From big rooms to intimate spaces, live band music plays a key role in the lifeline of the entertainment value chain. With hundreds of incredible highlife arenas, gigs, and functions — including big clubs, it’s a formidable task to narrow down the best live music bands in Nigeria just to five, Adedayo Adejobi reports
Shuga Band- Akinloye Tofowomo
Call him the trailblazer, frontline revolutionist, innovator, and the ageless grandmaster of contemporary live band music in Nigeria, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The Ile-Oluji singer and shrewd businessman has show-business sewn into his DNA.
Year in, year out, he ranks top as the indisputable number one live band crooner. Akinloye Tofowomo, popularly known as Shuga by the high and mighty, and the lowly has made a name for himself. Like him or hate him, he’s become the biggest name in the business of providing live music and he’s been a delight to Nigeria’s nouveau rich’s social circle through his style of quality and ageless music. With great vocal strength and impeccable business strides, he’s reached towering heights only focused, diligent men could attain.
His band is like a circus, dance, Broadway show and gig rolled into one. From the country theme to old-school and the masquerade theme, it is noteworthy to say that of late, Akinloye has found a niche and knack for themed events.
Akin Shuga does not take his audience for granted. Every single night, he strives to make it ‘that special show’. When you look at how long he has been doing this and with the kind of reputation he has created for himself, it would be easy for him to just take a few nights easy but the man, even with his experience, still gives his all, every single night.
Seeing him perform at the yuletide season at a private gig put together by telecommunications mogul, Mike Adenuga, one is convinced again, that he is way ahead of his peers as a performer.
With Shuga, every band member is given time to shine, with a sound that takes in all genres from old skool to pop, highlife to sheer rock brilliance – blending the best of them all to create a world that can only be Shuga, never seeming contrived.
Although modest and a man of few words, Shuga has groomed talents and built the best singers from their raw talents to become vocal powerhouses.
From the Let’s Go album to Christmas in Africa, I Can Walk theme-song for polio premiered in Canada at the Rotary Convention and counting, with so many great songs to his credit, you can take a bet that if you watch Shuga perform two gigs the same day, he wouldn’t play the same repertoire of songs. He needn’t worry. Having released one of the most classic and artful albums of the year, his solo shine was no doubt an instant classic. Charm runs through all that he does. With cutting banter, a graceful poise, a smattering of classics, he is the songwriter’s songwriter.
Through the remarkable highlights that graced his extremely busy calendar, 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of Shuga Band tagged, Shuga ‘Coated’ alongside the band’s second album release at the Concert at Eko Convention centre. His first-of-its-kind gig in the history of a live band in Nigeria sold out.
The Shuga band in an equally incredible performance featured, proving its mettle in the acclaimed top chart movies of the last year King of Boys movie and Chief Daddy.
From top-notch corporate gigs to smouldering grunge-pop high life social functions and heavyweight political events of 2019, cosmopolitan, resplendent and magnetic talent Akin Shuga, who is the president of Association of Music Band Owners of Nigeria (AMBON) retains the highly coveted number one spot.
Revenue source: Performance fees; tours, music label; music management; consultancy business, speaking engagements, non-governmental organisation; cash ‘sprays’, equipment rental, and farming.
Veentage Band- Desmond Emokiniovo
Onstage, his charm and the wife’s charisma is disarmingly palpable. The duo makes a great power music couple doing magic on the music stage.
Held together by elastic dance moves and exquisite showmanship, Desmond Emokiniovo and his wife, have last year turned so many open fields and halls into a disco carnival.
In the space of five years, he has earned himself and retained the spot as a highly sought-after band.
While his unique sound was born as a result of the sinking ship and dwindling fortunes of the Sharp Band in the sweaty stage venues of Lagos, that intense energy of this Lagos dance floor staples is magnified by their ever-growing status as true classics. Ever since he left the dwindling band to set up a parallel business, Veentage has bloomed into a festival headlining, an arena-worthy force of nature in the live band business. His name is not far from the lips of the crème de la crème.
From its name, the band seems to have positioned itself well and is blessed with a uniquely great sound, blending vintage sound and music of this present generation. Five years and counting, it’s done well for itself to rank high in a very competitive space. Desmond has a newfound purpose, and the good ship of veentage sails on. The band works so well on stage with commendable energy, very good songs.
Without a doubt, Veentage Band is in the league of the best live band performers out there. Always flawless, the crowd is always involved.
With Desmond and Ejiro Emokiniovo, his music director who doubles as the pianist, fabulous showmanship and their stage presence is unmatched. Very few bands sound as good live, and even fewer sound better. In reality, Veentage Band Iron surpasses both of these. Live, they are unmatched.
It’s not likely anybody who has seen Veentage Band within the past five years would disagree that they should at least be in the second position. Not only have their performance skills got better with age but somehow age seems to have helped with their high energy levels.
Revenue source: Performance fees, equipment rentals, speaking engagements
Faith Band- Ayo Ajekigbe
In a class of his own, gentle, calm, suave and a master of his craft. No party is complete in Lagos High Life circle without Ayo Ajekigbe. There are no off-peak periods for the live band owner.
That the popular Faith Music Band is one of the hottest and a wave-making celebrity live bands in Nigeria today is not an exaggeration. The band’s strength is derived from humility, focus and discipline stand them out, so does the band’s customized signature attire and style with trendsetting sparkling white clothes matched with abeti-aja caps. Their innovation set a precedence fashion for celebrity live band musicians on stage.
For anyone whose seeing the Faith band perform lately, he’s gone strong on a new fresh repertoire to accommodate and cater to the varied audience of the old and young. From old skool to hip hop and his ageless music comfort zone, he is cutting across to keep all audiences.
For those who frequent Lagos parties, you must have one way or the other stumbled on Ayo Ajekigbe’s men dressed in white attire, prim and proper, well-organized, time-conscious, and clearly focused band.
At wedding receptions, birthdays, burial ceremonies and other social functions, the band has become the favourite of Lagos celebrities, who want an adaptive band that plays a potpourri of music from gospel, juju, and highlife to hip-hop and now old skool.
The founder and the leader of Faith Music Band is no one, but humility personified Ayo Ajekigbe, who had a dream to become a medical doctor, which was truncated by a government policy during the Lateef Jakande era. Being a brilliant student, who topped his class, he was his teacher’s delight as he carted away prizes and awards in school for outstanding performances.
He fell in love with King Sunny Ade, the late Biggie Wright, and Swing Paw-Paw. Ayo Ajekigbe is the band’s leader and chief executive officer of Faith Music Band. He began his music career in 1996 as the choirmaster of First Baptist Church Choir, Lagos Island. His sojourn into music started with his close friend, whom he met at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in Osun State.
He isn’t reinventing the wheel – his band is just a mixed grill of the good old-fashioned and new skool, for everyone and delivered with a scream in your face and a hand on your shoulder. Ayo Ajekigbe is arguably one of the most magnetic men in Nigeria’s live band business and going strong, he’ll be drawing his fans in for decades to come.
Scandal-free Ayo Ajekigbe who clocks 50 in March is married to Olapeju, his wife of inestimable value and soul mate and dream partner is making magic happen together.
With a resolve to slow down a bit to re-focus, re-calibrate and re-position the business to meet the growing demands, reality, and intricacies of the music business in the 21st century, he’s started a second line music company with a focus on strictly line-array speakers and equipment imports and sound productions.
Revenue source: Performance fees, cash ‘spraying’ at gigs, equipment importation and rentals and farming.
But you’ve danced to Eboni Band’s live music at some point. Yes, you have. To the super-rich and party rockers, Eboni Band is a name they have on speed dial.
In his late 40’s, the leader of the Eboni Band, superintends over one of the biggest and hottest live bands in Nigeria. The band’s name stems from his black skin. The father of three from Delta State came to Lagos 31 years ago whilst awaiting admission to study music at the Obafemi Awolowo University after clinching a grade 8 certification at the Victor Uwaifo School of Music in Warri. Since his foray into Lagos, he hasn’t looked back and fortune seems to have smiled on him.
His career kicked off in a Lagos studio as a backup singer and an engineer before he joined Onyeka Onwenu for two years. He then moved unto Sharp Band for five years and left to form the Eboni Band.
They may all play the same kind of music, but Godbless Ubeibifayen’s Eboni Band’s song presentation comes with the Eboni-style humour and laughter. He is set apart from his peers with his discipline, power dressing, humour and discretion on the quality and choice of what to play at social functions.
Blessed with longevity, the hard-working and consistent band will likely outlive most of today’s pop musicians. Busy every day, he’s said rake in mouth-watering figures in billing and patronage.
The success of the band is not sudden but gradual. When he started, it was as though there was no light at the end of the tunnel. But with focus, patience, faith, hard work, perseverance, and tenacity, the Eboni band became the band of choice in the social circle.
In his quest to create a band that would skillfully render a cross-section of music genres of hip hop, high-life, jazz, rhythm and blues, reggae to name a few, GodBless Ubiebifayen, who is also the lead vocalist and music director released a nine-track album titled, Girl Of My Dreams. Hilarious songs; Ogogoro, Girl of my Dreams, Body Calling and You Thief My Heart Comot will crack up any listener.
Revenue source: Performance fees, cash ‘spraying’ at gigs, equipment rental, farming and investment in Music Lounge.
SB Live – Seun Bankole
This young prodigy of Akinloye Tofowomo is no doubt a good ambassador who is not only making his former boss proud but also redefining the trade by adding his flair, style, panache and unique energy to what live band music should be.
To most party lovers residing in the mainland axis of Lagos, Seun Bankole, also known as SB, is not a strange name. The ebullient figure is taking over parties as the artiste of choice for people who love and enjoy a medley of songs from a band.
The Mushin-born dexterous keyboardist is an afro-pop artiste whose performance style has carved a niche for him in the entertainment circle and has earned him and his band the popular tag, ‘master of all trades’.
From his heyday of playing at Troy Lounge to becoming the toast of party lovers on the mainland, SB and has grown rapidly and gotten bigger, thus commanding attention transcending the shores of Nigeria.
The singer must be in awe of how far he’s come in a short time. It’s not far-fetched; his pedigree, diligence, and professionalism made that possible.
Within a short time frame, Seun Bankole has released at least five medley-styled albums and a single titled, ‘Gbemileke’ featuring 9ice.
The last year saw him junketing across the 10 states in the United States, with a testament of a sold-out gig roaster and an award-winning sold-out concert where he thrilled his fans.
Not resting on his laurels, he believed he hasn’t achieved anything extraordinary yet.
Revenue source: Performance fees, cash ‘spraying’ at gigs and equipment rental.