Jidenna: ‘It’s Africa’s moment’ for music

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Jidenna believes this is the time for African sounds

His new album 'Long Live The Chief' features him experimenting with the Afrobeat sound and speaking in pidgin

CNN  — 

Nigerian music is taking the world by storm and according to hit maker Jidenna it’s been a long time coming. The hip hop artist spent part of his childhood in Nigeria.

“I think it’s Nigeria’s moment, it’s Africa’s moment,” he told CNN. “I think Nigeria is a spearhead because Nigerians seem to be charged full of character so people are eating it up all across the world.”

“You’ve seen Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats and Drake, Chris Brown, Party Next Door…listening to Afrobeats as well.”

Jidenna’s new album ‘Long Live The Chief’ features him experimenting with the Afrobeat sound and speaking in African pidgin, showing the influence of his Nigerian roots.

“I wanted to see [if] in the US, I can get a song on the radio that actually has pidgin in it? And I did it,” the Grammy Award nominee said.

“That’s the beautiful thing… [my album] you can dance and shoki to it, in the larger context my album blends the different worlds that I’ve lived in.”

And the ‘Classic man’ singer is more than happy to collaborate with Nigeria’s finest artists in the future.

“I’ve already been in the studio with Wizkid, I have plans to be in the studio with everyone I consider a bridge builder, the Davido’s, the Tiwa Savage’s,” he said.

“I love Flavour’s music, my fellow Igbo brother. So I would love to connect with everybody.”

Causing controversy

Despite being embroiled in controversy last year over his comments on kidnapping in Nigeria, the country still plays an important and influential part of Jidenna’s life. This is partially what inspired him to shoot a mini documentary in Enugu, where he grew up.

“I want people to see us as more than some Boko-Haram, terrorists, 419, kidnappers, there’s more to it, we are people with hopes and dreams,” he continued.

“Enugu specifically was a place of academic dreams, academic excellence, my father was actually a professor so I grew up with that in my mind, I want to show people that side of both me and both us.”

Jidenna’s father, Oliver Mobisson, is a significant figure in his life; he revealed that his father’s death had “a profound impact” on him and what he wanted to do with his life.

Family legacy

Mobisson was a founding lecturer at Anambra State University of Science and Technology and was part of a group of professors that invented the first commercially produced personal computer in West Africa. During his trip to Enugu, Jidenna launched a scholarship program in his father’s name at Enugu State University of Science and Technology.

“I want [the world] to know that we have people from here that have done things, we need to celebrate our own,” he said.

“Of course my father was a big part of that and has been.”

With his hotly anticipated album on the way and documentary in the works Jidenna shows few signs of slowing down, and wherever he goes he carries a piece of Nigeria with him, be it in his snappy outfits (although he says he’s “not into fashion at all” and “doesn’t look at fashion magazines”), checking the grades of neighborhood kids, or sharing proverbs.

“I have all these proverbs stored in my head,” he said. “My friends always laugh because they’re like you’re always trying to preach and teach something to us.”

“I grew up with all these proverbs and I have to share it, I think it’s the values and principles that makes my Nigerian identity a part of me stand out.”