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Nigeria’s Alté scene: Family ties in all its forms

On our May theme of “Family in all its forms,” we delved into the growing genre of Nigeria’s alternative afrobeat scene. The neo sound takes its route from Nigeria’s street sound, spreading its blueprint from the R&B sector and planting seeds in the diaspora community. With a sprinkle of West Africa’s most talented dipping their toes in the genre, we deep-dived into the alté family and its growing pioneers.

Alternative music, more popularly known as “alté” music essentially refers to the freedom of expression through music and the arts, in Nigeria. To be honest, Alté is not really definitive. It allows room for innovation and the reinvention of how music is perceived in Nigeria. It’s a musical movement that is all about the experimentation of music and having your own, individual style and being able to own it. 

The Nigerian musical group DRB LasGidi built the foundations of the Alté music scene, starting back in 2007, creating a musical blend of Afrobeats and R&B, a bit of dancehall, forming this unique and ‘different’ sound.

With the release of their album ‘Pioneers’ in 2020, Boj, Teezee and Fresh L collaborated with new upcoming Alté artists in Nigeria – including Santi, TEMS, Wani, Pretty Boy D-O, Lady Donli and Odunsi the Engine. A truly significant and defining moment for the Alté scene in Nigeria.

The collective created a ‘Pioneers’ documentary signifying their impact and their influence in shaping the Alté scene into what it has become. Watch the film here:

nigerian alte

Photo of Lady Donli

Teezee speaks about their project (‘Pioneers’) and says, “It’s really about creative freedom and being able to experiment, and getting people out of the idea that all music that comes out of Nigeria – whether it’s Afrobeats or Afropop, has to sound a certain way”. 

Alté is all about versatility and defying stereotypes of what African music “really” is. 

The whole Alté movement is really important for young creatives because it has shown people that you can actually be yourself and do your own thing and be successful at it and not have to worry about people not accepting you. There’s always someone out there that will most likely like something that you’re doing so just do your thing”, Boj says. 

A new generation of Nigerian artists are evolving, creating this expressive and unique sound.  This style of music shows that Nigerian music is not monolithic, rather, it is a mix of many subgenres. 

Nigeria’s pioneering alté scene is growing immensely. It showcases the different approaches Nigerian music can take. Artists like Odeal, Odunsi, Pretty Boy D-O, Tay Iwar, Ayra Starr and many more are breaking musical boundaries, freeing themselves from this conserved way in which music is perceived in Nigeria. Rather than following the mainstream sound, young creatives approach music with a fresh and unique take. They are finding their own sound, style and comfortability in music and making it their own.

nigerian alte

Photo of Arya Starr

The Alté scene in Nigeria is a revolutionary movement, exemplifying a cultural renaissance and the transformation of the conserved culture in Nigeria, into something more innovative and liberating. 

Lagos musician Tems stands as a strong female voice in Nigeria, particularly for the Alté scene. Her music is highlighting “how society has chained us”, as the chains in Tems’, ‘Try Me’ video demonstrates. She says that the only way we can be freed is through art. It is a revolutionary movement, in which young Nigerian artists are transforming the sound of Nigeria and reclaiming freedom. Tems is THAT girl!

The creativity and individuality that is expressed through Alté music is so fascinating. Odunsi’s project ‘rare’, my personal favourite, has a beautiful blend of sounds; from R&B, afrofusion, soul, creating his own individualistic sound.

Lagos based artist Cruel Santino, is one of, if not, the most known artist involved in this movement, influenced by many American hip-hop/ rap artists. Lady Donli alternatively, has heavily influences from Fela Kuti’s afro beats, and African American neo-soul, combining all these sounds to create her own unique sound.  

All these young Nigerian artists are showcasing alternative ways in which music in Nigeria can be perceived. The movement is made up of bold and powerful characters, expressing themselves through their music. It’s a form of art. 

However, the Alté scene goes beyond just music. It is about art, fashion, literature, culture, AND music. The scene is continually evolving and is going to start a new cultural renaissance. 

There is no limit when it comes to Alté music. 

I’ve linked my Spotify playlist below which beautifully encapsulates feels of Afro-fusion music, Alté and alternative R&B: