“I love Music. I love Nigerian Music. I Love Art and all music is art!” Growing up, I remember my father had quite a sizable collection of vinyl records and how during the holidays, I would patiently wait for him to go to work just so I could listen to some of them. With such a huge collection, it was always difficult to select which record to play. In a way that I can’t explain, I would narrow down my search, judging from the album art. If the album art was captivating, I would play the record and more often than not, the music turned out to be just as good as the cover art itself, in some cases, better.
As a child born in the 80's, every time i met Fela Anikulapo Kuti or any other great Nigerian musician who made music before i was born, it was always on the covers of my father’s vinyl records. Most of the art was fascinating, extremely expressive and conveyed the message of the album in a number of creative ways. I also remember basking in the euphoria of getting lost in the art while the music made love to me.
Fast forward to the present, vinyl records have since been replaced by CD’s but even CD covers still carry great art. Album covers are not only artistic, they are also a representation of the content (a combination of the musician, the brand and the music). As an effective marketing tool, just by looking great on the outside, an album cover also sells you on the content.
From the days of scanning through my father’s vinyl collection to the present day (when to get a job in Nigeria, you must have recorded at least one album)…I have put together some of the most remarkable album cover art in Nigeria’s musical history and my personal favourites.
SYNCHRO SYSTEM (1983)– SUNNY ADE AND HIS AFRICAN BEATS
This album art is a beauty to behold. From the difference in costumes to the musical instruments and rhythmic movements of each band member, the art clearly captures the beauty that comes from the synchronisation of all these individual elements. It is almost impossible to picture this cover art without wanting to listen to the music itself. Great piece.
LATE FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI
Every single Fela album art is a masterpiece in its own right, making it difficult to single out any one piece as his best. Each Album cover is brought to life by a detailed artistic representation of the musical content, most of which was done by Ghariokwu Lemi, a renowned graphic artist.
SHARP SHARP (2009) – LAGBAJA
It is easy to tell that Lagbaja's musicianship comes from being an artist. While his mask continues to represent the facelessness of the common man, the combination of different colourful fabrics on this piece, is an artistic representation of his blend of different rhythms to make great music.
BEAUTIFUL IMPERFECTION (2011) – ASA
The album art for Asa’s “Beautiful Imperfection” is subtle yet, manages to pass across the message with so much ease. Nothing is perfect, but that it is imperfect doesn’t make it any less beautiful and this is evident in the cracked lens of her eye glass. The colours are easy on the eye and the portraiture shows the beauty in simplicity.
UNSTOPPABLE the international edition (2010) – 2FACE IDIBIA
This album art relies on 2face’s facial expression to show a man on a mission and just how unstoppable he is. Just like 2face is unstoppable, i can’t also hold back the fact that the photography is super cool. It is more than just an album art, it is a screensaver.
SUPER SUN(2011) – BEZ
This album art is not your regular. The dreamy nature of this quirky piece of art is an invitation to be part of a soulful musical journey in search of the super sun. I like.
SOUL IS HEAVY (2012) – NNEKA
Once again, this is yet another simple album art which relies heavily on the use facial expression to drive home the message. Her sculpted face appears to mask what lies within her soul and it is only in the music, we can unearth what lies on the other side of this heavy soul.
THE BANDITS EP (2012) - KAHLI ABDU + KID KONNECT
The album cover clearly depicts bandits as faceless and this is beautifully captured in this stencil art piece. Kahli Abdu is personally one of my favourite Nigerian rappers and I love the imagery that his music creates.
#THESONOFAKAPENTA (2012) – BRYMO
This album art bares the effect of great photography. In one simple picture, we have a story and it clearly says that Brymo is #TheSonOfaKapenta. The title is as captivating as the art.
YES I AM (2010) – ETCETERA
This fascinating piece uses the combination of the very words that make the music, to also form a facial collage that establishes the presence of Etcetera, the artiste. Simply amazing.
There we have it, my favourite Nigerian album art pieces. If there are any album covers you think deserve(d) to be on the list, please feel free to share using the comment box.