especially the unending bother of making their music more acceptable and marketable by the general Nigerian music scene. What is important to note is the glaring potential the incredibly talented new generation singers pose, with a progressive fanbase ready for ‘unconventional’ sounds in Abuja.