… as he bemoans lack of professionalism in Nigeria music industry
By Chris Onuoha
Seun Olota is a composer, music teacher, performing artist, and leads the ExTasI gang, a group of 9 man band. He has built his music stint within the context of dance, club, hymnal, choral, and therapeutic music with original compositions and orchestrations for the family of strings, percussion, brass, and wind instruments.
An art devotee and critique with zeal for realism whilst not disregarding views from absurdism, expressionism, experimentalism, surrealism, and impressionism in the world of ISMs. These views amalgamate his fusion flick of trado-urban music styles and sound shapes.
I started music at early age as music runs in the family. My father, a church organist and musician acquired music instrument for keep in the house. The exposure to instruments at early age was an advantage to me. Most of my family members are in music with some actively playing professionally.
The passion for music grew and was further enhanced through what I call school days experience – where some senior boys during my secondary schools days who noticed the talent in me would rather have me entertain them as punishment for wrong doing instead of fetching water as a normal punishment melted on offenders. Such a sensational experience inspired the music in me.
Perhaps, it is noteworthy that Seun who started out as a science students in secondary school dumped the course and switched to arts, having noticed a stronger passion for music arts. This also manifested in tertiary institution.
I got admission to study theater art at the University of Ife. Earlier before then, I had already established a playing band in Lagos. The distance from my operational base, Lagos, prompted my retaking JAMB exams and gaining admission into the University of Lagos to study Creative Art.
My band called ExTasI gang is a group of 9 man band that currently plays weekly live music show (The Free Spot Show) at The Freedom Park Lagos-Island.
With exposures to musical and theatrical workshops, his band is a chunk of uncommon thinkers who are also recording artistes, scholars, and directors in their own rights yet, jointly set on a phrenic and theosophic quest that stretches music beyond aural sensibility into the threshold of touch, sight, taste, and smell. Albums to his credits include: Home Made (2006), Home Brew (2013), and Free Spot Show-Live (2015).
Music industry in Nigeria is going through some sort of unhealthy transformation, where digitally managed music has dominated the real life band. Life band as soul of the industry has stood out as a pride and identity of a people with bands performing in the manner and style, full of meaningful and identifiable lyrics.
What you see today is some kind of techno-centric one man band, stage managed by a Disc jockey (DJ), miming to the audience with inaudible and vulgar lyrics. This is killing the industry, I mean the CD miming. Showbiz promoters, music managers and content producers seem to be more of the culprit in this trend of deviation with much emphasis on the one man band to the neglect of the real life band performers.
When a foreign promoter comes into the country to engage artistes for a show, he has no choice than to see the one man band on stage as the best the country have. At this point, he is left with no option than to contract whoever they see performing on stage as a country’s musical ambassadors.
When they perform alongside other international bands and musicians, their rating is not anything near pass. This is a challenge because most of the foreign promoters are not exposed to the original and creative life band groups. Country’s best musicians are found among instrumentalists with band and creativity.
A flash in a pan trend
The ugly side of the situation is that historic archives and cultural heritage elevated or exported by the efforts of the great Nigerian musicians are dying. Take for example; Fela Anikulapo Kuti is one phenomenal artiste Nigeria ever produced that reverberates globally when Africa music is mentioned.
He did not originate Afro-centric beat but he propelled it to limelight. African beats like that of Manu Dibango, Miriam Makeba, Osibisa Victor Uwaifo, E.T Mensah and others within a particular genre still reckons globally today. Miming will not hold sway compare to these genres. Some of their lyrics do not reflect any historic or identity of a people. It is a sensational rhythmic sound that will fizzle with time.
Although you may argue with me in respect to economic values, but my opinion here is based on longevity. Victor Olaiya, Sunny Ade will continue to play despite the time they started. But how many DJ enhanced performer will sustain the trend for posterity. Most of these songs do not have attachment to our culture. It’s a flash in a pan with no hold to history. The issue here is that everyone wants to blow – I mean, to make quick money without regards to sustainability.
But I also fault media on this aspect of music promotion and appreciation in the country. It’s not a bad idea to promote an indigenous music on radio, TV and even in print reportage but emphasis and credence should be given more on real content, an educative, informative and heritage induced contents that speak about our culture as Africans and background.
Currently, Nigerian so called stars or celebrities are not professionals. I see them as businessmen who sing other peoples songs on stage. This is killing music industry. Majek fashek became a big star performing on stage with a band. Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Wasiu Ayinde, Fela and others own a formidable band.
In Nigeria now, exposure is equally an issue because what you are exposed to is what you naturally develop. Much energy engaged in miming should also be put in making music professionally as a career. This contributes to the reason most of them go down after some time and may not find their feet again in music industry because of lack of professionalism. Education is also important – most of the content is baseless, meaningless and lacks flavour. A man will pick a microphone and babble nursery rhymes for 5 minutes. That’s a music. Then people will applaud ignorantly without paying heed to the words.
My band is introducing a music platform in project form as a work of art with more value and longevity for export. It will involve festivals, workshops and seminars infused into music. Under this project, we are selling our music and in conjunction with foreign companies under cultural exchange. There’s also a sensitizing project show for down syndrome to let public know about this patients and refrain from stigmatization.
In the past we have performed alongside some the best international acts that include an opening show for Tony Allen in Cote-Ivoire, some parts of West Africa, Lagos Jazz festival and Felabration Nigeria jazz festival.
We are also involved in advocacy and sensitization initiatives amongst which are surrogate schemes, campaign projects, and awareness programs for and with agencies on breast-feeding, immunization, down-syndrome, marital issues, polity, and gender related issues. We hosts a weekly live music show (The Free Spot Show) at The Freedom Park Lagos-Island in Nigeria featuring guest acts and the show has form a hub for the expression of conscious and alternative music.