Turn on Centric, and it would not be shocking to see Tiwa Savage gracing the screen in a collaboration with Omarion. Try logging into your Netflix account, and you will find movies such as the “Wedding Party” or “Fifty” in your suggested movies. Crank up your car stereo, and tune into your favourite urban station. More than likely, you will hear Assurance, the fun and tropical tune by Davido. Pick up your phone, and log on to Instagram. it would not be shocking to discover cooking tutorials on how to prepare jollof.
I am sure that you are pondering the commonalities found in all of the given scenarios and here it is: Nigerian culture. Slowly but surely, the culture is being assimilated into mainstream media, particularly in Western Europe and the United States.
According to Thomas Abagonde, a Nigerian expatriate and college student, was shocked to discover the rapid integration of Nigerian culture. “When I came to America, I was in disbelief at how much of my culture could be seen on a day-to-day basis just in music,” he said, “I would turn on the radio and hear traces of Afrobeats. I always swell with pride about my country and who I am as a person.”
In addition, Abagonde believes the rise of Nigerian culture has been in the works for many years and was predicted long ago. “Fela Kuti, a Nigerian musician, predicted that African art, music, and culture would be a vital stream for others to draw inspiration from,” he said, “This recent surge in Nigerian culture has been in the works for many years, but I must admit at first I was doubtful. See artist like Davido, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid and Wande Coal crossover as artists makes me think Fela was right all along.”
Expert Otesele Igberaese, a Nigerian DJ known as DJ Hershey Skinned, supports the claim made by Abagonde. She feels the music’s assimilation can be contributed to the array of genres palatable to any listener.
“Nigerian music becoming mainstream can be attributed to the fact that the music has something for everyone. There is a mix of Hip-Hop, Pop and Dance,” Igberaese said, “You will even hear house roots in the music as well. Afro-beats will make someone dance solely off of the beat alone, forget knowing the words.”
She says although she knew the music was being assimilated based on airplay, she was made aware of the assimilation by party goers. “Airplay of our music on large platforms such as Tidal, Spotify and Pandora clued me in that our music growing in popularity, but I was a little skeptical,” she said, “Until I noticed it while mixing music.”
Chris Ubosi, the CEO of Megalectrics, parent company of Beat FM, announced that the Beat FM, a popular Nigerian radio station, is set to start broadcasting from a north London community radio license. “We want to put African music on the same pedestal with other genres,” he told Quartz. “Put the music in the mainstream so its played alongside other genres rather than being compartmentalized and played only during specific shows. We even plan to expand to the North American market.”
Although music opened the door for the assimilation of the culture, food is another vital avenue giving greater insight into the culture to those not of Nigerian heritage. Thomas Adegbola feels that although food is being integrated, other aspects of the culture are the reason for the culture being appreciated by non-Nigerians.
“The food has not helped as much as music. Our jollof and beef suya is amazing, but the kicker is the spice factor. Not everyone can handle spice. So, I think the music has taken us farther,” he said.
However, Abibatu Maddy, a professional caterer and employee of Dekalb Medical Hospital, believes cuisine is the backbone of the integration. “Recently, I had the chance to cater an American wedding. The guests complemented me saying that this was the best spin on chicken and rice that they have ever tasted,” she said, “So, giving people a taste of who we are is definitely more memorable.”
Nicole Ighile, a Nigerian-American college student, believes the assimilation stems from a newer form of media: social media. “I know that our food is being assimilated because on social media I discovered that Heinz has created a sauce packet for jollof. That is proof of the assimilation. Cased closed,” she said.
Music and food are two important aspects of culture, but what is culture without arts and entertainment?
In the entertainment world, Nigerian film is taking the world by storm. According to www.fortune.com, the Nigerian film industry has grown into a $3.3 billion sector with 1,844 movies produced in 2013 alone. Furthermore, ten Nollywood films were added to Netflix in 2015.
In addition, Pulse, a news publication, believes there is chatter spreading through Africa. The perceived chatter is in reference to Nollywood films, one in particular being the Wedding Party 2.
Pulse says, “The Wedding Party 2: Destination Dubai is the highest grossing Nollywood film. The film has managed to bring in a total of 467 million Naira world-wide. The film has gone international showing in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Cameroon, Benin Republic, Guinea, Liberia and UK.”
Furthermore, the film has made its way to Amazon Prime for American viewers and other Western world viewers.
It only seemed right to reach out to Enyinna Nwigwe, the star of the film, to ask his thoughts on the film’s success and why Nigerian culture in being assimilated into mainstream media.
According to Nwigwe, Broadband capabilities and the internet has done a great job of shifting perception. “We have always been great, but now others are seeing it. I think it is just our time. Think about Black Panther, a western film, and how it showcased our culture,” he said, “We are the now and our culture is the future.”
I couldn’t agree with Nwigwe more. Clearly, the future is bright for Nigeria and its rich culture. It is safe to say, the rate of cultural integration and the country are moving in an upward trajectory and will not slowing down anytime soon.