It’s quite remarkable that when I began this entry for our ‘Dear Diary’, i practically had no clue of what it’s contents would be, but then; that ‘voice’ (that speaks to all of us, one way or the other) spoke to me in these exact words; ‘LET IT COME FROM THE SOUL’ and then….It hit me…..’SOUL’.
The rapidly escalating quality of Soul & RnB Music within Nigerian shores has definitely caught my attention, and certainly the attention of curious parties alike. Largely attributed to the increasing number of returnees to the motherland & the level of exposure to various multimedia platforms; this music genre has been wholly embraced by artistes & producers alike. Though mainly characterized on the home front by a lot of largely commercial ‘pop influenced’ mainstream Rn’B; the genre has gradually emerged from the shadows to carve a niche for itself in our hearts & ‘souls’ as an independent genre, particularly ‘NEO SOUL’.

NEO SOUL is a term coined by Kedar Massenburg (who is an American record producer and record label executive, who was the president of the legendary Motown Records from 1997 to 2004) during the mid/late 90s to market and describe a style of music that had emerged from Soul & Contemporary RnB. This style of music possesses a deep rooting in Soul Music and is characterized by a less conventional sound than the ‘average everyday’ RnB. It fuses elements of Jazz, Funk & Hip Hop to pop fusion & African Music. It’s identification has been further expanded by its conscious driven lyrics, which would provide ample explanation for its recent emergence the Nigerian underground music scene.
As a sucker for GOOD music, I constantly find myself in Jazz Clubs & music bars (which usually provide firm footing for artistes with the necessary eclectic prowess,who nurse Neo Soul ambitions). The creativity reflected in the depth of the lyrics, instrumental ensemble and the message conveyed virtually compel the listener to elevate his/her socio – political grasp on societal dealings, economic affairs & spiritual balance.
International names such as D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, India Arie, Amiel Larrieux, Lauryn Hill and of course; Maxwell (who recently graced the Nigerian stage with a stellar performance at Classic FM 97.3’s ‘Valentines With Maxwell’) have highlighted the genres capability to record commercial breakthroughs. The unexpected success of D’Angelo’s debut album ‘BROWN SUGAR’ in 1995 has been regarded by several music critics as the inspiration behind the coinage of the term ‘NEO SOUL’. The genres characteristics have been described as ‘everything from avant-garde RnB to organic soul…a product trying to develop something outside the norm of RnB.
For us within our shores, the most notable description is the fusion of Jazz, Funk and particularly African music elements into the genre. This sound has been brought to the forefront of the local music scene by artistes such as Ego (who recently released her debut album titled FIRSTEPS), Nneka (who’s recorded international success as well) and underground artistes such as Lami Phillips, Nene Soul Diva, Amaka (of the Thoroughbreds fame), Tonii, Ibiyemi & a host of others. Considering the aforementioned, It is almost conclusive to say that the genre’s passion, soul-searching qualities and harmony make it more appealing to female folk, but on the other hand, the deep sense of maturity & charisma exhibited in by its participants, make it just as endearing to male folk too; with artistes such as Bez holding forte on the alternative soul scene and Capital F.E.M.I taking cue, but with a more traditional RnB approach).

Finally, our brief stroll in the domestic ‘Neo Soul’ park cannot be complete without harnessing all the creative talents involved, with the right fusion of African Rhythms & Sounds. This is achieved by an equally creative & visionary producer with Cobhams Asuquo holding the mantle on the local front, while budding ‘Neo Soul Creators’ are slowly emerging, and with the rapid rate of ‘Neo Soul’ converts emerging from the underground local scene, it may just be safe to say that we can continuously expect one word……QUALITY!!!!

By Sly Ojigbede; On Air Personality/Morning Show Host/Rap & Hip Hop Classics; CLASSIC FM 97.3 Twitter @Slydunbarus