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Home to over 400 ethnic groups, Nigeria, known as ‘The Giant of Africa’, has a musical tradition as dense and diverse as its populace. Avid consumers of traditional and modern styles alike, Nigerians have consistently been at the forefront of African musical innovation. Highlife, created in Ghana, reached its creative zenith in neighboring Nigeria with highlife heavyweights such as Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya, and Zeal Onyia. Juju, a homegrown guitar style developed in Lagos, Western Nigeria, was brought to international acclaim by Juju founding fathers I.K Dairo and Ebenezer Obey, who enriched the simple form with Western instruments like the accordion and electric base.

The ’70’s in Nigeria were marked by the arrival of James Brown’s funky beats and the musical reign of Fela Kuti. Kuti took the Ghanaian highlife-based Afro-Beat style and made it his own, adding native Nigerian harmonies and rhythms, as well as a forceful political message. After an encounter with Black Power activists in the United States, Fela Kuti decided to use his music as a vehicle to address his anger with neo-colonialism and the iron-fisted control of multinational corporations over Africa’s economy, as well as the corrupt Nigerian government. Although he was imprisoned, beaten, and subject to a brutal attack on his home and family by military forces, Fela Kuti lived his life in constant refusal to bow to the authorities or deny the truth, firmly maintaining that “music is the weapon of the future’.