Photography Kemka Ajoku

Lady Donli's mix captures the sweet Alté sound of Lagos

Ahead of her performance at Gidi Fest, the Nigerian native offers us a glimpse into the city's emerging alternative scene.

by Rolien Zonneveld
06 March 2020, 3:53pm

Photography Kemka Ajoku

Throw R&B, Afrobeat, and alt jazz into a bowl, and blend with a heady dose of rich raspy vocals, and you might just result in something resembling Nigerian artist Lady Donli. The 23-year-old singer-songwriter has been busy making waves at home and beyond with her infectious songs, which are infused with lots of sunshine and pan-African themes. No wonder Fela Kuti is her musical hero.

Lady Donli was born in Cleveland, Ohio, raised in Abuja, Nigeria, and now lives between London and Lagos. "The music scene in Lagos at the moment is buzzing,” she says. “I think people are beginning to see a shift in how African music is being seen worldwide. It’s inspiring to see people letting loose and create whatever they want to.” A big celebration of all this is Gidi Fest, the largest music and arts festival in West Africa, which is holding its 7th edition this coming Easter in Lagos. Lady Donli will be headlining alongside some of the most exciting African artists of the moment: Naira Marley, Sho Madjozi, JoeBoy, Flavour, Flohio, Wurld and Rema -- just to name a few. Ahead of her performance, she's made i-D a mix which brilliantly captures the young and fresh talent the city harbours. "I basically put all the tunes in I have on heavy rotation right now from a couple of people I really respect and admire," the artist says.

Take Santi for example, who first appeared on our radar last year with his signature dancehall-with-a-difference sound, or Odunsi (the Engine) who represents a very alternative voice with his nostalgic afrofusion. These artists are all part of what's been dubbed the Alté scene, a game-changing new wave of Lagos creatives pushing boundaries by celebrating individuality and freedom of expression in a culture more accustomed to fitting in. It's a generation of artists that are putting music out on SoundCloud and by doing so manage to circumnavigate the Nigerian entertainment industry and stay independent.

The theme of this year's Gidi Fest is “Bringing it home". The festival wants to encourage and celebrate the increasing numbers of people in the Nigerian diaspora that are returning to rediscover Lagos -- to honor urban youth culture in Africa through the lens of music, food and art. i-D will be there.

Gidi Fest takes place in Lagos, Nigeria, from 9-11 April 2020. Visit for more information.

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