Politically Conscious Afrobeats Songs You Should Listen To
“Where words fail, music speaks”
— H.C Andersen.
In the heat of #EndSARS protest, music served as a powerful tool in sending the messages of aggrieved Nigerians across. Everyone keyed in to the lyrics and how powerful they were and they served as anthems as people hot the streets to air their grievances against the misgivings of the now disbanded SARS. That’s the most recent example of music showing its prowess in taking over where words fail.
Despite the fact that the Nigerian music industry is littered with songs that are meant to make you gbese and tweak— songs about the b*tches. There are also politically conscious songs that hammer on the situation of the country, the maladministration, structural inconsistencies, and call for reforms— deep stuff.
From the mid 1900s up till date, music has been used as a tool to document history, incite the government and engineer social change. We have the likes of Fela, Onyeka Owenu, Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade et al. who have shown political consciousness through their music. In the age of Afrobeats as well, politically conscious songs are not uncommon for nigerian music artists, as they use their lyrics (subtly or boldly) to call out the government for its actions and inactions and demand for better governance.
In this list, we take a look at some of the politically conscious Afrobeats songs, predominantly released in the 2000s, which you should listen to.
1. Jaga Jaga – Eedris Abdulkareem
Released in 2004, Jaja Jaga, remains one of the longest surviving politically conscious afrobeats songs in Nigeria. The song captures the corruption and suffering in the country. It was so powerful that it was banned from radio by the then-president Olusegun Obasanjo, but it continued to be played in nightclubs and spots all over the country, and became a sort of underground Nigerian national anthem.
Several years later, our Jaga Jaga still never do.
2. 4 Instance – 2Face
“Ala Oyi e!
This thing is affecting your being
And it’s killing your soul”
2Face begins both verses in “4 Instance” by thinking of himself as the leader of the country before he progresses to declaim the situations at hand— the neglect of the masses in decision making, the unequal distribution of resources, the looting, the deafearedness of the government, the bad medical systems, the oversea travels, among other salient points that are killing the souls of Nigerians.
Since 2006, the relevance of this song to the current Nigerian situation remains poignant.
3. Mr President – African China
“we be Giant of Africa but to get Visa enter Ghana na WAEC / Police man go see white he go tell you say ọmọ that thing na red”
African China rocked the whole six geopolitical zones with this deeply politically conscious song.
The song decried the lack of primary amenities, corruption in all facets of government— executive, legislature and judiciary— top to down, the bad economy, electoral malpractices and all sorts of shambles in the country and urged for a better leadership.
“Mr President, make una lead us well, if you be governor, govern am well if you be senator, Senate am. if you be police, police well well no dey take bribe”
4. Fire on the Mountain – Asa
“There is fire on the mountain / and nobody seems to be on the run / oh there is fire on the mountain top / and no one is a-running.”
Asa’s songs, regardless of how subtle they may be, have a politically conscious tone to it laced with social commentaries. The Huffington Post describes Asa as the “next generation’s voice of African protest”. She is “a little bit of Bob Marley, a chunk of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, add some India Arie pre-mixed with Miriam Makeba and Angélique Kidjo and finish it off with a whole lot of Yoruba classics like King Sunny Ade.”
In this track, she wholly captures the Nigerian situation. At the time of the release in 2007, a lot was going wrong in the country but, it was as if everyone was comfortable with the mediocrity in the nation.
Although now people are talking more and running (even out of the country), the situation is not any better.
5. Ole (Bushmeat) – Sound Sultan
A minute silence for the legend.
Sound Sultan was renowned for his astute storytelling and politically conscious songs embedded with social commentaries.
Twelve years ago, Sound Sultan teamed up with 2face in Ole, to criticize the abuse of power, embezzlement by the government and the resilience of Nigerians despite the hardship.
“see dem fly for the aeroplane / on top all the pain my people maintain / I don tire to dey explain / pikin wey never chop sef dey complain / water, light na yawa / everywhere just black no power / only power na the one wey dem get wey dey use oppress all my people / what people be the answer / could it be that we don’t matter to them?…”
Also, they talk about the temporary nature of life, subtly saying that nemesis will catch up with corrupt leaders.
“one day bushmeat go catch the hunter”
May his soul continue to rest in peace.
6. Democracy – DaGrin
Delivered in his usual Yoruba hardcore rap lyrics, Democracy by DaGrin addresses almost every problem in Nigeria— unemployment, inflation, hike in fuel price, dilapidated infrastructure, bad educational system, lack of power supply, police brutality, widespread poverty, mismanagement of resources— and how these problems in turn lead to social decadence.
It’s a power packed song.
7. Se na like this – Wande Coal
“Once upon a time, dem tell us say $1 is equals to ₦1″
In his debut album, Mushin 2 Mohits, “Se Na Like This” is the most politically conscious song therein. Wande Coal recounts the good times in Nigeria, when the economy was stable, transportation was easy, graduates were assured of employment and Nigeria was still part of the Commonwealth of Nations and we could travel to the UK without visa. But now, “corruption seems unstoppable, the hardship is unbearable”.
Wetin we go do?
“Se na like this e go dey dey x3… oh, oh
I no fit wait oh, make things for change oh
now make we join hand make we make am better.”
8. Economy – 9ice
This was the anthem during the 2016/17 recession period. A timely politically conscious Afrobeats song.
9ice rocked the whole nation with the jam as everybody could relate with the song; a song that talked about how expensive things were, how the economy was driving people crazy and how we chose to remain resilient, avoid heart attack, blood pressure and dance regardless.
9. Rara By Tekno
At the time 9ice’s Economy was making waves on the radio, Rara was also doing the numbers, giving Nigerians hope in the heat of economic hardship.
Tekno decried the embezzlement and lack of power supply and urged the government to invest in the country rather than travelling abroad. And he infuses prayer in his lyrics— the only thing we hold on to in the country.
“Oluwa wey dey bless me, shey e go bless you too”
10. This is Nigeria – Falz
The 2018 hit is a hard criticism of corrupt politicians, places of worship and the security forces.
It was the time when so much drama rocked the news. Notably, the case where a snake reportedly swallowed state money.
Only in Nigeria
“Police station dey close by six— security reason oh”
His album “Moral Instruction” boasts of songs criticising politicians, corruption, police brutality, prostitution, insecurity, social injustice and internet fraud.
11. Monsters You Made- Burna Boy
For those that have refused to inherit the silence of the past generations, the soro soke generation, this is a politically conscious song that captures the awakening of the Nigerian youths.
It was a track that reigned during the 2020 #EndSARS protest.
“I bet they thought it was cool
Probably thought we was fools
when we would break all the rules
And Skip them classes in school…
we need a change and it ain’t no way I’ma take an excuse.”