Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Nigeria without music

“If music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.”


― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


Imagine a Nigeria without music. How will it be? Exciting, colourful, peaceful, dull or boring? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Music which is otherwise referred to as joyful noises is a necessity in a world full of tension, bloodletting, fear, sorrow and despondence. Music helps to lift people’s spirit when they are sad. It helps to calm frayed nerves. It heals, it gladdens, it excites. There are people who read best when they listen to music. There are people who sleep soundly when they are listening to music. Even while exercising, driving or doing house chores, people listen to music. No party or political rally is complete without music. Anyone who dances without music would be seen as a potential psychiatrist patient because all dances are to be accompanied with music and perhaps musical instruments. Music is so important to life so much so that without it the world would be lackluster.

Music is a whole industry in Nigeria. There are traditional and contemporary music; foreign and indigenous. The traditional genre includes folklore songs, fuji, juju, highlife and gospel while the contemporary includes genre like the rap, hip-hop, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, Afrobeat and many more. These days, many musicians are demonstrating their ingenuity and creativity by fusing traditional with contemporary music in order to create a unique brand for themselves. Music is a profession as well as a vocation. A lot of Nigerian musicians have no other job besides songwriting, producing or singing. Many Nigerian musicians have won international music awards including Grammies which is the ultimate music award all international musicians covet. Nigerian artistes like Sade Adu and Seal have both won the Grammies although they ply their trade outside the shores of Nigeria. Musicians like Femi Kuti and King Sunny Ade have also been severally nominated for the Grammies although they failed to clinch the prize.

Other Nigerian musicians who have done the country proud on global stage include Fela Anikulapo Kuti,  Innocent Idibia better known as TuFace Idibia, Lijadu Sisters, Whizkid, P-Square, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Dr.  Victor Abimbola Olaiya, Sir Isaac Kehinde Dairo, MBE, Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister,  Davido, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, Olamide, Sir Dennis Osadebey, Dan Maraya Jos and a host of others too numerous to mention.

Unfortunately, this vibrant music industry is plagued with a number of challenges. They range from piracy, leadership crisis, inclement operating environment, non-payment of commensurate royalties by music producers and promoters, etcetera. For instance, harsh operating environment has driven away many foreign music companies such as Ivory, EMI, Sony, Decca and Phonodisc records. Also, talent hunt musical concerts such as the one organised by the Benson and Hedges Golden Tones have been rested. Worst still is the persistent infringement on the intellectual property of Nigerian musicians by some unscrupulous Nigerian businessmen in cahoots with their international accomplices. These scoundrels whose headquarters is in Alaba International Market in Lagos buys just one original compact disc only to illegally mass-produce same and sell these pirated copies at ridiculous price of N100 per copy. Now, these criminals are living off the sweat of the musicians who did all the hard work and invested huge sums to produce their albums. Aside the pirates, many of us Nigerians are in the habit of dubbing and downloading music illegally. Many Disc Jockeys, Radio, Television stations, hotels and marketing companies are also guilty of music copyright infringement.

These anomalous situations are what have given birth to Nigeria ‘No Music Day’ which is in its eight year. According to a songwriter and CEO of NowMuzik, Mr. Efe Omorogbe, “This coming September 1 will mark the eighth consecutive edition of ‘No Music Day’. We hope that everyone remembers that historic week in 2009 when for several days; a group of Nigerian artistes held huge rallies at the National Theatre in Lagos and went on a week-long hunger strike to protest the cruel abuse of the rights of artistes in Nigeria. For the first time in the history of mankind, the music industry in a country called for the halt of the broadcast of music all over the country for a whole day, September 1, 2009. That action captured the imagination of the world and ‘No Music Day’ was born”.

Tomorrow, September 1, 2016 is another ‘No Music Day’ and the theme of this year’s event is “The Monetisation of Musical Content in the Digital Space”.  Information garnered from the website of Copyright Society of Nigeria quoted the  renowned Intellectual Property activist and Chairman of COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji as saying that:  “Every year, in marking ‘No Music Day’, our objective has been to engage the Nigerian people and the various governments on the potential contributions of Nigerian music to the socio-economic development of the Nigerian nation and the necessity to fully deploy the substantial comparative advantage which our nation possesses in this area so as to provide hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs to the teeming masses of Nigerian youth who parade the streets of our country with little hope. I have no doubt that if the right environment is created in Nigeria, the enormous creative energy exhibited by our young people will be released to the amazement of the world” I couldn’t agree more with Okoroji on this submission.

The music industry is a goldmine largely untapped and with right policies and incentives capable of providing millions of jobs for army of Nigerian unemployed population. It is a sector government cannot afford to ignore as we seek to wean our economy off over-dependence on oil and gas.  The value chain is simply very huge. We have the songwriters, producers, directors, dancers, choreographers, promoters, marketers all living off the artistes, the musicians. This sector can earn us the much needed foreign exchange as there is a huge demand for Nigerian music in Africa and the rest of the world.

So what is COSON asking us to do tomorrow? In commemoration of ‘No Music Day’ broadcast stations across Nigeria have been requested not to broadcast music between the hours of 8am and 10am as a mark of solidarity with the nation’s creative industry. Rather than broadcast music, the stations have been asked to dedicate the 8 am to 10 am time belt to the broadcast of interviews, documentaries, debates and discussions that focus on the rights of creative people and the potential contributions of creative activities to the national economy. Newspapers and magazines across the country are also requested to publish special features on these issues. The Nigerian public is urged to tune in to different domestic radio and television stations to engage members and affiliates of Copyright Society of Nigeria and other music industry experts who will spread out to diverse broadcast stations to discuss “The Monetisation of Musical Content in the Digital Space” as the Nigerian nation seeks alternative resources to replace the dwindling oil revenue. Nigerians, let’s protect and promote our own music industry.

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