For an industry barely twenty years old (or thereabouts), the Nigeria Music Industry is growing in leaps and bounds. From barely getting recognition from local radio stations to having songs on the international Billboard, the growth has been impressive. There is no better time to be a Nigerian artiste than now.
I cannot help but wonder, however, how much value – asides material – this growth is having on our nation as a whole?
Let us turn the clock back a few years.
I’m talking in particular about the era of King Sunny Ade and Sir Shina Peters and Sir Victor Uwaifo and Sir Rex Lawson and Majek Fashek and Raskimono and Ebenezer Obey and so on. While these people sang about all sorts of things, some of them were also notorious womanisers and this showed up in their lyrics – Baba Sunny and Sir Shina readily come to mind. They also usually included philosophical slants.
And while the Remedies – the guys mostly hailed as responsible for the resurgence of Nigerian Music – kept their music mostly about fun (and we really had to assume it was mostly about fun given Eedris’ incomprehensible mumbling and creation of words), the Plantashun Boiz – who were sort of the direct rivals of the Remedies – were lover boys. With smooth vocals, clean lyrics and groovy instrumentals, they provided variety in a market formerly dominated by foreign acts.
Several changes were happening. Long before the Remedies were a duo called Junior and Pretty who rapped in pidgin English and made light of many of the serious issues facing the average Nigerian. Their story is one that didn’t exactly end on a good note, but to many who make rap music, they remain pioneers.
Even the pirates saw a repositioning of business. Guys who took popular foreign music and pirated them, making them easily affordable for the average Nigerian, suddenly saw a crash in their business as consumers weren’t looking for foreign music as much as before. Understanding the signs of the times, these guys showed their business acumen by abandoning the pirate route and turned to producing even. They invested in promising Nigerian artistes. Some even became proper label owners, supporting, promoting and giving the artiste a proper platform to explode on.
Fast forward to now.
The differences between then and now in the music scene/industry are staggering. From people who were once considered failures or jobless, the Nigerian artiste has become a force to be reckoned with. With international recognition, rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s greatest acts on stages and in studios, and with multi-million naira endorsement deals, there’s ample evidence that music is lucrative business if “done right”.
I hope you noticed the quotation marks. Good.
How is music in Nigeria done right?
An important aspect of music making that suffers and is ignored in the average Nigerian song is lyrics. It would seem as though the more risqué the song, the bigger the hit. And that is not to say that clean lyrics do not have their place. After all, we have acts like Yemi Alade and Waje and Omawunmi and Tuface and Sound Sultan and Banky W and several others who don’t use lewd lyrics for the most part.
And then you have a song like Story for the gods…
Make no mistake, no matter what issues remain to be addressed, the Nigerian artiste has come to stay for the long haul. It is with pride that I look at some telco billboards and see acts like King Sunny Ade and Daddy Showkey and so on enjoying endorsement deals. These are the forerunners; these are the ones who went ahead and did what they did in a very original way even though a lot of them had record deals with international labels like Sony, Polydor, EMI and so on.
One should be able to enjoy the fruits of his labour.
Also noteworthy is Fatai Rolling Dollar, the old man whose turn it was to enjoy fame even though he was advanced in years. He died a couple of years ago, but before he did, he enjoyed a new public interest in his music, he started touring again and even got a couple of endorsement deals. I guess it’s true what they say – all’s well that ends well.
Well, let me end here too.
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