Tayo Popoola explores Nigeria's enduring love of Jim Reeves and country and western music.
Tayo Popoola explores Nigeria's enduring love of Jim Reeves and country music.
Over 50 years after his death, American country music legend Jim Reeves has maintained his popularity to a truly remarkable extent. Up until the 1980s, his label RCA continued to release new records almost yearly, and his many fans would eagerly snap them up. Today, his importance is still hotly discussed online, in message boards and chat rooms.
Where is the happening? In Nigeria.
Few musical forms appear more quintessentially American than country and western. But despite the genre's deep ties to cowboys and open skies, Nigeria became entranced by the fiddle and yodel heavy music. By the 1960s, as Nashville-based performers like Reeves and his producer Chet Atkins moved country toward an increasingly slick sound, the music had become a part of everyday Nigerian life, where it has remained.
In this very personal journey, Tayo travels around Nigeria with his country music loving mother in tow, exploring how this continued popularity can be - at least partially - attributed to the spiritual qualities that Nigerian audiences hear in country. Too slow to work as dance music, filled with the otherworldly sounds of pedal steel and orchestral strings, and laced with a decidedly Christian morality, country music has become known as a contemplative style, designed to carry the listener beyond daily life.
Tayo considers the impact of Jim Reeves on Nigerian legends like Chief Ebenezer Obey (who appears and sings in person on the programme), as well as his influence on younger contemporary musicians like Ogak Jay Oke and Stephen Rwang Pam.
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.