Greatest Nigerian Songs Of All Time

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What makes a song truly great? Forget hype, chart success or sales. A great song must transcend time, convey strong emotions, shift culture and resonate with a large number of people.

These songs should also be embedded in pop culture, influence lexicon and reflect cultural attitudes.

In the gold rush and cash grab for (the oddly-named) Afrobeats, articles, think- pieces, lists and content dedicated to Nigerian music before this explosion barely exist. It seems premium attention is only placed on the music movement that sprang up around a decade ago.

The first album released by a Nigerian was in 1925. That’s almost a century away from Burna Boy’s Grammy nod in 2019. The African Giant has climbed to the top of the most reputable North-American journalistic institutions, swinging from the web pages of The New York Times to NPR.

There are however many complex back-stories that have led to not only his rise but the rise of contemporary Nigerian pop music as a whole. It has been a culmination of music genres, styles, trends and lifestyles from the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, and even the 80s and 90s.

There seems to be a gaping hole, a curation dearth of our music legends. Where are the tantalizing tales? The musical myths? Where is the fabric, the tapestry that weaves through the decades and connects Tekno to Bright Chimezie or Davido to Shina Peters?

I decided to compile this list because of two reasons; there is no such list on the Internet with cultural context that I know of, and secondly- to educate young Nigerians on this country’s music history.

With the knowledge I have of Nigerian music (little, I must admit) I have compiled a list of 25 Nigerian classic songs that I feel are worthy enough to be classified under this list.

This list showcases a range of genres, topics, music styles and writing techniques. What binds them together are the qualities I listed above.

I hope you enjoy the greatness of these songs and appreciate Nigeria’s rich music history. Be on the lookout for Vol. 2.

Songs released after 2008 were not considered.
These songs have been ranked in no particular order and reflects the bias and music taste of the writer.