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News and Society Expression Unfold

Tolani Otedola: A Class Act in Nigerian Music’s New School By Keem Abdul 

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To say that the current crop of Nigerian musicians are loved around the world would be stating the obvious. In many cities outside Africa, you will find the music of the acclaimed, Grammy-nominated “African Giant” Burna Boy, and the likes of Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Yemi Alade and Teni The Entertainer on a lot of people’s playlists. From Barack and Michelle Obama to Beyoncé, Jay Z, Rihanna, Idris Elba and Will Smith, the love for and of Nigerian music, particularly the Afrobeats genre is spreading like wildfire across the globe.

It’s not just American celebrities that love the music. You will find regular folks of different nationalities posting videos on the Internet of them singing along to their favourite Nigerian artists’ songs. The love is also strong at home and you will likely see indigenous fans in the comments section of their top Naija artistes’ social media platforms professing their love. There is plenty of love to go around though but it is not easy for emerging acts to get some of the adulation that the more established stars get. These days the listening ears of the Nigerian populace has been suffused with good music and so it is only the deserving acts that are able to organically cultivate a following. Notable among the emerging “new school” acts are the likes of Johnny Drille, Tolani, Ric Hassani and Ladipoe. Their sound is unique and doesn’t quite fit into the “Afrobeats” box that a lot of new music acts are struggling to fit their music into. From among the lot, the singer and songwriter Tolani is particularly outstanding.

Tolani is clearly a gifted musician and she has polished her preternatural gift over the years. She first broke into the Nigerian music scene in 2017 and if you have never heard her music before, your ears are missing out on an aural delight. It’s not for nothing that her YouTube channel has racked up over 2 million views and has over 10,000 subscribers. The world is taking notice. The globally renowned news station CNN heard the buzz about her and recently featured her on their “Inside Africa” program. President Donald Trump of the United States of America may consider CNN to be bearers of fake news but even he is likely to appreciate them for shining the spotlight on the young, black, gifted songstress.

Since that CNN Inside Africa feature, there have been many more visits to her social media platforms. New arrivals will find that they are several months behind the others who found her music early. Nonetheless, they are welcome to join her bandwagon although to be honest, it is more a spacecraft than a bandwagon. Her music transports listeners across time and leaves imprints in their soul that linger long after they are done listening to her songs. Her grateful fans reciprocate by leaving her adoring accolades, each one well deserved.

Says Nagy Agnes on YouTube of Tolani’s music:

“Evergreen sound. These kinds of hits should be played on the radio.”

In agreement, another fan of hers on YouTube named AbdulHamid Adiamoh had this to say:

“Okay, so this much is clear! Tolani is outstanding! She’s the real musician! This is pure class! Sheer excellence!”

Yet another gushed over her:

“Tolani, you made me cry, a grown man like me. All I want is your recognition as the best. If I was a God, I would have waved my scepter and sent forth the angels of lights to announce your coming and give you your crown! Don’t relent! I believe in you! You are the best!”

Tolani has masterfully drawn her fans in, first serving them with the kind of music they were used to and then introducing them to her truest expressions. Check her progression from “Tenderoni” on which she featured Afrobeats rapper Skales, to “Liar” and then “Ba Mi Lo” on which she collaborated with Reekado Banks. Her fans seem to favour her song “Maybe Baby” even though it has a distinct sound from the Afrobeats trend. Born into a family where an eclectic array of music was played and where her musical talent was encouraged, evidently she is doing well. It takes a special kind of grace to combine her innate talent with sound tutelage in Music and Master Performance from the Tech Music School in London, as well as having a Bachelors and a Masters degree in Psychology from the prestigious University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Oh yes, Tolani is the daughter of the super-rich Nigerian business mogul, billionaire and philanthropist Femi Otedola and by extension her illustrious pedigree extends to being the granddaughter of one time Lagos State governor, Sir Michael Otedola. Yet she has no false airs nor conceit about her. The ebony skinned beauty is as gracious as gracious can be, perhaps taking after her father in that regard. Her father clearly loves her and is tremendously proud of her. The glee with which he celebrated her CNN feature on his Instagram page speaks of an unfeigned love that undoubtedly propels her to greater heights.

As the new school acts in Nigeria’s music scene make their charge towards global dominance, the class act that Tolani is will clearly be one to look out for. As she rightly stated in her appearance on CNN, “It’s a good time to be a Nigerian creative. People are excited by the art, fashion, music, film that’s coming out of Nigeria. It feels like part of a movement in this day and age to be a Nigerian creative.” Her modesty aside, she isn’t just part of the movement, she is one of those leading the charge. You would do well to begin the rush to get her music and to be her fan before the rush becomes a stampede. As those street hawkers who sell CDs in Lagos traffic jams would put it, “Grab your Cuppy… Sorry, grab your copy now!”

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