A week before his concert in Toronto – before anyone knew it would be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic – DaVido speaks with enthusiasm over the phone about bringing his tour for A Good Time to Canada.
“African music is being played and appreciated around the world,” he says. “But I think one thing that people are missing is that this type of music has been taking over the world since 10 years, you feel me?”
Born David Adedeji Adeleke in Atlanta, Toronto is like a second home to rising Nigerian Afrobeat artist, but the truth is that his music is the kind that feels at home in any city. Standout tracks on his new album like “Fall” and “Risky” can move your hips, syncopate with your heartbeat, and turn up the corners of your lips into a smile.
At 27 years old, DaVido has become an internationally recognized name. His success is undeniable, evident from breaking Billboard records to collaborating with some of the biggest names in hip-hop today, including Summer Walker, Gunna and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. But, as he notes early in our conversation, Western media is often playing catch up to a music scene that has been strong for many years.
There’s only one phrase that DaVido can find to describe the current wave of Nigerian artists, including himself, Burna Boy, Wizkid, and more: “a force.” He says this with emphasis; a heavy, full stop.
With their music breaking onto the world stage, he thinks that entertainment “has really done a lot in changing the narrative of what people think about us as a country and as a people.” He explains that the past perception of Nigeria by international audiences was negative, but “now when they talk about Nigeria, they talk about the food, the culture, the music.”
DaVido doesn’t feel a responsibility to tell a specific story about his home as an artist, but rather as an individual. “Every Nigerian should want to spread good stuff and good examples of being a Nigerian,” he says. “It should be the job of every Nigerian or African to represent the continent or the country well.”
Much of his music settles in on themes of wealth, romance, and joy. DaVido was raised in both Atlanta and Lagos. It makes sense then that these themes become universal, and are still deeply linked to his lifestyle in Nigeria; as the son of a business magnate and university lecturer, but also as a sharp businessman himself with his own music career.
In Rawiya Kameir’s 2016 FADER cover story, the general manager of Sony West Africa, Michael Ugwu, explained that popular Nigerian music was a way to challenge politics within the country. But for the next wave of artists developing a new sound for Nigerian pop like D’banj, Wande Coal, and P-Square, Ugwu told Kameir that “all they wanted to do was have fun. It was a new image for Africa.”
When DaVido points to the entertainment industry’s impact on the perception of his home, that in itself is political. While past Nigerian musicians challenged politics and regimes from within Nigeria, DaVido’s music is challenging the negative, preconceived judgements that those outside of the country have made.
The title of his new album is aptly titled A Good Time, and DaVido believes celebration is “the best thing in the world,” something that is woven into his music, his demeanour, and his way of life. Celebration and joy are in many ways his acts of resistance.
While music is changing the image of Nigeria, it is also quite literally paying off. DaVido believes that one of the lasting impacts of this era of music is that the economy will continue to grow, and the numbers support him.
According to Premium Times, Nigeria’s creative industry has been called the fastest growing sector of the economy, with $104 million accrued in 2019 from film and music. Similarly, Guardian Arts reported that former Director of Culture George Nkanta Ufot identified Nigeria’s creative industry as a tool for starting “political and economic dialogues that will foster mutual understanding and respect between countries,” pointing to DaVido as a successful example.
But money isn’t the only kind of currency he values.
Celebration is an act that we often do together. For DaVido, he knows exactly who he celebrates his biggest wins with, and who will always be by his side; companionship and love are just as valuable as any amount of money. This is one reason why his cover art for A Good Time is adorned with an illustration of himself, his father, and a sculpture of his late mother.
“When the money goes away and the fame goes away, who’s gonna stay with you?” he asks. “Family.”
A Good Time is available now via DaVido Worldwide/Sony Music