Wizkid, Fela Kuti & more feature on Sex Education soundtrack
Also featuring Odunsi The Engine, Tiwa Savage, Skales & more
Also featuring Odunsi The Engine, Tiwa Savage, Skales & more
Over the last two weeks, very few things have hogged pop culture conversations on Twitter timelines like Sex Education. After a brief COVID-19 enforced break, the much-loved show returned for its third season and managed to add new layers to our collective relationships with the show’s wacky characters. For many African viewers, one of the most intriguing characters has been Eric Effiong, the gay high-schooler played by Scottish-Rwandan actor, Ncuti Gatwa who brings a familiar slice of home to the superbly written show. One of the season’s most interesting scenes presents itself in the 5th episode when Eric is getting ready for his trip to Nigeria, with Skale’s 2014 hit, “Shake Body” as the soundtrack.
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Since he stepped onto the screen as Otis Milburn’s best friend, Eric has been on a journey that has drawn many in and made one of Sex Education’s most beloved characters. In season three, as part of a subplot, Eric heads to Nigeria with his sisters and mother for a family member’s wedding, and we are confronted with Nigeria’s homophobic legacy and the institutionalised silencing of queer lives. As Eric’s plot takes Lagos on, the episode pays homage to Lagos’ cultural creative scene, using some of the most iconic songs from the country to enliven its storytelling process. From the iconic “Sweet Mother” we heard playing in the background at the wedding to the underground party soundtracked by Odunsi’s “Star Signs”, here’s a list of all the Nigerian songs referenced in Sex Education’s third season. Dig in.
Much of the life and exploits of afrobeat pioneer, Fela Kuti, blurs the lines between fantasy and reality but the years after immediately returning from studying music at the Trinity College of Music in London was spent carnivorously practising fusions of highlife, jazz, and soul with his band, Koola Lobitos. Before heading to the United States in 1969 where his conscious awakening is credited to have taken place, the music made by Fela and Koola Lobitos was a light and often humorous look at the dynamics of post-colonial life. “Oyejo” was made in those exploratory days and is a story of a love interest who has rejected Fela’s romantic persuasions. Originally presumed to be lost to time, the song was re-released as part of the Highlife-Jazz and Afro-Soul series in 2008, giving a view of Fela Kuti’s wicked humor just as the building block of afrobeat’s formation was being laid.
Very few songs are as important to the unrelenting forward march of afropop as Davido’s “Fall” is. Released during a period of his life that came to be known as Back to Basics, the pop star re-focused his attention and energy on the African audience after hitting a snag with his commercially-panned ‘Son Of Mercy’ E.P. By the time “Fall” dropped in 2017, Davido was already on a high, following the release of the equally successful “If.” Produced by Kiddominant, “Fall” ensured that Davido was going to close the year out as the most dominant music force in the country. In the years since its release, “Fall” has also caught fire in western markets, becoming gold in the United States and Canada.
When Skales released “Shake Body” in 2014, he was a down-on-his-luck singer who had been dropped by Empire Mates Entertainment despite being an original member of the label’s iconic EME Boyz line-up. Primarily a rapper in the early years, by 2014, Skales’ music had considerably evolved to include other sonic elements. “Shake Body,” a quintessential afropop anthem, proved that he could compete at the highest levels of Nigerian pop and also gave the Kaduna-born musician’s career a new lease of life that he parlayed into albums like ‘Man Of The Year’ and ‘The Never Say Never Guy’.
Much has been written about the alté community and how they fundamentally altered the DNA of modern Nigerian pop but, back in 2018, they were a niche community of artists experimenting with ’80s disco and glittering alt-pop. On ‘rare.’, his debut album, auteur, Odunsi (The Engine), crystallised the DIY aesthetic of the community, merging the early experimental sound of the scene with elements of bouncy Afropop. Featuring Runtown on “star signs,” the pair make a dedication to women invested in astronomy and debauchery for what is now heralded as a classic alté tune.
After a near-decade at the very top of Afropop, Tiwa Savage took a plunge into international waters with a global deal sealed with Universal Music in 2019. Her first album under the deal was 2020’s ‘Celia’, a cohesive body of work that explored the multiple sides of an African woman. Among a number of standouts, “Attention,” produced by Blaq Jerzee stands out for its teasing lyrics and fanciful theme. Ms. Savage sings of branching outside a relationship if her partner doesn’t give her quality attention. It’s the sort of dynamic song that made Celia such an entertaining listen and it ironically matches the context of Eric cheating on Adam in Lagos of all places.
Back in the pre-Made In Lagos times when fans hung on every Wizkid release as a possible lodestar of a bigger project, “Joro” was an instant fan favourite. Put out in 2019, “Joro” raced to the top of many Afropop charts in Nigeria and landed on many year-end lists. It also portended the stripped-down vocal style of ‘Made In Lagos’, infusing elements of Fela’s afrobeat but rejigging it with a subtle bounce that makes it a favourite for dance clubs. Predictably, it is the song playing in the club when Eric visits Lagos’ underground queer scene and shares a kiss with Oba.
There are few songs as instantly identifiable as Prince Nico Mbarga’s “Sweet Mother,” a timeless single that is among the most iconic song of all time from Nigeria. Less is known about the song’s creator, Prince Nico Mbarga, in contemporary times but the highlife musician was born to a Nigerian mother and Cameroonian father in Abakaliki in 1950. His spry voice and signature acoustic guitar made him a fixture on the highlife circuit and his iconic song, “Sweet Mother,” was recorded with his band, Rocafil Jazz and has become a notable soundtrack in Nigeria for anything that celebrates maternal figures. The single is regarded as one of the best-selling times in African history with a reported 13 million copies sold. Culturally, it is a staple in Nigerian households and has endured across generations.
Featured image credits/NATIVE