Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The renaissance of Nigerian music

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”   –Bob Marley
I love good music. If there is one thing I am addicted to, it is soulful, joyful noises. I listen to all genres of music from the traditional to the contemporary. I have a stockpile of downloaded music on my phones and personal computers. I have also invested a small fortune buying musical cassettes and compact discs. They range from indigenous juju, fuji, apala, Afro-beat, highlife, and sakara to the contemporary hip-hop, pop, jazz, and rap. I am also in love with country music and gospel. As rightly observed by Taylor Swift, “People haven’t always been there for me but music always has.” What do I love in music? I love the inspiration, the idioms, the creativity, the originality and the relaxation that good music offers.
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Among my Nigerian music icons are Sir Victor Abimbola Olaiya, I.K. Dairo, Adeolu Akinsanya (Baba Eto), Tunji Oyelana, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade, Lijadu Sisters, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe of the Osondi Owendi fame, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Sunny Okosun, Onyeka Onwenu, Oliver De Coque, Lara George and a host of other artistes too numerous to mention.
The evolution of Nigerian music is phenomenal. There was a time highlife ruled the Nigerian music world. Then came juju, fuji and Afro-beat popularised by Fela in the sixties. Thereafter came the Nigerian brand of hip-hop in the early eighties. I remember the likes of Mike Okri, Felix Lebarty, Danny Wilson, Blackky, Chris Okotie, Dizzy K. Falola and Alex Zitto. On the reggae side, we had the Mandators, Oritz Wiliki, Majek Fashek, Ras Kimono and Evi Edna Ogholi. The evolution gave way to revolution in the 90s with the emergence of new kids on the block like The Remedies, Plantashun Boyz, Daddy Showkey, Papa Fryo and Daddy Fresh. There was also Junior and Pretty, Maintain group and the Styl-Plus group. The split of The Remedies and Plantashun Boyz gave rise to star artistes like Tuface Idibia, Tony Tetuila and Eedris AbdulKarim.
The revolution of Nigerian music went full cycle with the emergence of Paul and Peter Okoye popularly called P-Square, the relocation to Nigeria from the United Kingdom by Dapo Oyebanjo better known as D’Banj and his ex-producer and business partner, Michael Collins Ajereh, better known as Don Jazzy, Bankole Wellington, aka Banky W, David Adeleke who goes by the stage name, Davido, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, aka Whizkid, and Olamide to mention but a few. In recognition of their creative efforts, they have won lots of international and national awards.
Just last Saturday, July 18, some of them for the umpteenth time did the country proud in faraway Durban, South Africa. It was at the 2015 edition of the MTV Africa Music Awards. At the show popularly called MAMA, Nigerian musicians won in seven categories. Davido rules Africa as the Best Male Act. He won the same award last year. Yemi Alade won the best female artiste in Africa. The inimitable duo of P-Square won two awards. The twin brothers won the “Best Group” award as well as the prestigious “Artiste of the decade” in recognition of their successful longevity at the top of African music. Nigeria’s Patoranking was named the “Best New Act” while his compatriot, D’banj (aka Kokomaster) won the 2015 MTV Evolution award. Don Jazzy led his Mavin Record crew to receive due reward for their single, “Dorobucci”, which came out on top as the “Song of the Year”. To crown the day of glory for Nigeria was Burna Boy who won the “Best Collaboration” award with AKA, Da Les & JR for their hit song “All Eyes On Me”.
It was not only at the MAMA that Nigerian artistes have brought honour to their motherland. They have performed similar feats at other music awards such as Kora, Channel O Music Awards, MTV Europe Music, MOBO, MTV Africa, Headies, BET and African Muzik Magazine Awards popularly known as AFRIMA. These garlanded artistes could be regarded as ambassador plenipotentiaries having given Nigeria positive mentions in international news thereby helping to change the narratives from the country of fraudsters and monsters to that of creative minds.
The value chain of the Nigerian music industry is very long. Kudos must be given to the music recording labels such as Afrodisia, Decca, Ibukun OrisunIye, Rogers, Tabansi, Sony, Premier, EME, Starboy, Chocolate City, Mavin and Kennies. These record labels employ or did employ thousands of workers such as producers, studio engineers, directors and many others. They give the platform for these musicians to realise their dreams of being on vinyl. The artistes themselves have managers and Public Relations outfits that manage their image. There are also the Disc Jockeys in radio and television stations as well as social events who play the music and videos of these musicians thereby popularising their music and burnishing their image. The marketers are also part of the value chain. They help distribute the albums both nationally and internationally.
Mention also has to be made of telecommunication companies who have given endorsements and made some of the star artistes their brand ambassadors. Not only that, they also assist in marketing the music of these artistes by offering their customers opportunity to download their songs as ringtones for tokens. That way, both the artistes and the telecommunication companies make more money. Nigerian musicians have also boosted the dance and movie industry. While their video producers hire choreographer and  dancers to feature in their musical videos, the musicians also make money by producing soundtracks for movies and films. Those selling musical instruments have also been having a field day. Nigerian music, just like their foreign genre, has also boosted radio and television listenership and viewership not only by playing the music but also through the introduction of musical chart countdown such as Top 20 or Top 10 music or music video of the week.
Also noteworthy is the advent of music reality television shows. There is now a Nigerian Idol show sponsored by Etisalat, Project Fame by MTN and the X-Factor show sponsored by GLO. A few of the stars who have emerged through these avenues include Dare Art Alade, Nyanya, Chidinma, Timi Dakolo and Omawunmi Megbele. These artistes apart from winning mouth-watering cash prizes also have recording deals. It was reported that seven Nigerian artistes made the list of the top 10 richest African artistes’ list released by Forbes for 2013, with music producer and CEO of Marvin Records cum rapper, Don Jazzy coming second behind Senegalese American legend, Akon. The third to the sixth positions are also dominated by Nigerian music acts like P-Square, D-Banj, Wiz-Kid and Tuface Idibia; with Ice Prince and Bankky W closing the rear at the ninth and 10th positions. The list was put together, using indices such as endorsement value, popularity, show rates, sales, awards, YouTube views, newspaper appearances and advertisements, social media presence and others. It also comes as the clearest testimony of Nigeria’s music dominance at least in Africa.
Perhaps, the biggest challenge facing the Nigerian music industry, nay the entire entertainment industry, aside from the recurring leadership crisis is intellectual theft otherwise known as piracy. The headquarters of these rogue pirates are at the Alaba International Market in the Ojo area of Lagos. It is heartwarming that on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged a renewed offensive against these thieves. Buhari charged law enforcement agencies to identify the perpetrators of copyright piracy, their sponsors and collaborators, and bring them to justice. He restated the fact that the practitioners, more than ever before, need the support and backing of government to stem the tide. Well said, Mr. President! Piracy is an economic crime that should carry stiff penalties to be rooted out.
Meanwhile, let the music flow, please!