Why the return of Duncan Mighty is a false narrative

Rewriting the script on Duncan Mighty's career trajectory

The size of Nigeria’s population has fostered a sustainable music industry that exists almost entirely independent of the government. Though it leaves room for new talents to emerge without the burden of competing with established artists, it can be quite an uphill challenge to cross over to the mainstream even after establishing regional support. Before music and the internet became so intertwined, entertainers discovered that Lagos had the perfect blend of business and culture code to make it a mecca for artists with a desire to cater to the masses.

Duncan Mighty was born in Port Harcourt, where he began singing and playing instruments in the church. After studying audio engineering in school, he eventually put out his debut project, ‘Koliwater’, in 2008. Though the album’s stand out tracks, “Ijeoma” and “Scatter My Dada”, enjoyed heavy rotation in the eastern parts of the country, it barely made any impact in other parts. He’d follow up with subsequent projects, ‘Ahamefuna (Legacy)’‘Footprints’, ‘Grace & Talent’ and ‘The Certificate’, which eventually helped push his renown across the rest of the country. But while his acclaim became increasingly undebatable with hits like “Obianuju” in 2011, he never seemed to have the same national coverage his counterparts from that golden Afropop era had.

While 2Face, D’banj, P Square and others were pulling shows across the country and bagging endorsement deals, Duncan Mighty remained in his Port Harcourt hometown, doubling-down on home base support. Even after collaborating with polarizing artists like Phyno, Wande Coal and Timaya, he remained an industry outsider, who released music from the South of Nigeria that occasionally edged into mainstream airplay.

Fast forward two years and “Fake Love” is released, shifting the status quo Port Harcourt’s first son initially seemed bent on maintaining. The song quickly became the biggest song in the country after its release in May and saw him reach a previously elusive commercial peak. The widespread acceptance of the subsequent features he released in quick succession only further emphasizes the fact. Though the public quickly credited Duncan Mighty’s resounding national popularity to the star power of Wizkid’s, it’s Duncan Mighty who should actually be getting credited for Wizkid’s indigenous allure.

To understand just how influential Duncan Mighty is to the present sound of Afropop, it’s imperative to learn how Afropop has morphed over the years. Because Afropop employs a wide range of influences, to be a fan is to be able to distinguish between the pop and the more alternative variations of the dynamic genre. Listeners must adapt to the urban-folk sound of Simi and Adekunle Gold and it’s Afroojuju highlife influences, acclimate  Olamide’s indigenous sound, using the brashness of rap to create a street-fueled Afropop style, while being fully aware that the most dominant sound on the radio sounds nothing like that.

Thanks to artists like Tekno and Davido, last year saw the sound on radio shift to a more mellow highlife infused Afropop that seemed tailored to Duncan Mighty’s technique. Though Davido admitted drawing inspiration from the Port Harcourt legend for his biggest songs in 2017, “If” and “Fall”, no one could have guessed the singer would be as prominent as he has been in 2018.

It may have taken a while, but Duncan Mighty is finally getting the recognition he deserves for adapting the indigenous genre. For the most part, 2Face and Flavor have shared the credit for sustaining highlife in the mainstream Afropop, but with the mass acclaim for each new release and guest feature, Duncan Mighty is engraving his face into the Mount Rushmore of highlife pioneers. And seeing as it’s this indigenous sound that is now taking Afropop globetrotting at the hands of his successors, Wizkid and Davido, it’s selling it short to regard to Duncan Mighty’s recent string of hits as a return. Though he certainly has more spotlight, he never left.
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You are meeting Debola at a strange time in his life. He wandered into a dream and lost his way back. Tweet at him @debola_abimbolu

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