Rema’s Billboard record spotlights journey of Nigerian music on world stage

Nigerian music sensation, Rema, has made history by breaking the 41-year-old record of juju maestro, King Sunny Ade on the US Billboard Albums chart.

Rema’s album, ‘Rave and Roses,’ has maintained its position on the charts for an astonishing 30 weeks. This achievement has sparked curiosity about why it took so long for a Nigerian artist to surpass King Sunny Ade’s milestone.

King Sunny Ade also called KSA, a trailblazer for Juju music in the 80s, became the first Nigerian artist to appear on the Billboard album charts. After Bob Marley’s untimely demise in 1981, Island Records, an international music label sought to find a replacement for the late reggae star and introduced Sunday Adegeye, popularly known as Sunny Ade, to the global stage. KSA’s albums, ‘Juju Music’ and ‘Synchro System,’ released under the Island Records imprint, secured spots on the Billboard 200.

However, following King Sunny Ade’s success, Nigerian music struggled to capture the attention of international labels. The focus of these labels shifted to genres such as Hip-Hop and RnB in the 90s and early 2000s. So, Nigerian music remained confined to Nigeria’s borders, distributed mainly through cassette tapes and CD plates. As a result, it failed to gain significant exposure and failed to feature on global charts.

The turning point came with the rise of Afrobeats, a genre that fuses traditional African rhythms with contemporary influences. This resurgence in popularity was fueled by a combination of factors, including the emergence of digital platforms facilitating global music dissemination and a new generation’s eagerness to embrace their cultural roots while embracing modernity.

In 2017, Wizkid became the first modern Nigerian artist to secure a spot on the Billboard 200 with his album ‘Sound From The Other Side.’ Since then, several Nigerian artists have made their mark on the Billboard 200 charts. Fireboy DML’s ‘Playboy’ in 2022, Davido’s ‘Timeless’ in 2023, Asake’s ‘Mr Money With The Vibe’ in 2022, Ckay’s ‘Ckay The First,’ which spent 7 weeks on the chart, Burna Boy’s ‘Love Damini,’ which spent 12 weeks in 2022, and Wizkid’s ‘Made in Lagos,’ which spent 22 weeks on the chart.

However, breaking Billboard records set by international artists has proven to be a formidable challenge for new generation of artists globally. The Beatles, for instance, hold the record for the most number one songs on the Billboard 100 (20) and the most number of albums (19) on the Billboard 200. These records have remained unbroken for over five decades

Similarly, the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, holds the record for the longest-leading album on the Billboard 200, with his album spending 37 weeks at the number one spot — a record that has stood for 37 years and counting.

Rema’s historic achievement in surpassing King Sunny Ade’s record on the Billboard Albums chart is a testament to the growing recognition of Nigerian music on the world stage. It marks a significant shift in the perception and acceptance of African music on the international stage and the pivotal role of digital steaming platforms in music distribution.

As Afrobeats continues to captivate audiences worldwide, it is expected that more Nigerian artists will rise to prominence and break even more records in the future, while also helping a growing number of people worldwide to connect with their roots.