Seconds into “Light Up,” the latest irresistible jam by the Nigerian artist Demola, an instrument not usually associated with Afrobeat enters the mix: a classically-inspired violin. The rhythm track is a sun-baked, buoyant bounce, and the violin part is a cool forest breeze. They shouldn’t work perfectly together, but somehow, they do.
That’s exactly the sort of alchemy that Demola brings to his love of music. The singer, songwriter, producer, and classically-trained violinist is a master at juxtaposition: a skilled music-maker with a golden ear, a penchant for cross-cultural experimentation, and a mischievous streak, too. Everything he does is joyous, and with “Light Up,” he’s outdone himself. On this new single, Demola has perfected his trademark blend of transcontinental pop, hip-hop beats, African rhythm, R&B danceability, and – oh yes – some tasty violin, too. The star punctuates the record with a violin solo that pushes the party into total delirium.
He’s also brought along another reveler who’ll be extremely familiar to fans of West African pop music. Wande Coal is one of the most daring artists in Nigerian Afrobeat; Wanted, his 2015 set, was a dizzying pan-African get-down that featured artists from all over the continent. Wande Coal blesses “Light Up” with the sort of quiet swaggering, hedonistic verse that has made him famous in the Southern hemisphere – and which has won him plenty of discerning fans north of the equator, too.
Demola is poised to follow Wande from the stages of his native country to worldwide acclaim – and “Light Up” is likely to be the vehicle of his takeover. The colorful, celebratory video has already been streamed 97,000 times on YouTube, and the numbers keep climbing. He’s taken his violin to the Great Day show in Houston, and he’s opened shows for R&B legends Tony Toni Tone. With talent to burn and songs as electrifying as “Light Up,” it feels inevitable that Demola will quickly make a name for himself in the States.
With its sudden flashes of illumination, its beautiful girls (and beautiful cars!), and its poolside shindig, the clip for “Light Up” underscores the vibrancy of the song and the propulsive, party-starting qualities of the beat. But most of all, it’s a showcase for the charismatic Demola, who strides through these frames with the confidence of an international superstar. Sometimes he’s got his violin in hand, and sometimes he sings straight to the camera with a wide smile. By the end of the clip, Demola has his instrument tucked under his chin, and he’s making sweet music under a canopy composed of multi-colored umbrellas. Like the track, it’s a gorgeous daydream.