teju cole spotify playlist

Teju Cole’s fans run to him for all sorts of things—for advice on how to be a good writer [here], for his work as a storyteller, his illuminating commentaries on photography, his effortless star power on social media—the list is endless. So it isn’t entirely strange that they can now go to him for suggestions on a good dance track.

The Nigerian-American novelist has been spotted on the music-streaming platform called spotify where he curates playlists around a range of themes. He then shares the playlist on Facebook, including a short note describing the rationale behind the list.

He has 452 followers and follows only three accounts—two of which are the American female rapper Azealia Banks and the BBC Music Playlist.

Cole is no stranger to social media culture. He has consistently reinvented his image as a public intellectual by exploring various social media platforms. After building a powerful fan base on Twitter [@tejucole] and being hailed as one of its powerful influencer, Cole went on to Instagram [@_tejucole] and has since relocated his fanbase to Facebook where his posts get thousands of likes, comments, and shares. Spotify is certainly new frontier for the novelist. We are curious to see what he does with it.

Of the 11 playlists Cole has posted so far, our favorite—and the most popular of them all—is The Liquid Grooves of Lagos. It is a 13-track playlist paying homage to Africa’s most populous city.

Cole has always been open about his love affair with Lagos and has written quite a lot about it. The playlist offers a cross-generational sample of dance tracks made by Lagos-based musicians. It features everyone from Bobby Benson to Wizkid.

Here is how he explains the idea behind The Liquid Grooves of Lagos playlist.

The Liquid Grooves of Lagos:

For your Friday and for mine, I made a compilation I’ve named “Liquid Grooves of Lagos.” Listen, this might be the most beautiful playlist I’ve made yet. I don’t know.

What is a groove? Continuity of feeling with or without development.

Here’s what’s happening in these danceable but not hectic mid-tempo tracks:

Every single one of them is beautiful. You’ll hear the typical cosmopolitan mix of influences that characterizes Nigerian music, especially Nigerian city music. I call it “of Lagos” because that is where I heard this music growing up, though some of it is made by people in other parts of the country. “Of Lagos” because the very point of Lagos is that the energy comes from all over the country, and all over the world. The core of the selection is in Yoruba (my mother tongue) and in English, but there are Igbo language tracks as well, because Lagos belongs to us all.

The main currents are juju, rumba, Afrobeat, Afrobeats, highlife, and the places where all those things meet. Music not in a hurry. (Impress your friends at the office and put this on, trust me…)

For me, the two core Lagos musical geniuses, and among the very greatest of world musicians, are also the core of this playlist: Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti. Sunny is represented here by “Ogidan O Ni Se Barber” (a proverb: if the leopard opens a barber shop, the dog doesn’t go there for a haircut: meaning “recognize your limits, don’t take foolish risks”). Fela is represented by one of his lesser known but most luxuriantly beautiful tracks, “Look and Laugh,” which rolls in at a breathtaking groovetastic length of thirty minutes. It’s so beautiful that you forget he’s singing about how fucked up things can get in Lagos. The difference between Sunny and Fela, and how they represent the two faces of Lagos, is something I’m going explore in-depth one of these days.

Back to the playlist. I have Burna Boy and Wizkid (both heavily influenced by Fela) representing the current generation, and the track by Bobby Benson, “Taxi Driver,” is from the 1950s. So, this compilation is sixty years’ worth of that good-time feel-good vibe that makes the city of Lagos—as maddening as it is—the place everyone wants to be.


[The link to the playlist: here]

So next time you have a party, you know to hit up DJ Teju!



Image via otrolunes.com




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I'm finishing up a phd at Duke University where I study African novels, which I believe are some of the loveliest things ever written. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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