Nigerian music has become a valued export and must be utilised effectively.
The O2 Arena in London, a sprawling venue with a capacity of 20,000, has over the years witnessed the convergence of the world’s most popular music, sport, comedy, and entertainment events since its inception in 2007.
In recent years, however, this iconic arena has hosted a remarkable roster of Nigerian artists who have accomplished a feat that goes beyond just performing on its grand stage – they have successfully sold out the O2 Arena multiple times, ushering in a new era of recognition and influence for African music on the global stage.
Among the illustrious names that have headlined and sold out the O2 Arena are Davido, Burna Boy, and Wizkid. What sets these artists apart is not just their exceptional musical talents but also their ability to resonate with audiences far beyond their homeland.
In the span of five years, this list has expanded to include a new generation of Nigerian artists who continue to push boundaries and redefine the limits of what African music can achieve on an international scale.
Wizkid has sold out the Arena three times, Davido twice, Burna Boy once, and the latest addition to this esteemed list is YBNL superstar Asake.
Asake’s meteoric rise to prominence began in 2022 with his debut album “Mr. Money With The Vibe.” The album, featuring hits like “Joha,” “Terminator,” “PBUY,” and “Sungba” ft. Burna Boy, not only garnered tens of millions of streams but also earned critical acclaim from renowned publications such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NPR, and Pitchfork.
Asake’s ability to fuse Afrobeats and hip-hop into a distinctive musical style caught the attention of audiences globally, leading to sold-out shows and a remarkable journey from breakout artist to O2 Arena headliner in less than two years.
One of the standout aspects of Asake’s success is his dedication to delivering positive energy through his music, transcending language barriers and cultural differences.
Legendary Nigerian rapper Olamide emphasised this point, noting that Asake’s music is all about “good energy”, allowing listeners to connect with the emotions he conveys regardless of language.
However, Asake’s journey to the O2 Arena has not been without its challenges. The tragic incident at one of his South London shows, which resulted in fatalities and injuries due to a crowd crush, deeply affected him.
This experience prompted him to create the thoughtful and introspective song “Yoga,” reflecting on the overwhelming nature of fame and success.
Despite such trials, Asake remained determined to fulfil his promise to his fans, providing them with a dream come true as he took the O2 Arena stage.
Burna Boy, another Nigerian artist who has sold out the O2 Arena, has made significant strides in establishing Afrobeats as a global phenomenon. With a Grammy award under his belt and a history-making sold-out concert at the London Stadium following the sold out O2 arena show in 2021, Burna Boy has solidified his place as an “African Giant” in the music industry. His influence extends beyond music, as he was the third Nigerian artist to sell out the O2 Arena and also the first to sell out the Stadium, emphasizing the increasing dominance of Afrobeats on the global music scene. Similarly, Wizkid’s groundbreaking accomplishments cannot be understated. With his triumphant sell-out shows at the O2 Arena in 2018, 2019, and 2021, alongside headlining the New York Madison Square Garden, Wizkid has played an instrumental role in paving the way for African artists to achieve unprecedented feats in international venues.
His charm, stage presence, and ability to captivate audiences transcended cultural divides, demonstrating that music has the power to unite people across the world. Davido, too, has left an indelible mark on the music industry, achieving the remarkable feat of headlining and selling out the O2 Arena in both 2019 and 2022. He not only accomplished this feat but also received the distinct honour of having the venue temporarily renamed “The Davido 2” for one of his sold-out shows.
His collaborations with globally recognized figures like Morgan Freeman further accentuate the far-reaching impact of Nigerian artists on the international stage.
Prior to his first sold-out show, he declared his intention to follow in his peers’ footsteps, stating, “My brother did, I’m about to do it too,” referencing Wizkid’s first headline show at the 02 in 2018.
As he continues to ride the waves of international success, Davido is set to make a mark once again with an upcoming performance at the arena in January 2024, as part of his ongoing Timeless tour that has already garnered sold-out shows across the globe.
Asake, Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Davido’s successes underline a significant shift in the global perception of African music. The O2 Arena, once reserved for established Western artists, now regularly showcases the immense talents of Nigerian artists who bridge the gap between cultures through their music.
This newfound recognition has opened doors to larger venues and more extensive tours, setting the stage for a continued ascent of African music on the global arena.
Looking ahead, the prospects for Nigerian artists and African music as a whole are undeniably bright. The export of the entertainment industry presents numerous opportunities for economic growth and cultural exchange.
The impact of Nigerian artists on the international music scene, epitomised by their sold-out shows at the O2 Arena, highlights the untapped potential of local markets and the need for concerted efforts to promote and nurture domestic talent.
Obi Asika, a visionary in the creative industries, aptly captures this sentiment when he emphasises the rise and globalisation of Nigerian soft power led by music. “Nigerian soft power led by our music continues to rise and globalise and monetize. The next phase is to build local touring and the domestic markets.”
The challenge now lies in harnessing this momentum to build local touring circuits and stimulate domestic markets, ensuring that the wealth of talent within Nigeria is not only recognized abroad but also valued and celebrated at home.
The sold-out concerts of Nigerian artists at the O2 Arena symbolise a seismic shift in the global music landscape. Asake, Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Davido, alongside other notable figures, have transcended borders, languages, and cultures to create a unified global audience for African music.
Their achievements underscore the potential of African soft power and the imperative of nurturing local industries to further stimulate economic growth and cultural appreciation.
The journey from the vibrant streets of Lagos to the grandeur of the O2 Arena serves as an inspiration to emerging artists and a testament to the power of music to connect humanity.