Photo credit: Blayke Images
Silence is required to write a novel. Music is required to survive the process. All of the songs in this playlist are songs I listened to while I was writing or editing Welcome to Lagos
. Some of them are Lagos in song, while others are just songs Lagosians like to dance to. Some are songs that I think my characters would have listened to, or at least liked to have been introduced to. A lot of these songs tell a story. I believe that West Africa’s oral culture is alive in our music. Lagosians’ musical tastes are very broad, so sit back and enjoy the Lagos Eclectic Playlist.
"Monday Morning in Lagos" by Fela Kuti
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This song completely captures the Lagos essence, from the big horns in the intro to Fela’s husky, gruff voice. The song tells a story about life in Lagos, starting with the weekend, where there are parties that start on Saturday and spill into Sunday. But on Monday, things get serious. On Monday morning, as the chorus says, “Lagos does not take nonsense.” It’s the Lagos cycle: party, then hustle, then party, then hustle.
"Taxi Driver (I Don't Care)" by Bobby Benson and His Combo
I went through a highlife phase when I was writing Welcome to Lagos
. The city has a historical Brazilian quarter and there’s something South American about the highlife genre. It’s music you want to salsa to. My novel is all about contemporary Lagos, but this song gave me inspiration for a possible future novel set in Lagos’s past.
"Afro Juju" by Shina Peters
This song was played at almost every Lagos wedding in my childhood. In Lagos, there’s a culture of spraying a dancer with money when they’re really getting down on the dance floor. It’s a way of appreciating their moves. If you were a good enough dancer, you could make a lot of money to this song.
"Dyna" by Daddy Showkey
This song ruled the radio in the ’90s. It tells the story of a woman called Dyna who struggles to conceive and all the trouble her in-laws cause her because of that. In an accessible way, Daddy Showkey’s music shined a light on a serious issue.
"Karolina" by Awilo Longomba
This song was everywhere in my childhood in Lagos. We danced makossa
to it at almost every birthday party I attended. It didn’t matter that the lyrics were in French. We understood the beat. Lagosians love a good party and you can still scatter any dance floor in Lagos just by playing the drum intro.
"One Question" by Wizkid
Contemporary Nigerian musicians are modernizing the highlife genre and I think a great example of this is "One Question" by Wizkid. I listened to this song on repeat while I was doing line edits for Welcome to Lagos
. Editing can be so boring and every hour or so, I’d take a break and dance to this song.
"Antenna" by Fuse ODG
There’s a lot of musical exchange between Nigeria and Ghana. The late Fela Kuti was inspired musically by a trip to Ghana in the 1960s. So it’s no surprise that Fuse, a Ghanaian musician via London, was a hit in Nigeria.
"Papaoutai" by Stromae
I don’t speak French well enough to understand what Stromae is saying, but I feel the emotion in this song, the frustration and the anger, emotions common to people who live in megacities like Lagos, London, or New York.
"The Click Song" by Miriam Makeba
There’s a character in my noveI called Ahmed Bakare. He’s a journalist and he fancies himself quite cultured and makes a point of listening to the African greats like Miriam Makeba. He would definitely have this song in his playlist.
"Pray for Me" by Darey
I love songs that tell stories and this song tells the story of a rural kid who leaves home to go to the big city and tries to find his way. It’s similar to the journey that the characters in Welcome to Lagos
take, but the character in the song goes on the journey alone. You feel how scary and lonely a big city like Lagos can be if you have to navigate it alone.
"Mma Mma" by Frank Edwards
The gospel scene in Lagos is huge and this was one of the biggest worship songs while I was writing Welcome to Lagos
. The song itself is in Igbo, while the indigenous language in Lagos is Yoruba, but it shows the cosmopolitan spirit of the city that it was sung in almost every church I went to.
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was born in 1991 in Lagos, Nigeria. She studied History at King's College London and is currently pursuing a PhD in History at the same institution. Her short stories have been commissioned by BBC Radio and she writes for the Guardian
, with a special interest in Nigeria. Welcome to Lagos
is her first book.