Whose Jollof Rice is better: 10 songs on the controversy

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said Nigerian jollof rice was delicious.

Sarkodie, Flavour. Photo: AmeyawDebrah, TheNet
Sarkodie, Flavour. Photo: AmeyawDebrah, TheNet

Perhaps he wasn’t aware how serious his playful declaration would be received by Nigerians. Quickly, people from the country took his statement as endorsement of Nigerian jollof and as victory over Ghana. 

Jollof Rice is perhaps the most serious issue between these Anglophone west African countries. The debate used to be about which country owns the meal. But that seems to have been settled. Answer: it is neither Ghana nor Nigeria. The Wolof people of the Jolof Empire in the Senegambia region probably made it first. Apparently, they loved it so much they named their kingdom after it.

And yet, neither Senegal, where the Wolof are about 40 percent of the population, nor Gambia, where they make up around 15 percent, seem to figure in the Jollof Discourse. It is wholly a Nigeria vs Ghana issue.

The new question, because the origin story has been (mostly) settled, is more specific: which of the two countries has the better tasting jollof rice? There are no easy answers there. History may have settled where the meal originates from, but the debate rages on about superior taste. Is it Ghanaian jollof? Is it Naija jollof? The argument is fierce online where Nigerians and Ghanaians lob memes and cruel tweets at each other like citizen-grenades. (No one remembers that the meal is also found in Liberia and Sierra Leone.)

Accordingly, the Jollof Discourse has representation in west African pop music where a number of artists have contributed to the jollof body of work. From our non-scientific research on songs about jollof, we have learnt three things:

1. Nigerian artists think of jollof as love or evidence of love.

2. Ghanaian artists are combative in declaring their jollof rice superior.

3. Sierra Leoneans only sing about jollof rice when they don't have any. 

Music in Africa may not be able to give you jollof. But here is the next best thing: A compilation of jollof tunes. Not as sweet as the food? We agree. But it should serve. If we have left out your favourite jollof song, let us know in the comments. We will consider serving another plate of joyful jollof tracks.

10. Lynxxx ft Naeto C - Jollof Music

Taken from Nigerian rapper Lynxxx's 2011 album, 'Jollof Music' features Naeto C. Both men combine to sing about a "lucky girl" to "come and jollof" with them. It is perhaps the first time in the history of recording music that "jollof" is used as a verb. As Naeto C says, "Jollofing is my habit."  

9. Ebenezer Calendar & His Maringa Band - Jollof Rice

Refusing to share jollof can break relationships and ruin friendships. At the minimum, it was enough for the Sierra-Leonean palmwine music man Ebenezer Calendar to complain on this song from the 1950s. Why, oh why, would you cook jollof rice and not give him to eat? Don't laugh. This is an important question.

8. Falz ft. Yemi Alade - Soupe

Taken from his acclaimed Stories that Touch album, Falz recruits Yemi Alade on this song featuring comparisons of a lover's taste to the sweetness of jollof rice. " My sweetie jollof rice, your body hot like a soupe!" sings Ms Alade. 

7. Disiz - Petit Coin De Paradis

Born to a Senegalese father, Disiz is a French rapper. On 'Petit Coin De Paradis', he talks about things that make him happy. "There is nothing better than sharing a plate of thiebou yapp," he says. Thiebou yapp is jollof rice with meat, a variation of the more common thiebou dieune (jollof with fish) in Senegal. 

One of the other things that make him happy is listening to music by Sade. He may not realise it but Sade belongs to the enemy camp. Although Sade is an English band, the band's lead singer, Helen Folasade Adu, was born in Ibadan, Oyo state to a Nigerian father. 

6. Sarkodie - Choices

One of Sarkodie's best songs, 'Choices' takes its title, beat and structure from E-40's 'Choices'. On the subtly potent beat, Sarkodie offers two options, refuses one and accepts the other. Such issues as voting and electricity supply in Ghana get mentioned. But there is space for pop stars from Nigeria: Burna Boy? Nope. Yemi Alade? Nope. Over them, he chooses Ghanaian and Kenyan replacements: Stonebwoy? Yep! Victoria Kimani? Yep! And then he arrives at jollof. Nigerian jollof? Nope! 

Sarkodie is still loved in Nigeria maybe because this song isn't quite as popular as his hits. Now if he made a video for the song, that could all change...

5. Solidstar ft. Tiwa Savage - Baby Jollof

Once again, a Nigerian artist compares his love interest to jollof rice. "Baby jollof, you too sweet like jollof," goes the chorus of Solidstar's 'Baby Jollof'. Who will save Nigerian musicians from food? Tekno has his cassava. Orezi has his ogede (banana) and D'Banj has his sweet potato.

4. Youssour N'Dour - Thiebou Dieune

Mr N'dour plays patriot here, telling his listeners about Senegal's national dish, thiebou dieune. It is the Senegalese jollof and translates to 'rice and fish'. The Senegalese maestro has actually written a book about Senegal cuisine. You can find the book on Amazon.

3. Fuse ODG - I Need Jollof (Your Love)

The UK-based Ghanaian artist Fuse ODG played food diplomat in 2012. While expressing his love for the meal, he expertly doesn't say which version of jollof is best. The songs starts with these noncommital lines:

Ghanaians fighting over
Nigerians fighting over
Sierra Leoneans fighting over
Liberians fighting over

Smart man.

2. Flavour ft. Tiwa Savage - Oyi (Remix)

"My jollof rice, how you dey do today," sings Flavour. Apparently when a Nigerian male musician sees Tiwa Savage, he remembers jollof rice. 

1. Sister Deborah - Ghana Jollof

The heavyweight champion in the jollof wars. Sister Deborah essentially destroys the competition on 'Ghana Jollof'. The jollof from her country is yummy, she says. Nigerian jollof? "Uhn, it tastes funny."

The video for the song is funny indeed. It features a cameo from Sister Deborah's brother, Wanlov of the group FOKN Bois. He dresses up like a Nigerian woman at a party. Advantage: Ghana. Over to you Nigeria.



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