Live band performances have always been more than just entertainment, as they reflect Nigeria’s high society, symbol of cultural and societal narratives and clout. These select bands played a crucial role in 2023, not only as performers but also as architects of experiences that resonate with the collective conscience of big parties in Nigeria. Adedayo Adejobi looks at the bands that will dictate Nigeria’s social pace in 2024
The Shuga Band: Akinloye Tofowomo
There’s a distinct difference between the phrases ‘the best’ and ‘the biggest’ when attempting to decipher a complex debate. One is a subjective statement, while the other is objective. Although a degree of subjectivity is typically the culprit behind a bold claim, which then spurs a volley of protest, one that confirms its own biases to be fuelled by a subjectivity disguised as alleged objectivity. It seems as if we can never escape the realm of opinions, especially when we are talking about music or any other type of art.
Time is another significant factor in deciding which group has survived within the annals of popular opinion. As newer generations of music listeners emerge, simply ask them who they think is the biggest band. The answer would probably differ from generation to generation. But just as time can be highly unforgiving to bands, as many great groups have been forgotten over the years, several classic bands have survived the test of time, which could add a level of authenticity to a subjective answer.
To be more specific, acts such as Queen, Ik Diaro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Victor Uwaifo, Osita Osadebe, and many more have, at one point or another in years past, been considered for the title of ‘the popular band in Nigeria’. The answer, however, is more definitive than what the ambiguity of subjectivity would have us believe.
The Shuga Band goes above and beyond any of its rivals when it comes to the sheer volume of bookings, sales, and streams of their music. As at 2023, they played the biggest high-profile corporate and social circle gigs in the country, ending the year with a spectacular 4-part live performance on Arise Television on Christmas day on the invitation of the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of the THISDAY Media Group and ARISE News Channel, Prince Nduka Obaigbena. The 5-hour performance was broadcast across the world.
Akinloye Tofowomo has proven time and time again that he was born with an entrepreneurial spark, monumental dreams, calculated audacity, and an irrepressible flame that refuses to be extinguished by the pragmatic fears that often grip others.
Akiin Shuga’s style and appearance, which no doubt fascinate his fans, may change. One thing that remains constant is his music. His music is diverse, as much as his equally varied fan base. He isn’t just a singer, but a spectacle who has remained relevant throughout his career. For the musician, each live performance is a unique visual experience, an auditory journey, and an immersive world for his audience—an extension of his artistry.
There are hundreds of bands in the country, but over the years, the popular consensus by Nigerians is that the Shuga Band has been consistently amazing. For Akinloye, 2024 is a new season of dreams and purpose, of being and becoming, of storms and stillness, and of embracing it all with fortitude and grace.
Revenue sources: performance fees; tours; speaking engagements; non-governmental organisations; cash ‘spraying’’; equipment leasing; farming; real estate; and technology firms.
Desmond Emokiniovo – Veentage Band
Desmond can be likened to a phoenix, the mythical golden bird associated with renewal and regeneration. The creative mastermind and his late wife of inestimable value, Ejiro, came into the game 10 years ago. Since then, their mystical rise and musical achievements have been nothing short of phenomenal, becoming a very prominent feature in Nigeria’s live band business.
2023 was a year, as Desmond can indeed say, and the sky is back to its silvery and opalescent state. Despite his fair share of top-notch gigs last year, Desmond tied the knot after three years without Ejiro, his much-talked-about wife, who died in Dubai.
Later in the year, he also celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Veentage Band, releasing a one-hour music compilation of major cover songs as interpreted by his band.
The Veentage Band, known for their energetic live performances that perfectly capture their hippy style, has become famous for their unique blend of funk, highlife, and rap. Their shows are like a burst of energy, with the band often engaging in playful antics and improvisation. For anyone who appreciates good music, Desmond and his band did a number of those songs.
With an array of unforgettable gigs in 2023 and 2024 on full throttle, the Veentage Band is indeed a band with raw and infectious energy to watch out for this year.
Revenue source: performance fees, cash-spraying, equipment leasing, studio rentals, and production.
Ayo Ajekigbe- Faith Band
Given the vastness of Nigeria’s rich social circle, Ayo Ajekigbe, the serial entrepreneur and brainchild behind Faith Music International combines the strengths of the country’s music greats like Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Aiyefele, Ayinde Barrister, Salawa Abeni, Ayinla Kollington, and Orlando Owoh, amongst others.
For someone known to be averse to the ever-prying eyes of the media, he is hardly ever in the news. The best near-description of him can be captured in his live stage performances, which tell a better story of a man who has mastered his craft. Despite the huge success and cult following he has garnered across Nigeria’s owambe big party spenders, the unassuming, suave, humble, and refined Ayo Ajekigbe, actively rejects the lifestyle of fame and excesses that accompanies his job.
Last year, he toured five states (Atlanta, Texas, Chicago, Maryland, and Oklahoma) in the United States of America, playing high-profile gigs, and clinching recognition awards at home and abroad. This year, he is looking to tour London and the United States under exclusive new management.
He’s also not slowing down on his charity initiatives for the elderly, widows, downtrodden families, and orphaned children. Faith Band, one name that reigned supreme in 2023, has expanded its operations and other arms of the parent company for maximum efficiency. He is set to reel out undiluted fun in 2024 across jùjú, Fuji, afrobeat, highlife, and others.
Revenue source: performance fees, cash spraying at gigs, live and digital studio session rentals, equipment importation and leasing, and farming.
Elijah Odiakose – Cool Ice Band
The Cool Ice Band, known for their high-energy performances and their ability to connect with audiences of all sizes, are fast growing and becoming one of the big names in Nigeria’s live music, courtesy of Elijah Odiakosa’s rising career, continued influence, and resounding success in the industry.
When he left Benin, his homestead, eight years ago, he had one mission: to run a band of talented young musicians, delivering unique and exciting musical experiences. True to his mantra, he has done a good job at that so far, and he’s not resting on his oars.
For a man not showing signs of slowing down, he now has a wide array of clientele spread across the old, young, and millennials who enjoy his youthful band.
With 2024 starting on a good note for the band’s lead singer, guitarist, and managing director, Elijah Odiakose, he just launched a state-of-the-art new live and digital music studio in the heart of Lagos. This is a dream come true and a testament to his drive, talent, and potential. Having worked hard on this for a long time, it is amazing to see it pay off.
Cool Ice Band is one achiever who should be looked out for this year.
Revenue Source: Performance fees, equipment leasing, food distribution, and car sales.
Kolawole Rogbinyin -The Metro Band
Across the Lagos nightlife scene, the Metro Band has become a regular staple known for its combination of fast-paced alternative popular music and influences. From their name, their style is inspired by the styles of the 1975 fun and fresh band, combining the best of popular music with dreamy, smooth, and exceptional vocals and musical abilities to provide a first-class experience.
In the insular realm of cover bands, the Metro Band is fast creating a name for itself. They cover everything from ‘80s pop to modern dance to pop to slow rock ballads. The image they concoct is a careful balancing act from urban chic to island relaxed, mixed with solid instrumental performances, complimentary backup vocals, and topped up by the lead singer’s pitch, energy, and assertive front vocals, which are on point.
Known industry-wide as a man of courage, conviction, and laser focus, the music entrepreneur, real estate guru, and Managing Director of the Metro Band, Kolawole Rogbinyin, is living true to the unique essence of his name as the new bride on the live band scene, stealing the hearts of event planners. The metro band, in such a short span, has gained traction and become the toast of major clubs on the island, big firms, and the official band of the Nigerian Breweries family.
This new year is looking very bright, promising, and profitable for the metro band, as they have just upgraded to some of the best sound, stage, and lighting equipment the world has to offer.
As for the future, Metro Band plans to record their first album and continue to play as many shows as possible around the country and beyond.
Revenue Source: Performance fees, cash spraying at gigs, equipment leasing, logistics, and real estate.
O’labake Ogunnaike- Zigma Band
In this clime, many are often taught to think of Nigeria’s live band history as a cavalcade of great men and their bands. But from its beginnings, the music was often in the hands of women, and Omolabake Ogunnaike is one woman who is bringing the women folk on the music scene to the fore.
A blazing hot singer whose personality is as big and effusive as her talents, Ogunnaike’s mastery of classical, strides boogie-woogie, and modern jazz piano into boisterous, and often clean performances. An old-school performer at heart, she could amaze and amuse an audience in equal measure.
While women in music have been outnumbered by their male counterparts in the past, Ogunnaike’s phenomenal presence on the scene makes it easy to look forward to the rise of other women in the music industry. Damilola Ogunnaike is undeniably a cool, smart, dignified, and criminally underrated vocal powerhouse.
With her theatrical live performances, she has silenced critics. Leaving oil and gas, real estate, and logistics for music, her passion speaks to the power of focus, rising prominence, and significant success within a short time. Her disruptive tinge makes her the band to watch out for this year.
For the champion of all kinds of music and repertoire, in 2024, the mission as a band is to showcase young female musicians and to improve opportunities for women and girls through advocacy, mentorship, programming, and performance.
Revenue source: Performance fees, cash ‘spraying’ at gigs, oil and gas, real estate.