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Arts, Music and Dance

Virtually all Nigerian cultures have their own traditions of music and dance, which are central to the way Nigerians remember their past and celebrate their present. Songs and dances are played on drums, flutes, trumpets, stringed instruments, xylophones, and thumb pianos, and are often linked to specific places and events, such as the harvest. Although traditional song and dance continue in modern Nigeria—especially in rural areas and on ceremonial occasions—their central place in Nigerian life is threatened by the spread of radios, tape recorders, video cassette recorders (VCRs), and other mass-culture media, especially among youth. Sometimes, however, modern media allow musicians using traditional instruments and forms to reach a mass audience.

Popular music in Nigeria began in the late 1940s with the arrival of highlife music from Ghana. Highlife blended Western sounds ranging from big bands and guitars with African beats and instruments. Among the leading early bands were those of Rex Jim Lawson and Victor Olaiya. During the 1960s and 1970s, King Sunny Ade and I. K. Dairo, among others, established a new style of music known as juju. A rhythmic dance music style, juju blends Western instruments with elements of traditional African music. In the 1980s and 1990s Fela Anikulapo Kuti commanded a large following, both in Nigeria and internationally, with a form of Afro-Beat inspired by funk, jazz, and highlife and accompanied by provocative lyrics in Yoruba and pidgin.

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