History Of International Music Industry In Nigeria: Davido Is Not The First African To Be Signed By Foreign Music Label- Ike A. Offor

By Ike A. Offor Editor

It is important that we understand history and state it as it is in order to educate our citizens and others in Nigeria and Africa. In the history of Nigerian Music Industry, International Music Industries like Philips, Sony, EMI, Tuff Gong, Virgin Records, Island Recods, PolyGram, JVC and several others have been in Nigeria and other African countries as early as 1930s. They have signed a longlist of Nigerian musicians and in similar fashion in the rest of Africa.

While it is highly important to note that the return of big international music labels back to Nigeria, and their recent deal with Davido as something very encouraging and great for our vibrant Music and Entertainment Industry. It is very relevant to teach our citizens, especially young generation that it is not the first time these great lables in music and entertainment industry have been to Nigeria or Africa. Also, important to state that Davido is not the first to be signed to foreign record label. To say so, as it has been said in social media network is very erroneous and must be corrected .

By the early 1930s, British record labels such as “His Master’s Voice” had started to record palm-wine, and more celebrities emerged, including Ojoge Daniel, Tunde Nightingale and Speedy Araba. These artists, along with Tunde King, established the core of the style which was called jùjú, and remained one of the most popular genres in Nigeria throughout the 20th century. Some Jùjú musicians were itinerant, including early pioneers Ojoge Daniel, Irewole Denge and the “blind minstrel” Kokoro


Apala is a style of vocal and percussive Muslim Yoruba music. It emerged in the late 1930s as a means of rousing worshippers after the fasting of Ramadan. Under the influence of popular Afro-Cuban percussion, apala developed into a more polished style and attracted a large audience. The music required two or three talking drums (omele), a rattle (sekere), thumb piano (agidigbo) and a bell (agogo). Haruna Ishola was the most famous apala performer, and he later played an integral role in bringing apala to larger audiences as a part of fuji music.

Osita Osadebe

In the early 1980s, both Obey and Ade found larger audiences outside of Nigeria. In 1982, Ade was signed to Island Records, who hoped to replicate Bob Marley’s success, and released Juju Music, which sold far beyond expectations in Europe and the United States. Obey released Current Affairs in 1980 on Virgin Records and became a brief star in the UK, but was not able to sustain his international career as long as Ade. Ade led a brief period of international fame for jùjú, which ended in 1985 when he lost his record contract after the commercial failure of Aura (recorded with Stevie Wonder) and his band walked out in the middle of a huge Japanese tour. Ade’s brush with international renown brought a lot of attention from mainstream record companies, and helped to inspire the burgeoning world music industry

Barclay/PolyGram, MCA/Universal, Celluloid, EMI Nigeria, JVC, Wrasse, Shanachie, Knitting Factory signed and worked with Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

Highlife music legend like Chief Osita Osadebe “populary known as the Chief of Highlife Music”, signed to foreign record labels like Polygram Records, Philips, etc. Also, Oliver De Coque, Ebenezer Obey and several others, just to mention but few, were signed to various international record labels.

PolyGram was the name of the major label recording company started by Philips and Siemens as a holding company for their music interests in 1979. The name was chosen to reflect the Siemens interest Polydor Records and the Philips interest Phonogram. The company traced its origins through Deutsche Grammophon back to the inventor of the flat disk gramophone, Emil Berliner.

Sunny Ade

In 1999, it was sold to Seagram which owned MCA. The newly merged company was named Universal Music Group or UMG. When the new company faced financial difficulties, its parent Seagram was sold in large part to Vivendi, and for a brief time, the company was known as Universal Vivendi, or in some instances, Vivendi Universal. Vivendi is the present owner of UMG.

 In the 1940s, the record business was spread out within Philips: research in the Eindhoven labs, development elsewhere in Eindhoven, recording in Hilversum, manufacturing in Doetinchem, distribution from Amsterdam and exports from Eindhoven. During the late 1940s, Philips combined its various music businesses into Philips Phonografische Industrie (PPI), a wholly owned subsidiary.

PPI’s early growth was based on alliances. A merger was first proposed with Decca of London in late 1945, but was rejected by Edward Lewis, Decca’s owner. (PolyGram finally acquired Decca in 1979.)

In the early 1950s, Philips set itself the goal of making PPI the largest record company in Europe.


PPI’s second attempt at a merger was with Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft (DGG). DGG, owned by Siemens AG and well known for its classical repertoire, had been the German licensee for Decca from 1935. DGG also owned Polydor Records. Shortly after PPI was founded it had made a formal alliance with DGG to manufacture each other’s records, coordinate releases and not to poach each other’s artists or bid against each other for new talent. PPI and DGG finally merged in 1962.

The alliance with DGG still left PPI without repertoire in Britain or the US. But in 1951, after Columbia had failed to renew its international distribution agreement with EMI, PPI agreed to distribute Columbia recordings outside the US and have Columbia distribute its recordings inside the US. This agreement ran until 1961, when Columbia set up its own European network. PPI signed a worldwide distribution deal with Mercury Records in 1961

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