EDM lives in Nigeria. If you listen to Sensei Lo, a 33-year-old Lagos-bred nurse of Ghanaian descent, her music is more an evolution of EDM which she calls Afro-Electronic Dance/House Music.
EDM lives in Maze x Mxtreme, a Benin-born duo that met in church and started making music in 2016. It lives in 23-year-old Bayelsa State indigene, Sigag Lauren. CALIX is a 26-year-old Anambra State-bred EDM act who moved to Lagos at the age of 14. One day, he listened to DJ TTB play some dance records and he never looked back.
It lives in the nine other EDM acts/DJs that Pulse Nigeria spoke with despite growing up in different states across Nigeria. Nigeria also has a rich history of electronic music in forms of electro-pop, disco, alternative music and more with William Onyeabor, OFO The Black Company and more.
In fact, 80’s pop music and earliest Hip-Hop were heavily influenced by electronic music and post-disco. However, EDM and its offspring are different. Like their foreign counterparts across Europe and the Americas, these Nigerian EDM acts are music producers and DJs.
While EDM is one of the biggest genres of music across the world, Nigerian EDM acts are living joys of the inbred musicality through the growing pains of challenges, a niche genre and roadblocks on their way to making a living through their music. The community is also small and scattered across the country.
In the real sense of it, EDM is more niche than alté is in Nigeria. But while a lot of alté artists have since branched out into bigger things on their way to stardom, EDM acts make music purely for joy. Sometimes, they DJ to hone their skills and make money, but the returns can be meagre.
Global EDM ‘bags’
On the global stage In 2019, Low Tone published EDM statistics which revealed that EDM club nights generated over $900 million in 2018 alone while the overall global EDM industry is worth $7.9 billion. Europe is the most vibrant EDM market. Countries in Eastern Europe, Netherlands and France have a great EDM following.
As of 2018, it was calculated that at least one in six people recently attended an EDM event. In 2019, The Chainsmokers were the highest paid DJs in the world with $46 million earned as at year-ending June 2019. Calvin Harris, who at one time was earning a whopping $250,000 per gig was third with $36 million earned.
The Nigerian EDM reality
Nigerian EDM lacks the power of a united national community, reliable income-generating avenues and an adequate, paying fan base - something alté had. This also means labels don’t want to sign EDM acts because chances of a return on investment are remote.
For this reason, some EDM acts have day jobs which gives them stability to fund a career in music. Sensei Lo is a full-time nurse, Tropical Kenny does business and is into photography, Beyo Jr is a Sound Engineer and D3AN is a content manager in event listings to name a few. Some of their basic needs still suffer but they keep going by never giving up and by churning out music.
Some of the aforementioned basic needs include maintaining their expensive software and equipment. Born Femi Johnson Adurogboye, Rhoseus is a 26-year-old EDM producer from Jos, Nigeria. He uses a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) which costs an arm and a leg for a lifetime membership. He says he hopes to acquire more hardware gear soon, but that costs money.
CALIX echoes the same problems, “I used a DAW called “Logic ProX” and yeah it’s expensive to get the softwares and hardwares.”
Nonetheless, some are also finding unique ways around the expensive equipment and software. One of them is Sigag Lauren who says that, “Expensive is quite relative. I’m of the opinion that you don’t need a lot of crazy gears to make music. So just basic setup, easy stuff.”
With all the perspective, artists have to go with what makes them the most comfortable both creatively and financially. There will be no permanent solution to that, but other problems remain.
As noted earlier, a community is important to foster conversations and force your message in people’s minds - think of it like free ads. For example, alté kids might have been born rich with a ready-made paying audience, but they still had to work with consistent releases and events. These events helped them find sponsors who believed in them and regularly put capital on their shows.
Asides the affluent background of these alté kids, it also helped that their movement happened in the heartbeat of Nigerian entertainment - Lagos. The EDM community lacks some of this luxury - they have from diverse backgrounds and their proponents are scattered across the country. Their best EDM communities are online.
29-year-old D3AN says, “We have a Whatsapp group. Does that count? (Laughs) We are pretty scattered across the country so we can't really do a lot of shows together, but we're working on really coming together and making some noise - No pun intended.”
Yet, the music courses through these artists’ veins as much as blood does. While Beyo Jr. and some others are scared of the price of this EDM path they’ve chosen, community building is one area they all feel should be better explored. CALIX is damning. He feels the current proponents of this wave of EDM are not doing enough.
Weird Tyler is a 19 year old EDM act who is also an undergraduate at Babcock University. He discovered EDM through Rick Dee's Weekly top 40 on Cool FM Lagos. After watching TommorrowLand Festival in 2014, he realized that he wanted a career in EDM. Unlike CALIX, he feels EDM acts in Nigeria are trying.
On community, Weird Tyler also says, “We have a community where we support one another, give insights and more, but we don't have much backing from the industry at the moment.”
While DysleX does not even recognize any existent community, Sigag Lauren is very optimistic. He says, “The EDM community in Nigeria is currently in the embryonic state, we EDM DJs have a lot of work to grow this community to that level the genre becomes popular. There is an incredibly huge fan base, we just need to give them the content they’ll love.”
In the end, Beyo then points out another problem with how hard it is to get singers in for EDM records. Sensei Lo agrees with this, albeit with greater hilarious emphasis.
How can EDM grow a Nigerian community?
A community leads to faith from people and attendance of events to see the experience the community sells. EDM sells itself as an eclectic genre with ample doses of euphoria released per trance. A roadmap is needed for a community.
Maze X Mxtreme is doing their part, “As a brand we are speaking with a lot of media heads and corporate bodies in the industry to help share insight of the potential EDM holds in Nigeria and Africa at large as a profitable, virgin area in the music industry. We are also connecting other fellow EDM artists we can find.”
For causes like that, Beyo feels data and content tracking is important. He’s not lying - the world is fast-paced and highly reliant on data in a streaming-driven industry.
Remixes: The problem with getting artists to sign off
Across the world, remixes are fundamental to electronic music of all kinds from EDM to ADM. In fact, acts like Skrillex, Diplo, Flume, The Chainsmokers, The Cataracs and more are known for remixes. The Grammy Awards now have a category for Best Remixed Project.
A remix to Niniola’s ‘Maradona’ by DJ Snake opened her to another market. An Imanbek remix to Saint jHn’s 2018 song, ‘Roses’ is making a return as a smash hit thanks to a Snapchat filter. As A-Trak told Forbes in 2017, remixes don’t really give artists a lot of money, but some remixers have influence and are guaranteed to move the needle.
In Nigeria, remixes are a tough market. Nigerian stars are ignorant about the power of great remixes. Sensei Lo says, “In my past experience when reaching out I got turned down several times - no one responds. It's funny and sad because it's either the idea of remixes isn't rated enough or they just don't want to respond to you. But as a DJ I love Live remixing.
“If you come to one of my sets you would see that I mainly play remix versions because that's where you can be creative enough. The problem is that you can't put that on premium streaming platforms because of copyright infringement. But what if the remix is what takes the song to new heights? It's weird how different it is in Nigeria.”
Across Soundcloud, you can find different EDM acts uniting and contributing to Nigeria-centric EDM playlists and remixes to Nigerian hit songs that never make premium streaming platforms.
Once in a while, it changed when Sigag Lauren made an official remix to Brymo’s ‘Heya.’ He has also created official remixes for forward-thinking acts like Simi, DJ Neptune, Johnny Drille, and Ric Hassani.
On why artists turn remixes down, Lauren says, “Perhaps might alter their timeline. And could also be due to the fact that the brand of most Nigerian EDM acts aren’t so big yet. People love to associate with bigger brands.”
CALIX buttresses, “Artists think it’s irrelevant but they don’t know it can promote their track in the international market. A quick story, I remember a popular DJ had to contact a close EDM producer of mine to make a remix of his tracks cause he was going on tour in “Germany” and wanted to play EDM remixes so they could relate more.”
Chike is not stupid for making a remix to Boo of The Booless as Dance of The Booless with these EDM acts at its centre.
Maze x Mxtreme rounds up by noting that the problem might be solved when artists start having official EDM remix partners amongst Nigerian DJs especially as Afrobeats is becoming in-demand across Europe and the Americas. Nonetheless, if this becomes a thing, remixers must be granted a cut of the publishing and/or royalties - this was not a practice in the old days.
The dark days: Perception as weirdos and making their own music
Being a music-maker is to have peculiar attachment to the music. But when you’re Nigerian, the music is part of a culture. As much as the music is your personal journey, the community and society defines your experience. In Nigeria, a lot of EDM acts are perceived as weirdos - Beyo complains of keeping his passion to himself for a long time.
At the root of it all for all the EDM acts we spoke with is love. That’s how they deal with dark times.
DysleX is a 21-year-old undergraduate of the University of Lagos. He jokes that he knew EDM was his career when he learned about rave parties. DysleX loves experimenting with music, so he loves EDM because it gives him a platform to make happy music that expresses his emotions.
Born Fafi kenesuomei Kennedy, Tropical Kenny is a 22-year-old Chemical Engineering graduate. He is also protege of Sigag Lauren who started off as an Afro-pop producer. Like everyone Pulse Nigeria spoke with he makes EDM for the love of it. But asides all the good sides, passion and love can only go so far.
For 20-year-old Neutron Inv, he doesn't even have monetization on his mind yet. It's all love.
What will be deemed success in Nigerian EDM?
21-year-old Jamie Black dreams big. He says, “This would vary per person, but to me, before I can say EDM has succeeded in Nigeria, then Nigeria should have at least 2 EDM festivals hosted annually that would attract international EDM acts. Such will also put Nigeria on the board for EDM tours and tourism.”
CALIX would still advise kids to pursue EDM as a career - he calls EDM the future of music. Like many others, CALIX would love to make it in Nigeria and travel out for shows.
EDM might just pop with Generation Z Nigerians...