From Nigeria to Dubai: how singer Baddy Oosha is bringing Afropop to the region

The artist has released a new album recorded during the pandemic

Nigerian singer Baddy Oosha says Dubai could be the centre of the Afropop scene. Courtesy Baddy Oosha
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For some, Covid-19 has been as much a start as a stop.

While the pandemic severely halted the music industry, with concerts cancelled and albums delayed, it also offered artists a chance to take a breather from the road.

In the case of Nigerian Afropop star Baddy Oosha and producer P Jay, that pause proved unexpectedly inspiring.

Stuck in Oosha’s villa in Dubai during the national disinfection programme (P Jay was holidaying in the UAE from Nigeria at the time) they decided to use the six-week period to record some new tunes.

"There were no rules," Oosha tells The National. "We just went with the flow, whatever beats P Jay gave me I would just jump on and we would make something from it."

Creating club bangers during the pandemic

What resulted from this freewheeling experience is the September 30 EP. Released last week on the day of its namesake, the seven-song album is a vibrant sonic diary of their creative time spent indoors.

Melding Afropop with lashings of hip-hop, RnB and dancehall, the release is a club-ready collection that confirms Oosha’s standing as the next major talent to emerge out of Nigeria.

Since his debut single E'Semni in 2014, Ooshi has gone on to build a consistent body work that included pan-African club hits Timbalowo and Fo as well as appearing in Nollywood productions such as the 2017 action film Alakada Reloaded and the 2018 comedy The Ghost and the Tout – both available to stream on Netflix.

From left: Nigerian singer Baddy Oosh and producer P Jay have collaborated together for nearly 10 years. YouTube
From left: Nigerian singer Baddy Oosh and producer P Jay have collaborated together for nearly 10 years. YouTube

Joining him for the ride is P Jay, who remains his producer of choice. Oosha says the EP is as much a party record as a celebration of their friendship.

“He is like my little brother and he is very talented,” he says. “But I think what is important to note is that during this difficult time you can still work and create. When we started to realise that the pandemic is serious, some people were getting sad and depressed and we wanted to show that you can also do things with your life. You don’t just sit down and do nothing, everyone has got to do something.”

As a friend of Oosha's for nearly decade, P Jay knew the singer would use the downtime to create.

"That's the thing with Baddy, you never know what to expect," he tells The National from his home in Lagos. "He pushes you to keep going forward: you learn, get inspired and enjoy the experience at the same time".

The Nigerian way: career and adventure

While this is displayed throughout the eclectic September 30 and in particular the standout Party Hard, a track carried by a seductive groove and tropical Reggaeton melodies, that ambitious vision is best exemplified in Hustlers Anthem. With P Jay providing both the stuttering beats and crooned hook, Oosha delivers a rags-to-riches narrative that hints at his own journey from Nigeria to Dubai.

Born in Ogun State in southwestern Nigeria, he criss-crossed the globe in search of education and opportunity. Upon finishing high school, he travelled to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to obtain a business management degree.

From there he went on to the Jamaican capital Kingston, where he enrolled in music management and production courses. By the time he arrived in Dubai in 2014, he was a one-man company as he set up tours for some of Nigeria's biggest artists including Naira Marley and Skibii in addition to building his own reputation across the region as a solo artist of his own.

That’s a lot of work and air miles. Then again, Oosha says that it’s the Nigerian way to blend career with adventure.

"In Nigeria, we like feeling uncomfortable. This is what make us move and take the next step, you know what I am saying?" he says. "It's not about staying in the comfort zone of my family. No, it is about you going out and doing something with yourself and if you can, you bring your family with you. If you can't, then build something with what you have, then come back to your family as better person. It is in our blood to be hardworking."

Why Dubai could become the centre of the Afrobeat scene

It is in that spirit that Oosha is currently in Istanbul. With a new album to promote and the Turkish music scene receptive to Afropop, he is already planning a string of tours, both as headline act and promoter. He is adamant it is a temporary stay and that he will return to Dubai once the entertainment industry is back in full swing.

Oosha has no doubt the scene will once again thrive with Afropop music as a main driver.

“The music coming from Nigeria is only going to get better. It is already taking over the world and I feel that Dubai will be at the centre of that,” he says. “There is a great crowd here that are already appreciative of the music and the facilities are top of the range. Things will eventually return to normal and trust me, when it does, I will be more than ready.”