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Nigerian True Street: How street music is rebooting dance culture

For the most part, true street music comes alive in the vibrant cityscape of Lagos. In the slums of Agege, Ojo, Ikorodu, Bariga, Oworo, Iju Ishaga, and more, which have produced talent like The YBNL MAFIA, Zinoleesky, Seyi Vibes, and very much loved  Poco Lee,  inter-generational poverty and class structures blur, giving way for new money.

In the thick of the action, a gateway drug to boundless passions feeds whispers of foreign currencies. The allure of seeing the world resonates with those who dare listen. To be loved in this city is a very valuable thing, and this desire to be loved speaks to many who want everything and more, even with all the systematic handicaps. Here Nigerian street music takes on a life of its own, and True Street is born; With all its vices.

In its raw elements, this music incorporates anarchy, like resistance to trends which have always functioned in symbiosis with Nigerian pop culture. Now True Street is rebooting dance culture, providing outlets to release suppressed energy with avenues for artistic innovation.

Everything about this sound is independent, like resistance against moulded narratives. True street insists on telling its own story, of scratching a way out of the trenches into the upper class bubbles of Lagos island and beyond, Ultimately delving into the unfiltered and non-conformist nature of Afrobeats.

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Asake photographed by Micheal Tubi

 Like Afrobeats, True Street has adapted and begun to fuse with indigenous drums, techno/electronic music and pop. 

Dance styles such as “Shaku Shaku” and “Zanku” (legwork) have become cultural phenomenons in such an intersectional way, uniting people across generations and backgrounds. This Evolution has seen the contribution to a style that is changing the status quo by reimagining diasporic influences and—more often than not—completely reinventing them.

Rendered in indigenous language, full of slang and heavily nuanced references, this style is a product of heavy experimentation by Street music Djs and Afrobeats artists and producers. These sounds have now become mainstream cool, whereas, in its early stages, most people did not want to be associated with its rawness and vices.

The streets come alive with a myriad of dance styles, In the same breath that Zanku (legwork)  took over, the movement began paving the way for anthems and beats that keep morphing into individual trends born from a freestyle nature that adapts and evolves, giving rise to new viral  dance  crazes and fresh music to accommodate the ever-changing soundscapes.

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Burna Boy Photographed by Micheal Arinze

These iterations have seen street music establishing spaces dedicated to its artists and creatives. Artists like  Naira Marley and Seyi Vibes are loved quickly because of how the soul of the music reflects uncensored exposure to True Street.  

Over the past two years, these beats have witnessed a rapid influx of innovations. Lagos scata beat is one of these iterations fusing traditional African rhythms with modern electronic elements. If you found yourself at a rave where the Dj was spinning Lagos Scata beat, you might not know what to do with yourself. There are no rules; the main goal is to move and expend the energy necessary to match its rebelliousness.

This infectious beat has become a staple in the Nigerian street scene even in relatively upper class spaces. Pioneers like Dj 4kerty,  Dj Kaywise and AJIMOVOIX DRUMS and Dj EniMoney were key in finetuning things from this point.

Additionally, with its clear cut and rhythmic motions, the Focus dance beat embraces diverse influences, the fusion of Afrobeat and dancehall, creating a stir that needed no words to shake things up.

Equally important ,Cruise beat another iteration known as Tik Tok virus is heavily dominated by Dj yk Mule and other underground acts. Cruise beat combines audio from viral internet sensations, mostly layered with amapiano drums and distinct street music reverb.

The emergence of a new generation of storytellers is crucial to the allure of street music. These creatives weave empathetic, multi-faceted narratives, exploring the complexities of their challenging lives while celebrating the triumphs of upward mobility. Over the past six months, yet another iteration has taken the street music and Afro-dance scene by storm.

The Mara dance developed by Daniel Chisom, popularly known in street pop culture as “Odogwu Mara” has given life to a beat that is fully committed to raving, fusing the energetic and soothing qualities of street pop, this beat has a fast tempo and on occasion soft chants fully requiring exhaustive movements commonly associated with youth.

The combination of percussive elements with pop-synth melodies provides the perfect soundscape for the charged atmosphere at street gyrations. Now creatives like Dj CORA, Dj Tansho and Dj Khalifa have taken the sound and run with it, taking its rhythms into rooms, spaces and raves previously gate kept for more Western styles. Street dance is what’s hot now.

There is growing pride because these acts are extremely dedicated to their craft. The lines between mainstream and street sounds are blurring, and people are vibing with it. Alternative music in Nigeria has always been at the forefront of experimenting, and now these beats are working their way up into classed spaces.

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Pocolee at the 02 arena London

A couple of months ago, Cruel Santino released snippets for a tune called “King of the Bounce”, heavily featuring rhythm matched only by true street sounds. This infectious High energy and gyration is slowly infiltrating all the raves.

On the whole this transnational genre is getting international attention as African acts have begun to take the center at international stages, performers like Burna Boy, Naira Marley and Rema have brought these manic dance steps along with them to the delight of fans, a gentrified version even of the true nature of street but no doubt an intentional effort on their part to fine tune a stage presence that commands energy ;energy only true street is capable of effortlessly producing.

As a result, a cohesion is underway. True Street seeks to reinvigorate the Nigerian music industry by embracing new ideas and perspectives without limitations on creativity and collaboration.

The sounds of true street beats/virus

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