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Today, content doesn’t sell in music, ‘beats’ do

By Onochie Anibeze, Laju Arenyeka, Juliet Ebirim, Adeyeri Aderonke

‘Nigerian musicians project very shameful lyrical contents in their song’

Today, content doesn’t sell in music, ‘beats’ do.

A large chunk of what we now listen to as music are products of energetic dissipation of empty sounds. Only few musicians are trying to keep up with the trend of the legends. But 10 out of 100 percent is not a pass mark.

The Nigerian music industry has undoubtedly achieved overwhelming success in many areas and is unarguably one of Nigeria’s biggest job-creating sectors today as it creates opportunities for complementary services like music/movie production, event management, DJ services, equipment purchase/leasing, marketing, retailing, etc.

The snag, however, is in the product being sold. Majority of Nigerian musicians now dish out obscene lyrics. If it isn’t about a girl’s ‘front and back’ (breasts and butts), it will be about wild partying, drunkenness, smoking, fanciful wealth and at other times it is about immoral sex.

Wizkid, Tiwa, Olamide and P-square
Wizkid, Tiwa, Olamide and P-square

It appears the easiest way to sell songs in the industry today is to be meaningless and portray women as sexual objects. Making women look like pleasure givers who are meant to satisfy clothed men, sipping whiskey at parties with friends as the women ‘shake dia booties’. Musicians today are working really hard to outdo one another in the lewd, shameless game.

Vulgarity, sensuality and sexuality have become the mantra of the industry. One seems odd and old-fashioned if one’s music is sane and has a positive message.

These days, it is common to see morally upright young people who once sang in the church choir, metamorphose into propagators of party and sex gospel, because they have become musicians. It is not also strange to see juveniles, as young as 21 and even 17 singing vulgar songs and showing obscene and embarrassing videos, yet enjoying the patronage and applause of their fans and even support by multinational corporation who hire the singers for product endorsement. Music which was meant to be food for the soul has become poison for the mind.

The present day style of music can be classified into three genres: money-driven, women-driven, and alcohol-driven. These kind of songs have been the talk of the industry for some years now and have put the power of rhythm over lyrics. Considering the power music has, one could be quick to conclude that our music industry has hastened the decline in our value system. Almost every music video you watch on television today will one way or the other communicate seduction or obscenity. Every nonsense now makes sense, as long as the beat is danceable!

Music should be driven by motivation, value, culture, function and education. That was the case of Mike Okri’s Time na money:

Use your time well

No waka waka

No gossip gossip

Money no dey come from heaven

Do better thing money go come… .

This happens to be one song that inspired a couple of the wealthy people we have today. It was a song played virtually every morning from our local radio to admonish both young and old on using time wisely. Even with the lyrics in vernacular, it forbids procrastination and spurs one into action and taking of decisions.

Also, Felix Liberty, popularly called “Lover boy” was the toast of music lovers in the 80s. His music literally seized the airwaves and no party was complete until popular tracks like Ngozi and Loverboy were played. He was successful like his peers, Chris Okotie, Dizzy K. Falola, and Jide Obi.

Before this generation of musicians, the artistes that stormed the scene immediately after the Nigerian civil war were also brilliant. They were true musicians who could play at least one musical instrument and not the singers of today whose songs are made of sequenced, computerized sounds.

From the East came groups like One World, Wings, Apostles, Semicolon, Ofo, Wrinkars Experience, Sweet Breeze, etc.

From the West came Blo, Ofege, Monomono, etc. Bongos Ikwue was based in Kaduna then and he thrilled with his moving philosophical music. Remember his I’M STILL SEARCHING FOR TRUE LOVE?

Songs by BLO compared with the best of foreign music. Groups like One World, Apostles, Wings, Funkees, Semicolon, Wrinkars Experience came out with albums that became instant hits, full of meaningful lyrics.

Take this from One World from the track, YOU:

You know if you leave me for nothing

You’ll live to regret, you to lose, on your face

And I know you will come back, knocking

On my door someday, should we bet?

And it’s true there maybe another girl

Wishing to take your place, anytime, I’m afraid . . .

You, You, You

YOU was so melodious and full of blues it struck the chime of lovers any time it was played and if it was in a party, the intimacy it engendered in the dancers told the story.

Afamefuna was another track from the Wings that sold thousands of copies in those 1970s.

“I remember this very moving track, IMAGINATION by the wings,” said Chidi Okolo, a popular music presenter with Anambra Broadcasting Service:

“ They sing: ‘Look at the world, look at the people, watch and see the way the sun shines …,

Chidi spoke with emotion and nostalgia about the music of the 70s and the 80s, recalling places like the Tourist Hotel, Townhall and Club Elbella in Enugu where shows held every time. Aba attracted many groups. Chidi was among those who presented a popular music programme called LOCOMOTION. Lagos had great spots too, like Parabiso, Faze 2, The Lords, Deroof, etc.

Like Enugu Rangers Football Club whose pioneer members were among Biafran soldiers, the Funkees were veterans of the Biafran War. They were a rock group. They recorded a number of singles in the 1970s before moving to London to record their debut album, The Point Of No Return. BLO was in the class of its own.

There was also the Ofege phenomenon, the 1970s school boy musical band from St. Gregory’s College, Obalende, Ikoyi, Lagos. It was Nigeria’s most outstanding schoolboy band of all time! Largely influenced by the guitar solos of Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Francis Rossi, and the criss-cross rhythms of Osibisa. At home, they were influenced by the music of BLO (Berkley Jones, Laolu Akins and Mike Odumosu), ‘Monomono’ (led by Joni Haastrup), The Funkees, and Ofo The Black Company.

The lyrics of the music of this generation were rich. Gibzani (Gabriel Ozoani) of the One World ended up as a lecturer at Institute Of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu, and later Enugu State University after the group split and he stopped playing music. That’s a pointer to the standard of musicians in those days. Even those who didn’t acquire higher education had class.

They were creative. Entertainment thrived especially for those who had just come out of war and needed some succor. They got it from music, courtesy of the great talents of the time. The likes of Chris Okotie and Jide Obi later came to the scene in the 80s after which a seeming drought ensued in rock, pop and soul music. Highlife music never fades, anyway. And so is Juju music. Tracks from Osita Osadebe, Victor Olaiya, Ali Chukwuma, Celestine Ukwu, Mensah, Rex Lawson, I K Dairo, Ebenizer Obey, Orlando Owo, etc, entertained and still entertains.

Akpala, enriched by Anyila Omowura and Haruna Ishola gave birth to Fuji music. Anyinde Barister and Kollington took fuji to another level. Their rivalry added value to the entertainment industry especially with Barrister’s LIVE and Kollington’s TANI YEN JO? This was followed by a highly discotized BABALATIKA, a track that knew no tribal boundaries as the orchestration thrilled and compelled you to dance. Christian Essien Igbokwe and Onyeka Onwenu were like amazons in the industry. They made sense with their lyrics and produced jibes with their rhythm. Onyeka was unbelievable. Their generation took time to create music that made sense.

In pop and soul music, a seeming drought hit the scene from the late the 90s when the aforementioned generation were beginning to withdraw from the scene. Foreign music took over our airwaves and in social activities. It remained so until the Ajegunle music revolution led by the likes of Daddy Showkey. IF YOU SEE MY MAMA was a hit that delighted all. It still delights and Daddy Showkey commands respect for the revolution that led to the rebirth of what one may now call Nigerian music. Nigerian musicians have carved a niche for themselves in terms rhythm. Their rhythm has character and can easily be identified.

No thanks to western hip-hop influence, contemporary Nigerian music has come to be defined by their “beats”. Nowadays, all it takes to do music is a couple of rhythmic nothings; accompanied by perspiration hip swinging sound, then it’s a hit! The “good old days” might as well be thrown into the abyss of history.

Some of the buzz words of the lyrics in the industry today are “Do me, Do me…”, “Give it to me”, “I want ya something”. A typical Naija music video must have scenes of semi unclad girls dancing while well dressed guys sing. They say sex sells in the “21stst century. You hear lyrics like My money and your money no be mate (Wizkid), She shake up her bum bum, Ukwu (Timaya); Make I knack you Akpako (Terry G); All I want is your waist (Iyanya), “Take Banana, till you go yo (D’Prince)etc.

Around the country, from buzzing speakers, today’s Nigerian music is replete with just anything but content. From Terry G’s Free Madness, Flavour’s Shake, Iyanya’s Your Waist, W4’s Control, D’ Prince’s Take Banana to Dammy, Krane’s Kunle, Wizkid’s Caro, Olamide’s Turn Up, Wande Coal’s Rotate, Kcee’s Pullover, to D’banj’s Don’t Tell Me Nonsense… the list is endless.

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