a. Yoruba parentage (either father or mother)
b. Nominees or recipients of major global or African musical awards
c. Performing on the global stage
d. Being on US or European top charts
e. Popular beyond Africa1. Fela Anikulapo Kuti
2. Tunde Baiyewu (Formerly of Lighthouse family)
3. Angelique Kidjo
9. King Sunny Ade
10. Ebenezer Obey
11. Femi Kuti
12. IK Dairo
13. Beautiful Nubia
15. Orlando Julius
However there are many other musicians who are of Yoruba heritage but these 15 are the ones acknowledged as the most popular ones outside Nigeria and Africa. Some are already subject of Masters and PhD dissertations in universities around the world.
Drummer, Pianist, Civil Rights Activist, Songwriter (1938–1997)
Musician and political activist Fela Kuti was born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti on October 15, 1938, in Abeokuta, Nigeria. Kuti was the son of a Protestant minister, Reverend Ransome-Kuti. His mother, Funmilayo, was a political activist.
Activism Through Music
In 1963, Kuti formed a band called Koola Lobitos. He would later change the band’s name to Afrika 70, and again to Egypt 80. Beginning in the 1960s, Kuti pioneered and popularized his own unique style of music called “Afrobeat.” Afrobeat is a combination of funk, jazz, salsa, Calypso and traditional Nigerian Yoruba music. In addition to their distinctive mixed-genre style, Kuti’s songs were considered unique in comparison to more commercially popular songs due to their length—ranging anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour long. Kuti sang in a combination of Pidgin English and Yoruba.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Kuti’s rebellious song lyrics established him as political dissident. As a result, Afrobeat has come to be associated with making political, social and cultural statements about greed and corruption. One of Kuti’s songs, “Zombie,” questions Nigerian soldiers’ blind obedience to carrying out orders. Another, “V.I.P. (Vagabonds in Power),” seeks to empower the disenfranchised masses to rise up against the government.
Babatunde Emanuel Baiyewu, born 25 November 1968 is a British singer of Nigerian descentTunde Baiyewu – the Lighthouse Family frontman who has achieved in excess of 20 million global sales – was born in the UK to Nigerian parents, but returned to Nigeria aged 4, following the death of his father. Tunde was immediately faced with the challenge of a new language (learning Yoruba would later heavily impact his singing style), and a new way of life; from the streets of London to the starkly rural school at Etiki, with the daily responsibility of collecting water from the stream to wash school-clothes. The lack of a father-figure saw Tunde become “withdrawn, introspective” and that pensiveness can still be felt in his writing today. “There’s a need for me to withdraw into my own space,” as he puts it.
Diamond In A Rock – Official Artwork Tunde has announced details of a brand new solo album, DIAMOND IN A ROCK; Tunde’s first new material in over eight years. A more soulful, personal and eclectic offering than his prior work, DIAMOND IN A ROCK suggests that there is more than may have initially met the eye with Tunde Baiyewu
Tunde Baiyewu’s distinctive voice comes from this rich, complex past, and on DIAMOND IN A ROCK, he finally begins to use it in the way you sense he’s always wanted to. “Now is when I need to really truly say what I want to say, the way I want to say it, as best as I can.”
Angélique Kpasseloko Hinto Hounsinou Kandjo Manta Zogbin Kidjo, known as Angélique Kidjo (July 14, 1960), is a Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter and activist from Benin, noted for her diverse musical influences and creative music videos. Born to Fon father and a Yoruba mother. Time magazine has called her “Africa’s premier diva”. The BBC has included Kidjo in its list of the African continent’s 50 most iconic figures. The Guardian has listed her as one of its Top 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World and Kidjo is the first woman to be listed among “The 40 Most Powerful Celebrities In Africa” by Forbes magazine. The Daily Telegraph in London described her as “The undisputed queen of African music” during the 2012 Olympic Games River of Music Festival. In March 2013, NPR, National Public Radio in America, called her “Africa’s greatest living diva”. Kidjo is listed among the “2014 Most Influential Africans” by New African magazine and Jeune Afrique  On June 6, 2013, Kidjo was elected vice-president of the Confédération Internationale des Sociétés d´Auteurs et Compositeurs (CISAC). She now resides in New York City, where she is an occasional contributor to the New York Times. Angelique has received Honorary Doctorates from Yale University, Berklee College of Music and Middlebury College.
Her musical influences include the Afropop, Caribbean zouk, Congolese rumba, jazz, gospel, and Latin styles; as well as her childhood idols Bella Bellow, James Brown, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Miriam Makeba and Carlos Santana. She has recorded George Gershwin’s “Summertime”, Ravel’s Boléro, Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” and the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”, and has collaborated with Dave Matthews and the Dave Matthews Band, Kelly Price, Alicia Keys, Branford Marsalis, Ziggy Marley, Philip Glass, Peter Gabriel, Bono, Carlos Santana, John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Josh Groban, Dr John, the Kronos Quartet and Cassandra Wilson. Kidjo’s hit songs include “Agolo”, “We We”, “Adouma”, “Wombo Lombo”, “Afirika”, “Batonga”, and her version of “Malaika”.
Kidjo is fluent in Fon, French, Yorùbá and English, and sings in all four languages; she also has her own personal language, which includes words that serve as song titles such as “Batonga”. “Malaika” is a song sung in the Swahili language. Kidjo often utilizes Benin’s traditional Zilin vocal technique and jazz vocalese.
Angelique is the recipient of the 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum of Davos in Switzerland.
Musician, singer. Born Helen Folasade Adu on January 16, 1959 in Ibadan, Nigeria to a an Ekiti (Nigerian) father and an English mother. Raised in London by her English mother, Sade developed several interests as a teen, including singing, fashion design and modeling. She sang with a few local bands before signing with Epic Records and recording her first album, Diamond Life, in 1984. A huge hit in her native England, the album also had mass appeal across the pond thanks to such singles as “Smooth Operator.” In 1986, she won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.Sade’s subsequent multi-platinum albums, Promise, Stronger Than Pride and Love Deluxe, established her as a top-selling soul and pop artist. She took a new route with her 2000 album, Lovers Rock, which was released eight years after Love Deluxe and incorporated a more mainstream sound. The record, and particularly the chart-topping single, “By Your Side,” helped her win over new audiences. Two years later, the album and ensuing tour inspired her first live recording, Lovers Live. Sade returned to the studio and released her sixth album In February 2010, Soldier of Love.Sade married Spanish filmmaker Carlos Scola in 1989; the couple divorced three years later. In 1996, she and Jamaican record producer Bobby Morgan had a daughter, Ila Morgan.
Ayọ (born as Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin, 14 September 1980) [/b]is a Nigerian-German singer-songwriter and actress. She uses the Yoruba translation Ayọ or Ayo. of her first name Joy.Her debut album Joyful, which was first released in 2006, reached Double-Platinum status in France, Platinum in Germany and Poland, Gold status in Switzerland and Italy and Greece. The album was released in the United States on 20 November 2007 by Interscope Records.Ayọ was born in Frechen near Cologne, Germany. She has a son, Nile, who was born in late 2005 and a daughter, Billie-Eve, born July 2010, with the Afro-German reggae singer Patrice, from whom she is now separated. At the end of 2007, she moved with her family to the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan in New York City. At present she lives in Paris.
The president of UNICEF France, Jacques Hintzy, announced on 4 February 2009 that the singer was named patron of UNICEF to promote the right to education for all children in the world.
The French production company MK2 produced 2009 the film Ayo Joy a 90 minute documentary about the singer and her life. The film was directed by Raphaël Duroy.
Aṣa (pronounced “Asha”; born 17 September 1982) is a Nigerian French singer, songwriter, and recording artist. Her stage name “Aṣa” means “Hawk” in Yoruba.
Born Bukola Elemide, Aṣa was born in Paris, France to her Nigerian parents. Her family returned to live in Nigeria when she was two. Aṣa grew up in Alagbole, a border town in Ogun state near Lagos, in the south-western part of Nigeria. Twenty years later, Aṣa returned to Paris where her life as an artist took off.Whenever Asa came home from school in Nigeria, she discovered musical acts like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Raphael Saadiq, Lauryn Hill, Femi Kuti and Angélique Kidjo. This was while she was in pursuit of educational excellence, and these musical acts are whose footprints she dreamed of following.Aṣa was the only female child in the family and had three brothers. At a young age she began to look after the house during her parents’ frequent absences. This is when Aṣa started to sing. Over the years her father had built up a fine collection of records featuring soul classics and Nigerian music, including Marvin Gaye, Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, King Sunny Adé, Ebenezer Obey and Lagbaja and Asa went on to draw inspiration from them.
Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel (born 19 February 1963), better known by the pseudonym Seal, is a British soul and R&B singer and songwriter. He has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide and is known for his numerous international hits, including “Kiss from a Rose”, which appeared on the soundtrack to the 1995 film Batman Forever. He was a coach on The Voice Australia in 2012 and 2013.Seal has won numerous music awards throughout his career, including three Brit Awards—winning Best British Male in 1992, four Grammy Awards, and an MTV Video Music Award. As a songwriter, he received the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award, for Best Song Musically and Lyrically, in consecutive years for “Killer” (1990) and “Crazy” (1991)Seal was born Olusegun Olumide Adeola Samuel on 19 February 1963 in Paddington, London, England, to a Nigerian mother, Adebisi Ogundeji, and a Brazilian father, Francis Samuel. Seal’s first and middle names are in the Yoruba language. Olusegun means “God is victorious”, Olumide means “my Lord has arrived”, and Adeola means either “rich crown” or “a crown of wealth”. He was raised in the City of Westminster in inner London by his foster family. He received a two-year diploma, or associate degree, in architecture and worked in various jobs in the London area.
Although there have long been rumours as to the cause of the scars on his face, they are the result of a type of lupus called discoid lupus erythematosus – a condition that specifically affects the skin above the neck.
Lagbaja (born Bisade Ologunde in Lagos) [/b]is a multi-award winning Nigerian Afrobeat musician, singer and song- writer. He was born in 1960 in Lagos state.
According to Lágbájá (pronounced la gba jah) his mask is used as an icon of man’s facelessness. Lágbájá is a Yoruba word that means “nobody in particular”. It depicts the anonymity of the so-called “common man”. The mask and the name symbolize the faceless, the voiceless in the society, particularly in Africa. He is also known as “Omo baba mu’ko mu’ko”.Style of music
Though the concept was developed long before that, his first album (entitled Lagbaja) was released to national acclaim in 1993. Over the years and more albums later, the music continues to fascinate with its unique focus on a core of African drums. His music is a product of various influences ranging from traditional Yoruba music to Jazz. Often the music is purely instrumental- an interplay between traditional Yoruba percussion, drums, chants, western instruments, and especially the saxophone. When there are lyrics, they are primarily sung in Yoruba, English or a blend of the two as is colloquially spoken in Yoruba cities. Many of his songs dwell on serious social issues, while others simply entertain. Some compositions, introduced by a simple “time to dance’ informing the audience of lengthy dance numbers, while other songs address complex social issues through biting wit made palatable by disarming parables, irony, and multilingual puns.One thing that links all the songs together is his use of traditional African drums. Traditional Yoruba drums are the most prominent. Four families of these drums are employed in creating different grooves and moods. The dundun/gangan family is the most prominent and at times up to five drummers combine all the various components to create the polyrhythms. The bata ensemble is led by two musicians who alternate between soft high toned driving rhythms with their omele bata, and thunderous loud talk with their mum drum- iya ilu. The general percussionist leads the sakara drum ensemble. The fourth family, used as the backbone of the groove is the ogido, a derivative of the ancient gbedu. The ensemble of drummers constitute the larger part of the band. Vocalists and western instrumentalists and make up the rest. Lagbaja’s groovy fusion has been referred to as afrojazz, afrobeat, higherlife and afropop until now that he himself has christened the music AFRICANO, alluding mostly to the central role of African drums and grooves in his music.
In March 1997, He established his club, Motherlan’ in the heart of Ikeja in Lagos. Motherlan’s design is influenced by the traditional African town or market square, where people gather under the moonlight for ceremonies and artistic events like dance, music, story telling, wrestling etc.
“King” Sunny Adé (born Sunday Adeniyi, 22 September 1946) is a Nigerian musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a pioneer of modern world music. He has been classed as one of the most influential musicians of all time.
Adé was born to a Nigerian royal family in Ondo, thus making him an Omoba of the Yoruba people. His father was a church organist, while his mother was a trader. Adé left grammar school in Ondo under the pretense of going to the University of Lagos. There, in Lagos, his mercurial musical career started.Sunny Adé’s musical sound has evolved from the early days. His career began with Moses Olaiya’s Federal Rhythm Dandies, a highlife band. He left to form a new band, The Green Spots, in 1967. Over the years, for various reasons ranging from changes in his music to business concerns, Sunny Adé’s band changed its name several times, first to African Beats and then to Golden Mercury.In the 1970s and 1980s Adé embarked on a tour of America and Europe where he played to mixed (both black and white) audiences. His stage act was characterised by dexterous dancing steps and mastery of the guitar. Trey Anastasio, American guitarist, composer and one of his devout followers, once said, “If you come to see Sunny Adé live, you must be prepared to groove all night.”
After more than a decade of resounding success in Africa, Adé was received to great acclaim in Europe and North America in 1982. The global release of Juju Music and its accompanying tour was “almost unanimously embraced by critics (if not consumers) everywhere”. Adé was described by The New York Times’ as “one of the world’s great band leaders”, and in Trouser Press as “one of the most captivating and important musical artists anywhere in the world”.
His next album, Syncro System (1983), was equally successful and earned him his first Grammy Award nomination in the folk/ethnic music category
Femi Kuti was born in London in 1962. He quit school in 1978 to play saxophone in his father’s band Egypt 80. In 1986, while Fela enjoyed huge popularity which attracted government disapproval, Femi Kuti took up the pioneer’s afrobeat mantle and formed his own group: Positive Force. Over the next ten years he gradually freed himself of his father’s musical influence finally achieving full recognition in his own right in 1994 when he signed with the legendary Motown label.His eponymous album, which came out in 1995, established Femi Kuti to a wider audience on the international scene with a more accessible but equally demanding conception of afrobeat.
1997 was a tragic year for him, as despite his first professional breakthrough in which he achieved international recognition, it was also the year in which Femi Kuti suffered the loss of his father, and within only months, the death of his sister Sola. Tragedies that would inspire one of the most moving songs from the inheritor of “the Tiger”: “97”.
After two years, in 1999 Femi Kuti brings out a new album on a new label. “Shoki-Shoki” driven by a relatively traditional afrobeat receives public recognition as well as the critical acclaim of his early works.
Femi Kuti iveIn 2001 “Fight to Win” continues to evolve this development of a democratization and an openness in afrobeat instigated by Femi Kuti since his first album. Containing Nigerian jazz-funk rhythms with a touch of hip-hop, Femi collaborated with American rappers such as Mos Def and Common, and soul singer Jaguar Wright, creating an album of universal critical acclaim.
After three years spent between studio work and touring, Femi Kuti seemed to want to look elsewhere and returned to the roots of a musical and political movement of which he is, as of now, the unique symbol and only representative. He decided to invest his success in the reconstruction of a new Shrine, a musical temple, erected, displaced and rebuilt by Fela following repeated attacks against the old ones by a corrupt military power. Just as his father before him, Femi Kuti and his “Positive Force” continue to make of this place a space in which music is the weapon of the future.
For this heir to afrobeat it’s a turning point. Having achieved recognition on the international scene since the 1990’s, Femi Kuti could have chosen to live in a western city such as Paris, London or New York, all cities which have taken him to their hearts.
Obey, whose full name is Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Obey-Fabiyi, was born in Idogo, Ogun State, Nigeria of Egba–Yoruba ethnic background. He is of the Owu subgroup of the Egba.He began his professional career in the mid-1950s after moving to Lagos. After tutelage under Fatai Rolling-Dollar’s band, he formed a band called The International Brothers in 1964, playing highlife–jùjú fusion. The band later metamorphosed into Inter-Reformers in the early-1970s, with a long list of Juju album hits on the West African Decca musical label.Obey began experimenting with Yoruba percussion style and expanding on the band by adding more drum kits, guitars and talking drums. Obey’s musical strengths lie in weaving intricate Yoruba axioms into dance-floor compositions. As is characteristic of Nigerian Yoruba social-circle music, the Inter-Reformers band excel in praise-singing for rich Nigerian socialites and business tycoons. Obey, however, is also renowned for Christian spiritual themes in his music and has since the early-1990s retired into Nigerian gospel music ministry.
I.K. Dairo was born in the town of Offa, located in present day Kwara State; his family was originally from Ijebu-Ijesa before migrating to Offa. He attended a Christian Missionary primary school in Offa, however, he later quit his studies due to a lean year in his family’s finances. He left Offa and traveled to Ijebu-Ijesa where he chose to work as a barber.
I.K. Dairo musical success in the 1960s, was influenced by different factors including a resort to include traditional sounds, the political life of the 1950s, which inspired him and a focus on Rhythm, beats and tempo that reflected different ethnic sounds and in the process leading to his appeal rising beyond his primary ethnic group. His band experimented and played with musical styles originating from different Yoruba areas and also utilized the Edo, Urhobo, Itsekiri and Hausa language in some of their lyrics. The band’s well organized and slick arrangement, Yoruba and Latin America influenced dance rhythm and patronizing lyrics on the entrepreneur pursuits of patrons were factors that contributed in his rise to the height of the Juju and musical arena in the country. He also employed musical syncretism, mixing the Ijebu-Ijesa choral multi-part sound with melodies and text from Christian sources.In 1962, he released the song ‘Salome’ under Decca records. The song mixed traditional elements in Yoruba culture and urban life as major themes. The song was a major hit of his. Another song of his which was quite popular was Ka Sora (Let Us Be Careful), the song is sometimes described as predictive of the Nigerian civil war in its warning about the pitfalls of unreasoned governance. He also released other popular hits including one about Chief Awolowo, who was incarcerated at the time the song was released.
Dairo’s stay at the top in the Nigerian music scene was short lived, by 1964, a new musician in the person of Ebenezer Obey was gaining ground and by the end of the 1960s, both Obey and King Sunny Adé had emerged as the popular acts of the period. However, Dairo continued with his music, touring Europe and North America in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also involved in a few interest groups dealing with the property rights of musicians. Between 1994 and 1995, he was a member of the Ethnomusicology department at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Beautiful Nubia is the performing name for Segun Akinlolu, a Nigerian born singer and lead for the Roots Renaissance Band. Beautiful Nubia and the Roots Renaissance Band is Nigeria’s foremost contemporary folk and roots music group. Formed and fronted by songwriter and poet Segun Akinlolu (aka Beautiful Nubia), the group’s songs and albums have achieved cult status among their loyal and growing fans spread across the world.Born in Ibadan in 1968, Segun started writing songs at a very young age. He drew his early influence from the traditional culture which was prevalent in the form of oral poetry, theatre, music and folklore.A reward came in 2002 with the release of the ground-breaking third album Jangbalajugbu. It is estimated that more than 50 million Nigerians wake up each day to “Owuro L’Ojo (How D’You Do?)”, one of the hit tracks in the album. To date, Jangbalajugbu has sold in excess of a million copies (not including the large numbers sold in the open market by pirates). Since then, the band has released five more albums, all of which, except the most recent, were recorded with vintage analogue equipment at the historic Afrodisia (Decca) Studios in Lagos. Awilele (2004) is a no-holds-barred celebration of the artist’s political views, Fere (2006) earned BN the sobriquet “Nigeria’s King of Melody” and Kilòkilò (2007) and Irinajo (2009) both confirm what can be described as the Beautiful Nubia style and his stubborn refusal to be pigeon-holed. The albums, deeply political, have cemented his reputation in Nigeria and beyond as an advocate for social justice. It is the combination of enjoyable entertainment and provocative thoughtfulness that has come to define BN’s style. Sun No Dey Sleep, Oriojori-Eternal Spirits and Keere, the latest albums, continue that tradition. The music has garnered excellent reviews in leading African/world music publications. It has been nominated for music awards and topped international/world charts on community, grassroots and campus radio stations.
Segun Akinlolu graduated from the University of Ibadan with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree in 1992 and worked as a Vet Doctor for about 8 years. He also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma from the Nigeria Institute of Journalism.
Notable Industry Nods:
Best Artist from West Africa Nominee – Kora All-Africa Music Awards – 2000
Best Group from West Africa Nominee – Kora All-Africa Music Awards – 2001
Best Political Song – Ontario Council of Folk Festivals – 2004
Awilele – Number One on the !Earshot International Charts – 2005
Favourite World Music Artist Nominee – Canadian Independent Music Awards – 2006
Kilokilo – Number One on the !Earshot International Charts – 2008
Favourite World Music Artist Nominee – Canadian Independent Music Awards – 2009
Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo (popularly known as D’banj, born 9 June 1980) is a Nigerian singer-songwriter, harmonica player, and businessman. He has won several music awards, including the awards for Best African Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2007, Artist of the Year at the MTV Africa Music Awards 2009, Best International Act: Africa at the 2011 BET Awards, and Best-selling African Artist at the 2014 World Music Awards.He adopted the stage name D’banj, a combination of his first name Dapo and his surname Oyebanjo. D’banj is currently best known internationally for his 2012 summer hit “Oliver Twist”, an uptempo dance fusion of Afrobeat and electronic dance music that topped the African charts 2011 and was a top 10 hit in the UK singles chart in 2012 reaching No. 2 on the UK R&B chart.
Born in 1943 in Ikole-Ekiti in Ondo State, Nigeria, Orlando Julius Ekemode (“Orlando was really a nickname, taken from the Nigerian actor, Orlando Martins“) had started in music from an early age, becoming the school drummer and learning flute, bugle and other instruments at St Peters Anglican School in Ikole-Ekiti.O.J. and the Modern Aces embarked on a series of landmark 45s for Phillips / Polydor. Their first single, ‘Jagua Nana’, released in ’64, became an instant hit and catapulted the previously little known band into the Lagos limelight. Further hits followed – ‘Coverless’ (which briefly earned Orlando the nickname ‘The Coverless Man’), ‘Ololufe’ and ‘E Se Rere’. 1966, four years before Fela Kuti would unleash his formidable ‘afrobeat’ sound on the world, Orlando Julius had revolutionised the sound of Lagos with his fusion of highlife and American soul on the groundbreaking debut album “Super Afro Soul”.UK label Strut reissued ’Super Afro Soul’ before other labels including Soundway and Vampi Soul began releasing his Afro Sounders recordings, all spreading the word on OJ’s pioneering role in Nigerian music.
Because of problems with Nigerian electricity through NEPA which would often cause his studio equipment to blow as well as equipment losses through theft, Orlando moved to Ghana in 2003 after playing live at Panafest (the long-running Pan-African Historical Theatre Project). He set up a studio in Accra and recorded his most recent album there, ’Longevity & Reclamation’. He moved back to Nigeria in 2008 and still lives in the outskirts of Lagos.
Other recent projects have included recordings with Hot Casa signing Setanta including a cover of his classic ’Ijo Soul’ and sessions with young musicians in Nigeria for a British Council project in association with Soundthread. At the time of writing, he is planning an all-new album with UK super-group The Heliocentrics for release on Strut in April 2014. He also performed his first ever gig in the UK in September 2013 for Afri-Kokoa at London’s Rich Mix.