Photo Credit: Bill Wackermann
Davido Highlights Africa One Culture Exchange At A Time
Although his decade-long career has solidified him as a bona fide superstar, Nigerian-born Afrobeats artist, Davido, has become more than a consistent hitmaker. Beyond his artistic consistency and distinct sound, his ability to synthesize culture through music and travel has instinctively become part of his overarching legacy.
Travel Noire got the opportunity to sit down with Davido and discuss the importance of merging Nigerian and American cultures.
Davido On Yoruba As A Cultural Symbol
When Davido released his debut album “Omo Baba Olowo” in 2012, Afrobeats had just begun to gain worldwide mainstream recognition. His album catapulted him to fame and immediately garnered him fans across Africa, Europe, and North America. Many people, both at home and abroad, relished Davido’s authenticity and his ability to give his lyrics an added edge by singing in the Yoruba language of Western Nigeria. There was a time when many Nigerian artists sang songs with tunes, lyrics, and intonations inspired directly by North America, with no indication of Afro influence, but Davido was one of the pioneers who brought African music to the world stage by using Afrobeats as an anchor. He attributes his love for African culture and language to his upbringing. Despite growing up in an affluent background, the now 29-year-old says his parents never allowed him to sway away from his cultural roots.
“When I was younger, my parents were very cultural and spoke to us in Yoruba at home,” said Davido. “During every holiday, we would leave the city to go to the village, where we could be closer to our culture.”
Davido On His Background
At the start of his career, Davido did not disclose the depth of his family’s wealth because he did not want it to become the focal point of who he was or the relationships he formed.
“When I first started, I was attending one of the most expensive schools in Lagos at the time, and after school, I would change into my regular clothes and go into the hood to record,” said Davido. “None of my friends knew I was just coming from a very big mansion.”
Davido On How He Brings Africa to America
During the North American leg of his We Rise By Lifting Others tour, Davido made it a point to live by those words. He’s done so in the past by raising N250m for orphanages in Nigeria, and while on tour, he continues to lift others by commissioning African fashion designers such as Post Imperial, Orange Culture, and Emmy Kasbit to create his outfits. Also on tour, Davido has hired African vendors to provide food at the venues.
“My whole existence in this music thing has been based on those words (We Rise By Lifting Others),” says Davido. “So let’s make it count. Every time we’re performing we’re exporting African culture. Why don’t we get African attire for the tour? Instead of having wings, fries, and pizza backstage, we want African food. Let’s give opportunities.”
The “Stand Strong” singer added, “People that come to my shows are all types of demographics. Asian, Black, white, so I wanted to bring them the whole African package.”
Davido On The Importance Of Cultural Exchange
Davido says that he’s always known that Afrobeats would become a worldwide phenomenon, which is why he uses his influence and resources to further elevate the African narrative — even among his famous friends.
He recently released a music video for his song “Showing Off Her Body” featuring DaBaby, a body of work shot in Nigeria with behind-the-scenes reels of Da Baby’s time in The Motherland curated on Instagram.
“When DaBaby visited Nigeria, it was an amazing cultural exchange,” Davido tells Travel Noire. “Whenever any of my friends from the U.S. visits me in Nigeria, they leave with a different mindset. It happened when The Migos, Lil Baby came and when Casanova came. They usually see all of Africa’s beauty and realize that we have everything the U.S. has.”
Davido further explains that a visit to Nigeria has helped some of his rich friends be more appreciative in what they have.
“I’m driving my Lambo with DaBaby, he’s seeing the kids run and I say, ‘You see that kid smiling? He doesn’t know when his next meal is. But you see how happy he is? But us, even you, small wahala (drama) in America and you’re frowning your face.’ He looks at me and says, ‘You know, you’re right.'”
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According to Davido, he gives his American friends the full Nigerian experience because it’s important to know where you come from.
“To me, whether you’re Jamaican, whether you’re Haitian, if you’re Black, you’re African. So, I always love for you to come and see where you’re from,” he says. “I want to change the narrative of what you’ve been told and what you think you know. If you base it off what you watch on CNN, you’d never want to go there.”
Davido On Being A Culture Connector
The singer said that he is happy to be a unifying force for cross-cultural exchange because often times, there is a lack of understanding around how much wealth Africa holds.
“I grew up in Lagos, but when I was younger and I would visit the States, my friends would ask me how I got to the States, and then become surprised when I said that I flew in on my dad’s plane,” said Davido.
According to the “Fall” singer, part of the cultural exchange was sharing the mindset that Africans have with his guests.
“Even when Lil Baby came, we were on a boat, and we passed one building and he asked the price. I told him, ‘With this kind of building, if you pay $200,000, I bet you in six years that same building will be $1.2 million.’ He was shocked, but right now, Lagos real estate is about to be #3 in the world. I even take them to places like Banana Island where it looks better than parts of America.”
What's Next For Davido?
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Davido considers himself a son of Africa no matter how far he goes or how many accolades he garners.
“No matter my success anywhere I go, Nigeria is still home,” said Davido. “I always tell my manager that when I am away from home on tour, and I have a four or five-day break, I’m going to Naija. My job is to continue making good music and putting our flag on the map.”
The singer, whose new album is expected to be released later this year, recently released the music video for “Stand Strong” with Kanye’s Sunday Service Choir, another piece that seamlessly merges cultures by fusing Afrobeats with Gospel. He was also recently featured on Chris Brown’s “Breezy” in “Nobody Has to Know.”