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Grammys showcase Nigeria’s ‘soft power’ on world stage

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When artists step onto the stage for the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, all except one of the nominees for the newly created Best African Music category will be Nigerians.

For the country’s creative industry leaders, the dominance of Afrobeats stars like Burna Boy and Ayra Starr at music’s biggest accolade is recognition of Nigeria’s growing “soft power” influence — and not just in music.

From Paris hotel lobbies to Mexico City nightclubs, the Afrobeats sounds of Nigeria’s hottest stars get played far from the streets of Lagos, as “naija” culture crosses increasingly into the mainstream.

Even before the Grammys, Nigerian stars were already selling out London’s O2 Arena and collaborating with global names like Selena Gomez and Drake.

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“Some people think it is a wave, I think it is the beginning of the future. What has happened is the soft power has kind of evolved on its own,” said Obi Asika, a record executive recently named director of the National Council for Arts and Culture. “Music is the driving force, but with the music comes what I call Afrobeats culture, so you get the fashion, you get the dance, you get the attitude.”

With his blend of Nigerian pidgin and Yoruba lyrics, Burna Boy, who already won a Grammy, is nominated for four awards this year. Artists Asake and Olamide are nominated for “Amapiano” — referring to South Africa’s own popular genre.

Davido is nominated three times, including for his African award title “Unavailable”. Female singer Starr is up for her title “Rush”. “African music has been dominant for years, if you are asking me if we should have gotten recognition since? Definitely,” Davido told France24..

“I always knew that if we were given the opportunity to be heard, I always knew people would love it. The culture as a whole. Not only music, food, fashion, and the list goes on.”

‘Long time coming’

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Nigerian music executive Motolani Alake said the Grammy category was a “long time coming”, not just for Nigeria but for Africa. “It can’t be anything than a blessing for Africa,” he said.

Afrobeats is not new — more than a decade of work is behind its growth as a genre — but interest from abroad has exploded in recent years.

Much of the overseas interest in Nigerian music traces back to Fela Kuti, the 1970s Afrobeat star who won applause for his new sound and stage presence.

Nigeria’s large diaspora in Britain and the United States has also been key in its wider popularity, said music historian and documentary maker Ed Keazor.

With a population of around 200 million — 20 million in Lagos alone — and most Nigerians under the age of 30, demographics also have a part.

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Siya Metane, at South African music publication SlikourOnLife, said Nigeria’s proximity to London, large diaspora and especially the work, investment and collaborations with global stars paid off.

“All of those things are ingredients for a genre to really start spreading out and reaching the whole world,” Metane said.

Abuchi Ugwu, chief executive of one of Nigeria’s largest labels Chocolate City, said the Grammy category is “acknowledgement” but argued African musicians should be competing head-to-head with other stars. “Africa is not just Afrobeats,” he said.

Music is not the only area where Nigerian creativity is gaining visibility — Nollywood, its prolific movie industry, is reaching a more global market.

The Oscars Academy last year invited a group of Nollywood directors, writers and an actor to its membership, including CJ Obasi whose film “Mami Wata” won a prize at Sundance.

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My wife and I no longer together – Ikechukwu speaks on marriage crash

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Nigerian rapper and actor, Ikechukwu Onunaku has confirmed that his marriage has ended.

Recall the former Mohits rapper tied the nuptial knot with his fiancée, Ella in May 2021.

But speaking in a recent interview with Daddy Freeze, Ikechukwu said he was now divorced.

He cited “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the desolation of his marriage, revealing that it was not due to infidelity. In Ikechukwu Onunaku’s words:

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“My wife and I are no longer together. We separated due to irreconcilable differences. It wasn’t over infidelity. There were too much gaslighting, too much looking for faults, and too much listening to outsiders.

“I tried to save our marriage but I got to a point where I couldn’t tolerate my ex-wife’s excesses anymore and I showed her my other side and we couldn’t bear it.”

In the same interview with Daddy Freeze, Ikechukwu recounted his experience at the now-defunct record label, Mohits Records, owned by D’banj and Don Jazzy.

The rapper claimed D’banj used to cheat him out of his hard earned money by giving him stipends after making millions.

According to him, D’banj would pay him a meagre N50,000 for shows he was booked for, despite the actual fee being over N1.5 million. He said the ‘koko master’ used to treat him like he was doing him a favour.

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However, he mentioned that D’banj later increased the payment to N150,000 after obtaining permission from his mother.

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Rudeboy refutes Eedris Abdulkareem’s claims that 50 Cent assaulted P-Square

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Paul Okoye, aka Rudeboy of the P-Square, has refuted Eedris Abdulkareem’s claims that the group was assaulted by American rapper 50 Cent and his crew at a concert held at the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos in 2004.

Abdulkareem claimed in a recent podcast interview that 50 Cent’s crew “flogged and chased” Nigerian artists, including P-Square, out of the backstage area at a concert.

He said he was the only Nigerian artist who refused to be intimidated out of the backstage.

Reacting during a recent Instagram live session with fans, Rudeboy said P-Square never attended the said show due to the inability of the organisers to reach an agreement with them on the booking fees.

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He said Abdulkareem betrayed Nigerian artists by going behind them to accept “peanut” from the show organisers after they had already agreed on lucrative performance fees.

Rudeboy said: “P-Square did not go for the [50 Cent] concert. We had another concert. We were never billed. The reason was because they offered us peanuts, and we refused. But Eedris Abdulkareem accepted the peanut and was expecting VIP treatment. 50 Cent crew didn’t beat you well.

“Respect yourself. P-Square was never billed for that concert. Daddy Showkey, Tony Tetuila, everyone is telling you guys that Eedris is a big liar. We know he is a lair. We were never billed for that concert. We didn’t go.”

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Women rejected me due to my looks – Actor Stephen Alajemba

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Veteran Nollywood actor Stephen Alajemba, aka Uwaezuoke, has revealed that he experienced rejection from women and people in general while growing up due to his physical and facial appearances.

The thespian said his mother told him that as a baby, people refused to carry him because he was not looking attractive.

He disclosed this in a recent interview with popular YouTuber, Yan Kontent Factory.

Alajemba said he promised his mother that he was going to make her proud because she told him that he did not “earn anything good” for her as a child.

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He said ladies “run away” whenever they see his face.

The comic actor said he was unable to attract a lover until he was 20, adding that he got married to his first love at 23.

“Any lady who sees my facial look and stature runs away,” the actor said.

“Unfortunately before one accepted me I was already 20 to 22 years old. I married at 23. So the first person tasted it and confirmed it and she did not leave me anymore.”

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