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Inside the Biggest (and Safest) Raves for EDM Lovers & Marginalized Communities in Nigeria

Story by Gertrude Oby and Taiwo Hassan
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The idea of nightlife entertainment for many Nigerians centres mostly around parties featuring only conventional Afrobeats music and events where unadulterated objectification and spending Olympics rule the night. However, for people like Fey who need a place where they can unwind with unconventional music and people and still feel safe, free, and comfortable, EDM raves stand out as a whole new world. 

“The regular nightlife events are mostly painfully conventional, and as someone who likes nightlife, raves are a new world for me, where I can find people like me and be myself,” Fey, a regular EDM raver, describes.

The people, the sound, and the energy in the crowd. The freedom that permeates—it’s like worship.

Fey (Raver), Modaculture June 2024

The impressive rise of Nigerian music around the world has also introduced the emergence of other sub-genres, including Electronic Dance Music, popularly known as EDM. In Nigeria, this genre is characterized by an exciting fusion of Nigerian culture and Western influences. In light of these, EDM has garnered a large community of fans and artists, brewing a brimming scene fostered by DJs and collectives. 

Fey

For Azi, the curator of the Friday Mixtape, the emergence of the EDM genre in Nigeria birthed their foray into it. “My brother and I have always been fans of electronic music. My love for the genre started with Daft Punk & Mekalush,” he mentioned. “Once we noticed there was love for it in Nigeria, the only question was, “Where and when would we start?”

When you think about the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scene in Nigeria, imagine weekend raves mostly run by DJs and collectives that play electronic music with an Afrobeats influence. Warehouses are the major setting of these events, and their audience includes people of all ages, especially young Nigerians. These parties serve as a united base for nightlife enthusiasts from different subcultures who desire to escape into the world of electronic music.

Why Raves Have Become the Biggest (And Safest) Space for Nigerian EDM Lovers & Marginalized Communities
Ravers at Group Therapy

“Raves are a cultural statement, from the lights to the ambience and, of course, the music—glorious blasts of sounds thumping all through the night.” FāëM, a DJ/producer duo based in Lagos, shared. “ From the wholesome sense of commune to the harmony of coexisting in rhythm with your friends and strangers and ravers expressing themselves in looks, hoots, and rhythms, raving is very much a community that looks after its own and the very purpose of it all is the music.”

Why Raves Have Become the Biggest (And Safest) Space for Nigerian EDM Lovers & Marginalized Communities
FāëM

According to Aniko, a producer, electronic music DJ, and chief minister of Group Therapy, her journey into the Nigerian EDM scene began as a passion project rooted in her love for electronic music and the frustration of not having enough platforms to play on. “As a DJ, I’ve always wanted to have my own event. Group Therapy began as a passion project rooted in my love for electronic music, and it all came together with the help of my friends who shared a similar enthusiasm for the underground electronic music community,” Aniko shares.

Group Therapy launched in August 2023 as a safe space for music lovers to come together, celebrate life, and lose themselves in the music.

Aniko, Modaculture June 2024
Aniko

Why Have EDM Raves Become Widespread in Nigeria? 

The past three years have witnessed an increase in EDM-themed raves and parties, reflecting a shift in the preference of many Nigerians who visit traditional nightclubs where classic Afrobeats music is played non-stop. From exploring new waters to finding a more inclusive atmosphere for nightlife entertainment, there are several reasons Nigerians are spreading their arms to these raves. 

In places like Lagos, which is a hub for entertainment and business and attracts a variety of people, including well-traveled locals and foreigners, EDM raves give them a taste of a familiar culture. Kella, an EDM DJ based in Lagos who has played at raves like 4:20 and Bear With Us Fest, popularly known as “Tech DJ Kella,” gives us this as one of these reasons.  

“These individuals often prefer different types of music, as they may not all be fans of Afrobeats or Amapiano,” Kella explains.

Some genuinely enjoy EDM, and Lagos offers them a space to experience and enjoy it freely. Also, the city’s residents are open to trying new things, further supporting the growth of EDM rave in the nightlife scene.

Tech DJ Kella, Modaculture June 2024
Why Raves Have Become the Biggest (And Safest) Space for Nigerian EDM Lovers & Marginalized Communities
Kella

Abuja isn’t also left out of the EDM scene as several raves like MOTION and House House House are beginning to infuse the genre in the city’s nightlife. However, unlike Lagos, it’s a culture that many Abuja residents are still in the process of embracing. 

According to Alexandra Obochi, the chief organizer of PRISM, a women-centric themed rave in Abuja, reasons for this slow embrace range from culture shock to low turnout of passionate ravers, especially women. 

“I think that there is a specific audience that likes raves,” she explained.

The vibe of parties in Abuja is very much different from that of Lagos. The residents here don’t usually go out and dance all night. They like to be comfortable, so bringing the idea of raves and standing at parties, among others, especially with women, it’s not something they are very much used to.

Alexander Obochi, Modaculture June 2024

Also, as widespread as traditional party scenes are, many Nigerians still exist who believe these events were not created with them in mind. That’s why EDM raves such as Group Therapy, Sweat It Out, House On The Reef, Mainland House, and Raevolution, to mention a few, have become household names in the EDM nightlife scene.

Friday Night Mixtape

For Tomide, a Nigerian culture writer, he hasn’t had anything short of a good time at raves such as MELT. “Different DJs are invited to entertain the audience. Their music range is deep, and the DJs read the audience well,” he adds. 

Aniko, on the other hand, explains that Nigeria, like any vibrant society, craves diversity in its entertainment offerings. “Group Therapy offers an alternative to mainstream nightlife, catering to people who want more than just the conventional clubbing experience,” she notes.

Coupled with the fact that they are cheaper and the music is different, raves like ours provide a space for self-expression, a platform for emerging artists, and diversity united by our love for house music.

Aniko (Group Therapy), Modaculture June 2024

Also, the music genres played at these parties are a large contributor to the audience they attract. Freedom and expression are large values found in house music and other electronic genres included in these raves. So, it makes sense that they would appeal to members of marginalized communities in Nigeria.

A raver at Sweat It Out

At these raves, the ravers have discovered that the other participants seldom question their attire or the people they dance with. That’s why the rave scene has become the go-to and favourite party spot for many unconventional people seeking a place to go. It doesn’t also come as a surprise that the EDM scene has grown from a little subculture to one of Nigeria’s most popular new sounds because of this inclusive essence.

What Are the Common Genres Played at EDM Raves? 

When it pertains to the common genres attendees will find at EDM raves, electronic music stands at the top of the list, as expected. However, as much as this genre defines the audience found at these parties, sources have shown that it isn’t the only one played. 

Group Therapy,  for instance, according to DJ and Producer Aniko, embraces a diverse range of electronic music genres, including house, techno, minimal, and more. “Afro-house music remains a favourite, which is no surprise because we are in Africa, Nigerians typically gravitate towards Afro-House and Afro-Tech,” she explains. “Nevertheless, we also make a conscious effort to showcase lesser-known genres and underground artists.”

Why Raves Have Become the Biggest (And Safest) Space for Nigerian EDM Lovers & Marginalized Communities
Group Therapy

For the Tech DJ Kella, Afrobeats and Amapiano are genres she plays mainly at raves. “I often start with throwback hip-hop and R&B tracks like Ashanti, Ja Rule, and B2K,” she says. “Then I transition to classic Nigerian hits from artists like Mohits, Plantashun Boiz, and P-Square. After that, I move to current Nigerian songs and then ramp up the tempo with Amapiano.” According to her, Nigerians love to dance and be happy, and Afrobeats, Amapiano, and sometimes dancehall and popular hip-hop songs really get them moving.

Attendees like Fey gravitate more towards EDM music at raves because of how freeing the genre is.

I love that with EDM, you don’t particularly need to listen to a voice singing; you can focus on each tune and each beat, and you can hear sounds in music you’ve never heard before.

Fey (Raver), Modaculture June 2024

Tomide, on the other hand, prefers Afrobeats, House, Dancehall and Amapiano. According to him, they have rhythms and sounds to groove to. “We want to dance at raves, right? Yup,” he expresses. 

What Are the Challenges Associated With Organizing These Parties? 

Although it might seem like electronic music and its scene are experiencing rapid acceptance in Nigeria, the truth is that it hasn’t always been this way. A lot of stakeholders in the scene explained that they faced and still face unique challenges when organizing these raves. 

FāëM, to begin with, expressed how nature can present unique challenges when they perform at raves. “There was a rave that our controller just went off, and that was it—we tried saving that performance, but nothing went right that day—it was an open space, and rain decided to visit us that evening,” they told us. “However, there is nothing really specific to the cadence of raves that have caused any issue for us—usually because we are performing at a rave; there is always more than one person there to help out and eke out technical issues.”

Like many other scenes, organizing EDM raves isn’t immune to unexpected difficulties. From a DJ randomly cancelling to the deck not having a USB port, Azi mentioned that he was pretty surprised to learn that some DJs are not comfortable with connecting their flash drives to other people’s laptops. 

Aniko, on the other hand, explained how finding a long-term venue stands as the biggest issue they face when putting Group Therapy together. “Not all venues work for the experience we’re trying to curate, leaving us with very limited options,” she lamented. “We’ve dealt with noise complaints, experienced capacity challenges—our audience is massive—and have to ensure the air conditioning is effective. But these problems are fixable.” 

Why Raves Have Become the Biggest (And Safest) Space for Nigerian EDM Lovers & Marginalized Communities
The Group Therapy Warehouse

When you hold a closer lens to the major essence of the EDM scene in Nigeria, many participants and mainstays see it as a way to escape reality. It is possible to connect the change in how people react to and consume genres like electronic music to the acceptance of movements like the #ENDSARS or a post-COVID response. There’s also no denying raves have become more common in Nigeria’s major cities, particularly in Lagos, where EDM raves have transformed from an underground event to a nightlife staple.

Participants in these raves have revealed that there’s a general feeling of freedom and acceptance they experience when they attend these events. In Nigeria, where political, economic and security turmoil increase by the day, the need for a place to unwind and escape is important now more than ever. The EDM scene, through raves, has given Nigerians this. So, while they embrace a genre known for offering escape and release, the EDM scene continues to enjoy a surge in its popularity.

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