Heart of Arts

Beautiful Nubia: A Poet and Musical Icon

Toyin Falola


Music has registered itself as one of the most wondrous phenomena in the world for centuries now — from the Hurrian Hymn No. 6, which some civilizations consider humans’ first song, to the newer renditions of Burna Boy and other Afrobeats musicians — there is no denying that music has been around for as long as human societies have existed, and even if music in centuries past is not as organised as contemporary music, the fact remains that it serves the multi-functional purposes in today’s society.

The vitality of music to human societies owes to several reasons, chief of which is how potently it helps humans stay healthy and happy. This wonder is further solidified by how music transcends language barriers. Thus, a Hausa woman could fall in love with Italian music and, in the same breath, sing along to the song she’s listening to, although she has little to no proficiency in Italian. People have often demonstrated that they can sing beautifully and amazingly in a language they don’t speak or are not skilled in. It is, therefore, not shocking that Nigerian artists who sing in a mix of their indigenous language and English continue to command global attention and trends.

The multi-functionality of music comes into play in different ways in human society — for some, it is an escape route that opens up into happiness, no matter how fleeting it might be, and this is where calm and melancholic songs often come to bear in many people’s day-to-day activities. For some others, it is a means to vent, protest, and speak up against the status quo — giving rise to reggae, jazz, Afrobeat, and other activist genres. Yet, others find music as a form of entertainment. In most cases, the roles that music plays in people’s lives are not mutually exclusive and can co-exist and even complement each other.

Musicians vary according to the genre they sing, their fanbase, alignment, ideologies, and brand. Dr Olusegun Akinlolu — known to many by his stage name, Beautiful Nubia — is a prime example of a musician for whom music transcends a career choice or a means to an end. Closely studying Beautiful Nubia’s philosophies, beliefs, lyrics, band formation, musical arrangement, melody, brand, and stage name will prove that music is central to his life. First is the strategic choice of a stage name. Historical details portray Nubia as a prosperous, beautiful, and wealthy African state that has relations with the civilisations in Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. It is also credited as one of the cradles of civilisation and state formation as we know it today. When viewed through the lens of the songs in Beautiful Nubia’s discography and digging deeply into historical details in the choice of a stage name, choosing this particular name shows an intentional move to define an Afro-centric brand.

Furthermore, Beautiful Nubia’s genre and band formation reflect deep-seated intentionality. Born into and growing up in a developing Ibadan city, his exposure to the rich culture of the Ibadan Yoruba people massively contributed to his language acquisition, so much so that his Yoruba language repertoire is replete with solid and deep idioms, proverbs, and aphorisms. Choosing to sing folksongs in Yoruba means being willing to learn the intricacies of deploying literary devices in the Yoruba language without losing sight of the importance of rhythm and melody. This is an undertaking that surpasses mere language literacy or grammatical correctness. It borders on richness and language mastery that even some native speakers might not be able to attain.

1968 Ibadan, a vastly growing post-independent city that doubled as the capital of the new Western state, witnessed the birth of Olusegun Akinlolu. His earliest sojourn pointed him toward a career as a veterinary doctor, for which he studied at the University of Ibadan between 1987 and 1992. Passionate as he might have been about the veterinary practice, destiny had something grander and more legacy-defining for the Ibadan man, and in less than a decade of practising as a veterinarian, Akinlolu switched to music. This formal switch led to him founding EniObanke, his music company, in 1997, the same year he released his first and most iconic album, Seven Lives, which was his authoritative entry into the music world. Through this album, he established that Afro-themed folksongs can be captivating and powerful, even if written in English; that lyrical depth will be one of the bedrocks of his career; and that he is focused on singing for and about Africa.

In addition, he quickly registered relatability among both old and young. The main track, “Seven Lives,” which the album is named after, deftly swings between criticism of what the continent has become and an undeniable pride in its development. Despite the seeming desolation and gross underdevelopment plaguing several African countries, this is the reality for many Africans who are proud of their connection with the continent and proudly wear their identity. Beautiful Nubia’s deft use of imagery and the instrumental arrangements in the song also lay strong claims to its eventual relatability, helping it to the ranks of Nigeria’s evergreen songs.

Beautiful Nubia is a songwriter and musician who has proven that he understands what it takes to make evergreen music, and such qualities include the ability to make his songs relatable to both old and young listeners, easy-to-remember lyrics, melodious tunes, and the songs’ replay value, which is what make the songs new and appreciable every time they are played. These are the qualities that songs such as “Seven Lives”, “Jangbalajugbu”, “Kilokilo”, and “Owuro Lojo”, among others, possess.

A strategic band leader, Beautiful Nubia has been the vanguard of his Roots Renaissance Band, through which he has propagated his messages. He is also well-known for addressing African issues, cultivating a loyal brand of listeners that cut across several ages and genders. Beyond producing songs, Beautiful Nubia spreads a message of hope and reinforces the beauty of Africa and its varied cultures. To that end, Roots Renaissance Band has held the EniObanke Music Festival in several cities in Nigeria for over a decade now — a series of events through which he and his band have helped Nigerians and Africans reconnect with their roots and Africanness through music that speaks to the soul.

Beautiful Nubia does not pander to mainstream or popular ideals, and the quality of his output is so overwhelming. His approach to producing, releasing, and promoting his music reflects exclusivity and luxury. To encounter his songs is to fall in love with them, and to love the songs is to stay loyal to the brand. His minimalist lifestyle affects how he approaches the distribution and marketing of his music and books, as well as the promotion of his music festivals. With his Roots Renaissance Band, he has an amazing output level of about 30 albums, including acoustic and instrumentals-based albums, and live and poetry performances. The multi-talented band leader is also an established poet and author who has written several books across different genres.

As an enigmatic music composer and band leader, Beautiful Nubia has proven that his choice of career is more of a lifestyle and reflection of his philosophical beliefs. In promoting and propagating African-themed music, Beautiful Nubia, who deftly shifts between deep-founded lyrics in his indigenous Yoruba and fluently stringed-together English verses, has won a loyal group of listeners and fans. For his latest music:

Apple Music – https://music.apple.com/us/album/olumuyiwa/1669784254

Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/album/7aQKMoZ963bX8Ag8uYfkZ2

Amazon Music – https://amazon.com/music/player/albums/B0BTTRXCZ4

BoomPlay – https://www.boomplaymusic.com/share/album/63776328

YouTube Music – https://music.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_lAtV4phGQvBid1Nfq6wLmBlKiG_ON22sY&feature=share

Please join us for a conversation with renowned Nigerian songwriter, music composer, and band leader, Olusegun Akinlolu (Beautiful Nubia) on the next edition of The Toyin Falola Interviews:

Sunday, March 19, 2023

5:00 PM Nigeria

4:00 PM GMT

11:00 AM Austin CST


Register and watch:


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