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International Music Resources by Country: Nigeria

International Music Resources offers an array of online and physical resources both freely available and/or offered by the George F. DeVine Music Library. The information included in these guides may serve as a starting point for the study and research of

Highway running through the Nigerian landscape

Citation (1)

Map of Nigeria

Citation (2)


Garland Encyclopedia of Music: Nigeria

Read more about music in Nigeria:

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Vol I: Africa

Facts in Brief

Nigerian flag

Official Name: Federal Republic of Nigeria

Languages: English, Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo

Cities: Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Abuja (capital)

Religions: Muslim, Christian

Population: 230,842,743

Area: 923,769 sq km

Artist Spotlight: Fela Anikulapo-Kuti

Nigerian musician Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti (1938-1997)

Nigerian pop musician Fela Kuti is credited as the ‘king of Afrobeat’, a style of music fusing highlife, jazz, soul, and traditional Yoruba sounds. Kuti studied trumpet, music theory and composition at Trinity College of Music in London, where he formed the band Koola Lobitos, which would later become the band Africa 70, in collaboration with drummer Tony Allen.

Kuti was a political activist and outspoken opponent of the Nigerian government, and released an extensive discography of protest music, notably the album Zombie (1977), a criticism of the Nigerian military. Many of his recordings and instruments were destroyed by the Nigerian government.

Kuti was posthumously nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021. A musical based on his life, Fela! by Bill T. Jones and Afrobeat band Antibalas, premiered on Broadway in 2009.


Avorgbedor, D.  (2001). Kuti [Ransome-Kuti; Anikulapo-Kuti], Fela. Grove Music Online.

Bender, W.  (2001). Afrobeat. Grove Music Online.

Listen to Fela Kuti's music on Alexander Street:

Fela Kuti: The Underground Spiritual Game

Nigerian Composers

Samuel Epke Akpabot

Listen to "Scenes from Nigeria: I. Pastorale (arr. for clarinet and piano)" by Samuel Akpabot:

Folk Music

Traditional Igbo Music

The music of Igbo is a large part of Nigerian culture. It is characterized primarily by the use of slit drums which are used in performance ensembles as well as in calling assemblies or delivering news. The most common slit-drum is the ekwe. Since Igbo is a tonal language, the double-slit ekwe drum can imitate all 5 tones to mimic speech. (1)

Rhythms used in an ikoro slit-drum ensemble


Traditional Yoruba Music

Yoruba traditional music is very diverse due to the many subcultures in the area. There are two types of vocal music- Orin (song) and Oriki (praise-chant). Orin uses melodic lines and encourages response lines from others. Oriki is more speech-sung and is divided into four distinct types categorized by distinct vocal qualities and literary styles. (2)

Yoruba drummers

Yoruba drummers in Kwara State (3)


Rattles are a percussive instrument often made of wicker, metal, or seedpods and filled with shells, beans, or pebbles. They can either be held or worn by dancers. These instruments can be extremely varied with how they are made but they share the same purpose of mimicking the rhythmic pattern of speech. (4)

Two wicker rattles

Image: Hartenberger Music Collection

A large rattle covered with woven beads

Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art

(1) Echezona, W. (2001). Igbo music. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 25 Sep. 2023

(2) Euba, A.  (2001). Yoruba music. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 25 Sep. 2023

(3) Baker, Melvin. Nigerian Drummers. Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY 2.0.

(4) Blades, J., & Schechter, J. (2001). Rattle. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 25 Sep. 2023



(1) Hadassah Photostorie Group. (2019). Nigeria Highways 08 [JPG]. Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

(2)  Europa World. Nigeria. Retrieved 7 August 2023 from