Sunday, 28 June 2009

THE GREAT MUSIC DEBATE (1)

RE: A NATION’S IDENTITY CRISIS

Last Sunday, in his column, Crossroads, Dr Reuben Abati examined the mindset of the Nigerian youths through the lyrical and musical contents and style of their artistic productions, especially the Hip Hop music. While acknowleging that they have indeed, out of sheer determination and creative zeal, made a success of an industry that had been crippled by the decades of economic and socio-political problems of the country, he noted that the singers have often displayed lack of depth in their composition and entire artistic content. Since the appearance of the article, the cyber site has been heated up, with many of the singers and their admirers taking up the renowned columnist and public commentator. Instructively, much of the responses to Abati’s article have been strong on emotion and less so in terms of engaging his contentions. The GuardianLIFE, which incidentally had also raised similar issues in a 2-part series this past March, has decided to open a platform for a critical engagement of the issues raised in Abati’s article. Your reactions are also welcome, but please make it concise and stick to the point. Let’s have a debate, a conversation... whatever.... This is only the first part.

Send your reaction (concise and straight-to-the-point) on www.theguardianlifemagazine.blogspot.com


PREAMBLE:
A DEBATE FORETOLD:

PLEASE, DON’T CORRUPT OUR CHILDREN, COMEDIANS CHIDE HIP HOP SINGERS

BY CHUKS NWANNE
At the AY Live 3, a comedy show held recently at the Expo Hall, Eko Hotel, Lagos, a good number of comedians echoed on the same issue –– poor lyrical content in our music. Coincidentally, that was the same day the first part of this story was published. As if it was planned, the comedianss, one after the other, took on the artistes… not minding whose ox was gored. A good number of them (hip-hop artistes) were actually present. In fact, some even performed that night.
I waited patiently to see if the attacks will hit any of the female artistes, but hands kept pointing towards the guys and they laughed over it; though not all. Yes, I observed some of them closely at the gig, as they received attack upon attack from the comedians; that was where I concluded that these guys know their game plan.
Comedian AY dedicated a better part of his performance to about the poor quality of lyrics in recent times; his point were clear. “I don’t understand what our musicians are singing today. They just sing anything they like and we patronise them,” he observed in a comic manner.
With DJ Jimmy Jatt on the console, AY sampled some evergreen songs produced in this same music industry in the past; songs by artistes such as Ras Kimono, Chris Okotie, Alex O and Felix Leberty others. You need to see the reaction of the audience when the songs came blasting from the woofers, still sounding fresh after years of production. Gongo Aso and Yahooze were hits last year, how many of us still play them on our CD? How many of us today would jump from their seats at the call of the tracks? That’s the point.
As if that was not enough, Comedian Kofi came on stage, still on the same topic and I was smiling inside. Yes, because that was the point I was making in my report. Kofi faulted the lyrics and titles of most songs by Nigerian hip-hop artistes. As usual, the audience totally agreed with him, with some of them nodding their heads in approval.
“But you are the ones buying them,” Kofi fired back.
I don’t know what you make out of Kofi’s music, but you can’t miss the messages anyway.
The highpoint of the night was when comedian Jedi came on stage; instead of telling jokes, the comedian turned musician did a different thing all together.
“I want you to listen to this interesting ring tone I have in my phone; I got it from someone,” Jedi said.
At that point, the hall was calm. The next thing, we heard from the phone was a very tiny voice singing “Orie o 4kasibe, orie o 4kasibe…” the crowd was thrown into a prolonged laughter.
“This girl is about two or three years. What is Orie 4kasibe,” Jedi quizzed amid laughter from the audience, who couldn’t provide any answer to the question.
“Is this what we are teaching our young ones? What message do we have for the kids…,” Jedi went on and on.
I recalled the previous week at The Vault, Victoria Island, Lagos, during the Nigeria-Britain organised concert. Comedian Omo Baba, who anchored the event, express his disappointment over the poor level of compositions from our artiste. This time around, it was reggae artistes.
“One thing about reggae artistes is that they don’t think about their compositions. The only thing they think about is the instrumentation and then sing whatever comes to their minds,” Omo Baba observed. The comedian practically demonstrated his points with the live band backing him.
Trust Djinee. Immediately the Ego crooner was called on stage that night, he started with his usual preaching. “This is a night of live music; enough of ‘DJ track one.’ If you can’t play your songs live, then you are not an artiste.” Truly, Djinee belongs to the group you can actually call musicians.
Meanwhile, if Timaya’s performance on stage at the AY Live3 concert is the best he could come up with, then the Egberipapa 1 of Bayelsa should go back to his drawing board. Aside his uncoordinated show and the fact that his Dem Mama Soldiers are now trying to overshadow him on vocals; Timaya needs to observe some level of decency.
Based on his standing and his ability to break into the main league of Nigerian entertainers, which he has embraced as the major line in all his compositions, Timaya is no doubt a successful artiste. But the act of throwing his underwear to the crowd is irresponsible and grossly indecent. Yes, Dem Mama singer actually attempted pulling his trousers and throwing it to the crowd –– the VIP area for that matter.
Timaya started well that night with a standing ovation from the crowd, but along the line, he went off the hook. He climbed down the stage to pick a lady from the audience, but instead of the normal dancing, both Timaya and the lady ended up on the floor. As if that was not enough, he started pulling off his underwear!
“Whatever Timaya has taken before climbing the stage is not sold in packets,” Ali Baba said as the Port Harcourt-based artiste exited the stage. Yes, it was obvious that Timaya was under the influence of something I don’t really know.

NO doubt, we’ve succeeded in making our own music; we’ve excelled in making our people love and appreciate our songs; we’ve attracted the attention of the world to Nigerian music; we’ve won several international awards; we’ve created jobs for hundreds of young Nigerians; we’ve produced our own stars; we’ve provided content for the media… but we are not done yet. We must set a standard for our industry and there’s no better time for that than now.

First published here as second part of a 2-part series on March 29, 2009 (check www.theGuardianlifemagazine.blogspot.com.)



A NATION’S IDENTITY CRISIS

BY REUBEN ABATI

You may not have noticed it: Nigeria is suffering from an identity crisis imposed on it in part by an emergent generation of irreverent and creative young Nigerians who are revising old norms and patterns. And for me nothing demonstrates this more frontally than the gradual change of the name of the country. When Flora Shaw, Lord Lugard’s consort came up with the name, Nigeria in 1914, she meant to define the new country by the strategic importance of the Niger River. And indeed, River Niger used to be as important to this country as the Nile was/is to Egypt. We grew up as school children imagining stories about how Lugard in one special romantic moment, asked his mistress to have the honour of naming a new country in Africa. Something like: “Hello, sweetheart, what name would you rather give the new country that I am creating?”
“Let me give it a thought? ....Awright, how about Ni-ge-ria darling?”
“That would do. That would do. How thoughtful, my fair lady? You are forever so dependable”
And the name stuck and it has become our history and identity. But these days, the name Nigeria is gradually being replaced by so many variants, that I am afraid a new set of Nigerians may in the immediate future not even know the correct spelling of the name of their country. For these Nigerians whose lives revolve mostly around the internet and the blogosphere, the name Nigeria has been thrown out of the window. Our dear country is now “naija” or “nija”. What happened to the “-eria” that Ms Shaw must have thoughtfully included? The new referents for Nigeria are now creeping into writings, conversations, and internet discourse. I am beaten flat by the increasing re-writing of the country’s name not only as naija or nija, but consider this: “9ja”. Or this other name for Nigeria: “gidi”. There is even a televsion programme that is titled “Nigerzie”. In addiiton, Etisalat, a telecom company has since adopted a marketing platform that is titled: “0809ja.” Such mainstreaming of these new labels is alarming.
This obviously is the age of abbreviations. The emerging young generation lacks the discipline or the patience to write complete sentences or think through a subject to its logical end. It is a generation in a hurry, it feels the constraints of space so much, it has to reduce everything to manageable, cryptic forms. This is what the e-mail and text message culture has done to the popular consciousness. Older generations of Nigerians brought up on a culture of correctness and compeleteness may never get used to the re-writing of Nigeria as “9ja”. Language is mutatory, but referring to the motherland or the fatherland in slang terms may point to a certain meaninglessness or alienation. What’s in a name? In Africa, names are utilitarian constructs not merely labels. Even among the Ijaw where people bear such unique names as University, Conference, FEDECO, Manager, Heineken, Education, Polo, Boyloaf, Bread, College, Summit, Aeroplane, Bicycle, Internet – there is a much deeper sense to the names. But the name Nigeria means nothing to many young Nigerians. They have no reason to respect the sanctity of the name. They don’t know Flora Shaw or Lord Lugard, and even if they do, they are likely to say as Ogaga Ifowodo does in an unforgettable poem: “God Punish you, Lord Lugard.” Eedris Abdulakarim summarises the concern of young Nigerians in one of his songs when he declared: “Nigeria jagajaga, everything scata, scata”
The post-modernist, deconstructive temper of emergent youth culture is even more manifest in the cynical stripping to the bones character of today’s Nigerian hip-hop. It is marked by a Grunge character that shouts: non-meaning and alienation. On my way to Rutam House the other day, I listened at mid-day to a continuous stream of old musical numbers from 93.7 Radio FM. Soulful, meaningful tunes of Felix Lebarty, Chris Okotie (as he then was), Mandy Ojugbana, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Onyeka Onwenu, Sony Okosun, Alex O, Ras Kimono, Majek Fashek, Evi Edna-Ogoli, Bongos Ikwue, Veno Marioghae, Uche Ibeto, Dora Ifudu, Mike Okri, Dizzy K. Falola, and Tina Onwudiwe. Onyeka Onwenu sang; “One love, keep us together”. Veno Marioghae sang: “Nigeria Go Survive”. Even in the romantic offerings like Chris Okotie’s “I need someone, give me your love”, or Felix Lebarty’s “Ifeoma, Ifeoma, I want to marry you, give me your love” and Stella Monye’s “Oko mi ye, duro ti mi o”, or Tina Onwudiwe’s award-winning “Asiko lo laye”. there was so much meaning and polish.
This was in the 80s. That generation which sang music under its real names, not abbreviations or slangs, was continuing, after the fashion of T.S. Eliot’s description of “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, a pattern of meaning that dates back to traditional African musicians and all the musicians that succeeded them: S. B. Bakare, Victor Olaiya, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Dan Maraya of Jos, Osita Osadebey, Ayinla Omowura, Victor Uwaifo, Geraldo Pino, Rex Lawson, I. K. Dairo, Haruna Ishola, Yusuf Olatunji, Inyang Henshaw, Tunji Oyelana, Bobby Benson, Tunde Nightingale, and even the later ones: Shina Peters, Dele Abiodun, Y.K. Ajao, Ayinde Barrister, Kollington Ayinla, Batile Alake, Sir Warrior, Moroccco Nwa Maduko, Orlando Owoh, Salawa Abeni, KWAM I (Arabambi 1 and please include his disciples- Wasiu Alabi Pasuma et al), Oliver de Coque (Importer and Exporter...), Ayefele, Atorise .... But there has been a terrible crisis in the construction of music. The children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of these ancestors have changed the face and identity of Nigerian music. As a rule, gospel musicians, given the nature of their form, sing meaningful lyrics, but the airwaves these days have been taken over by the children of “gidi”,“naija”, “nija”, “nigerzie” and “9ja”. I listen to them too, but everyday, I struggle to make meaning out of their lyrics.
Music is about sense, sound, shape and skills. But there is an on-going deficit in all other aspects except sound. So much sound is being produced in Nigeria, but there is very little sense, shape and skills. They call it hip-hop. They try to imitate Western hip pop stars. They even dress like them. The boys don’t wear trousers on their waists: the new thing is called “sagging”, somewhere below the waist it looks as if the trouser is about to fall off. The women are struggling to expose strategic flesh as Janet Jackson once did. The boys and the girls are cloaked in outlandish jewellery and their prime heroes are Ja-Rule, Lil’Wayne, Fat Joe, P. Diddy, 50 Cents, Ronz Brown, Chris Brown, Sean Kingston, Nas, Juelz Santana, Akon, Young Jeezy, Mike Jones, T-Pain, F.L.O-RIDA, Will.I.am, Beyonce, Rihanna, Ciara, Keri Hilson, Jay-Z, Ace hood, Rick Ross, Birdman, Busta Rhymes, Cassidy, Chamillionaire, Soulja Boy, Young Joc, Kanye West, R. Kelly, Kevin Rudolph, T.I.P-king of the South, Ludacris, Plies-The real goon, The Game, Young Rox, Flow killa, Osmosis (2 sick), Flow-ssik, Raprince, Bionic, Fabulous, Jadakiss, Nas, Swiss Beatz, Dj Khaled, Maze, Yung Buck, Maino, MoBB Deep, Lloyd Banks, Olivia, Lady Gaga... Well, God Almighty, we are in your hands.
And so the most impactful musicians in Nigeria today, the ones who rule the party include the following: D’Banj, MI, Mode Nine, Sauce kid, Naeto C, Sasha, Ikechukwu, 9ice, Bouqui, Mo’cheddah, Teeto, P-square, Don-jazzy, Wande Coal, 2-face, Faze, Black Face, Dr. Sid, D’prince, K-Switch, Timaya, Dj-Zeez, Dj Neptune, Banky w., Big bamo, Art quake, Bigiano, Durella, Eldee, Kelly Hansome, Lord of Ajasa, M.P., Terry tha rapman, Weird MC, Y.Q., Da grin, kel, Roof-top Mcs, Pype, Niga Raw, Ghetto p., Kaka, Kaha, Terry G, Ill Bliss, Zulezoo, Pipe, Dj Jimmy jatt, X-project, Konga, Gino, Morachi... Well, the Lord is God. These are Nigerian children who were given proper names by their parents. Ikechukwu bears his real name. But who are these other ones who have since abandoned their proper names? For example, 9ice’s real name is Abolore Akande, (what a fine name!), Tu face (Innocent Idibia), Sauce Kid (Babalola Falemi), D’Banj (Dapo Oyebanjo), Banky w. (Bankole Willington), P-Square (Peter and Paul), MI (Jude Abaga), Timaya (Enetimi Alfred Odom), Sasha (Yetunde Alabi), Weird MC (Adesola Idowu). But why such strange names? They don’t sing. They rap. Most of them don’t play instruments, they use synthetic piano.
At public functions, they mime. They are not artists, they perform. They are not necessarily composers, they dance. The more terrible ones can’t even sing a correct musical note. They talk. And they are all businessmen and women. They are more interested in commerce and self-advertisement, name recognition, brand extension and memory recall! They want a name that sells, not some culturally conditioned name that is tied down to culture and geography. But the strange thing is that they are so successful. Nollywood has projected Nigeria, the next big revelations are in hip hop.
Despite the identity crisis and the moral turpitude that we find in Nigeria’s contemporary hip-hop, the truth is that it is a brand of music that sells. Nigeria’s hip hop is bringing the country so much international recognition. All those strange names are household names across the African continent, so real is this that the phrase “collabo” is now part of the vocabulary of the new art. It speaks to an extension of frontiers. In Nigeria, it is now possible to hold a party without playing a single foreign musical track, the great grand children of Nigerian music are belting out purely danceable sounds which excites the young at heart. But the output belongs majorly to the age of meaningless and prurience. The lyrics says it all.
Rooftop MC sings for example: “Ori mi wu o, e lagi mo”. This is a very popular song. But all it says is: “my head is swollen, please hit it with a log of wood.” X-Project sings: “Lori le o di gonbe (2x), e so fun sisi ologe ko ya faya gbe, ko ya faya gbe, file, gbabe, se be, bobo o ti e le, wo bo nse fe sa hale hale niwaju omoge, ha, lori le odi gonbe, .....sisi ologe ki lo di saya o, so fun mi ki lofe, o wa on fire o....” Now, what does this mean in real terms? But let’s go to Naeto C: “kini big deal, kini big deal, sebi sebi we‘re on fire”, or D’Banj: “ my sweet potato, I wanna make you wife, I wanna make you my wife o, see I no understand o, cause I dey see well well, but dey say love is blind, see I never thought I will find someone like you that will capture my heart and there will be nothing I can do....”. Yes, we are in the age of sweet potato. And so Art quake sings: “E be like fire dey burn my body, e je ki n fera, oru lo n mu mi. Open your hand like say you wan fly away. Ju pa, ju se, ka jo ma sere, alanta, alanta.”
And here is Zulezoo, another popular Nigerian musical team: “Daddy o, daddy, daddy wen you go for journey, somebody enter for mummy’s house, person sit down for mummy bed, person push mummy, mummy push person, mummy fall for bed yakata, daddy, o daddy, the man jus dey do kerewa kerewa...kerewa ke” And Dj-Zeez: “ori e o 4 ka sibe, ori e o 4 ka sibe, 4 ka sibe, 4 ka sibe”. And MI: “Anoti, anoti, anoti ti, anoti titi.” And Konga: “Baby konga so konga, di konga, ileke konga, ju pa pa, ju pa, konga, ju pa pa, ju pa, sibe”.. And 9ice: “gongo a so, kutupu a wu, eni a de ee, aji se bi oyo laari; oyo o se bi baba enikan, kan, i be double now, aye n lo, a mi to o, gongo a so, oti so o, e wo le e wo enu oko...” Or Tony Tetuila: “U don hit my car, oyinbo repete, u don hit my car o”. Or Weird MC: “Sola lo ni jo, lyrics lori gangan, awa lo ni jo”. Sheer drivel. So much sound, little sense. Is this the future? Maybe not.
Most of the music being produced now will not be listenable in another five years and this perhaps is the certain fate of commercial art that is driven by branding, show and cash. But we should be grateful all the same for the music, coming out of Nigeria also at this time in the soul, gospel, hip, hop genre: the music that is of Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, Lagbaja, Asa (there is fire on the mountain/and no one seems to be on the run/ there is fire on the mountain now...”), Ara, Sam Okposo, Dare, Sunny Neji, Infinity (now a broken up team), African China, Alariwo of Afrika.... We suffer nonetheless in music as in the national nomenclature, an identity crisis. A country’s character is indexed into its arts and culture, eternal purveyors of tones and modes. Nigerian youths now sing of broken heads, raw sex, uselessness and raw, aspirational emotionalism. A sign of the times? Yes, I guess.
I find further justification in the national anthem, many versions of which now exist. I grew up in this same country knowing only one way of singing the national anthem: from “Nigeria we hail thee” to “Arise o Compatriots”. The singing of the national anthem is supposed to be a solemn moment. Arms clasped by the side, a straight posture, and the mind strictly focussed on the ideals of patriotism and nationalism. Stillness. Nobody moves. And the national song is rendered in an unchanging format. But not so any longer. There are so many versions of the Nigerian national anthem these days. Same lyrics but different musical rhythms. I have heard the national anthem sung in juju, in fuji, in hip hop, in Ishan’s igbagbolemini, in acapella mode, even reggae. I attended an ocassion once, the rendition of the national music was so enthralling, people started dancing. Even the photographers and cameramen danced with their cameras. For me that was the ultimate expression of the people’s cynicism. The prevalent mood is as expressed by Dj-Zeez: “ori e 4 ka sibe, 4 ka sibe”: an epigrammatic, onomatopoeic, market-driven diminution of language as vehicle and sign. What kind of people are we? A dancing nation? Dancing and writing away our frustrations and caring little about sense, in this country that is now known as “naija”, “nija”, “9ja”, “nigerzie,” “gidi”?



‘WRONG, BOSS, OUR MUSIC HAS GIVEN NIGERIA A NEW FACE — BANKY W

By Banky W
In the immortal words attributed to P.T. Barnum, “I don’t care what the newspapers say about me, at least spell my name right.” My name is Banky W, full name being Olubankole Wellington. Not Willington, as you (Dr Abati) stated in your article entitled “A Nation’s Identity Crisis”.
At its worst, the article seemed like an attempt to discredit and slander an entire generation of artistes and consumers, and at best it came across as having some valid points but being grossly misinformed, prejudiced, and hypocritical.
The writer asked “What’s in a name?” and went on to honour a “...generation which sang music under its real names, not abbreviations or slangs”. This would have been a valid point if he had not himself mentioned Greats (musicians) like King Sunny Ade (real name: Sunday Adeniyi), I.K. Dairo (Isaiah Kehinde Dairo), and Ebenezer Obey (Real name: Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Fabiyi- Wow!!!). We could also point out other legends like Ras Kimono and Majek Fashek as others who, for creative or other reasons, saw it fit to have stage names that happen to differ from what’s on their passports. Shortening of full names and/or the crafting of stage names is not something new from our generation of artistes that “lack the discipline or the patience to write complete sentences” as you said; rather, it’s the creative right of an artiste to go by whatever moniker he sees fit. And if we want to talk about the names of today, we can highlight a few: Eldee - actually L.D. which stands for Lanre Dabiri, similar to Isaiah Kehinde Dairo’s transition to I.K. Dairo. Naeto C and Banky W are simply short forms of their full names. In my case, my father’s nickname among his friends is actually Banky as well.
Furthermore, on the topic of Names and abbreviations, let’s set a few things straight. Nigerzie is actually spelt Nigezie and is not an abbreviation for Nigeria. It’s a TV Show, much like Soundcity or Hip TV, except they choose to incorporate “representing Nigeria” in their name. It’s like the “United Colors of Bennetton”, or DKNY, both companies that choose to represent their locations or origins in their name. Also, for the record, Gidi doesn’t mean Nigeria either. It’s a term for Lagos... coined from “Las Gidi”. And as far as the popular term “Naija” goes, who remembers Shina Peters singing “? Naija lo wa yi o o o, wa jo, afro juju lo gb’ode ?” I hate to point out that our generation did not come up with that term... the “golden age” that you long for did.
A quick look at all the reference names of artistes and songs mentioned in the article goes to show that the author was sadly way off base in his accusations and examples. For instance, to make a point on how today’s Nigerian artistes lyrics are meaningless and prurient, he referenced the Rooftop MC’s song “La Gi Mo”. What he failed to realize or crosscheck, is that the said song is probably one of the most meaningful and important songs that have been released in the last few years on the Nigerian music scene. The Rooftop MC’s are actually a Rap Group that leans to the Gospel or at least ‘socially conscious’ side of music, and their songs always have a positive message. That song itself talks about the errors we make by trying to take God’s glory for our success... getting caught up in the limelight and asking God to bring you back to reality to know that HE deserves the praise for where you are.
Abati mentioned other songs like D’banj’s “Fall in Love”, and doesn’t realize how hypocritical he sounds by attempting to ridicule some of our most popular love songs. Felix Liberty sang “Ifeoma, ifeoma, I want to marry you”, D’banj sang “Omo U don make me fall in love” and Banky W sang “Till my dying day, I’ll love you”. Barring a difference in musical styling, are these songs not cut from the same cloth?
At Nigerian and African weddings nowadays, couples are choosing these songs to mark their first dances instead of previous choices like “Endless Love”? Why can’t we appreciate that the days of going to Nigerian parties and clubs and celebrating foreign music “all night long” are long gone? Despite these facts, you still see international festivals and concerts being held in Nigeria, where the foreign acts are paid 30 to 40 times what some of our biggest stars are allowed to charge.

I disagree with the author’s views. We are not all one and the same, but we ARE artistes. We may sing, rap, dance, mime, perform, play instruments or whatever else; but we are artistes. And composers. And musicians. We may not all play the piano or the guitar, but neither does Michael Jackson, arguably the world’s greatest artiste/entertainer. That’s why he teamed up with producer Quincy Jones to create some of the best music anyone has ever heard. We have our own producers that have shaped Nigerian sound... people like Cobhams Asuquo, Don Jazzy, I.D. Cabasa, Dr Frabz, Tee-Y mix, Eldee, Terry G etc. That list goes on. These music minds are no less credible than those of Mr Abati’s time, like the great Laolu Akins.
Far be it from us to claim that we are perfect and flawless in our art... we know that we are still growing and have lots of areas to improve, but the truth of the matter is we have worked very hard to create the industry we have now, and some people choose to criticize and lambast most of us, instead of helping and teaching us. That is unfair.
Yes, some artistes sag their jeans... however, a glance at the pages of THISDAY style or the recently concluded awards shows will show you very clearly that others wear three-piece suits and traditional attires just as proudly, myself included.
This music industry that you have very clearly disapproved of has partnered with and given rise to the fashion industry in Nigeria as well. Just ask Designers like Mai, Babs Familusi (Exclamations Couture), the Okunorens, Muyiwa Osindero and countless others. Everything from the t-shirts and jeans rappers wear, to the shoes and suits are made by young Nigerians, where in previous years people preferred to shop in London. The youth-driven industries in Entertainment and Fashion have teamed up to thrust Nigeria into the world’s positive spotlight, when for many years our dear country was mostly known for corruption, lack of infrastructure, and security issues.
Our country has not yet given us steady electricity, adequate education, safety from armed robbers or standard healthcare, yet artistes have risen like the Roses that grow from Concrete... and these very artistes love and represent their country proudly on a global stage. This music industry has given hope, jobs and income to countless youths of today. We are Rappers, Singers, Producers, Sound Engineers, Managers, Promoters, Marketing Consultants, Record Label Owners and we will not apologize for making the best of our circumstances; and all this in spite of the fact that we have Marketers that exploit but refuse to pay for our Musical pieces, Royalties and Publishing income that hitherto have been non-existent, a Government that is just now very slowly starting to enforce anti-piracy laws, and Event Organizers that would rather pay 50 Cent One Million US Dollars than give D’banj or P-Square 5 Million Naira.

YOU were right on some counts. We ARE businessmen and women, and we ARE interested in extending name recognition and brand extension. You were also right in that we look up to people like Jay-Z, who took their music and created multimillion-dollar empires. Since when did ambition and desire to succeed against all odds count against a person’s moral character? Shouldn’t we be encouraged to pay more attention to the business side of “Show Business”? Shouldn’t we want this music industry to provide for our future and the futures of our children?
We know we have a moral responsibility when it comes to our Creative works. Some of us pay more attention to it than others, and there is lots of ground to cover up. But how about a little appreciation and help, instead of trying to tear us down and discredit us? Time will tell whose music will last and become evergreen, but it is not in anyone’s place to judge; and for the record, can we just accept that fact that hip hop music is an art form that is probably here to stay... I mean for goodness’ sake the Grammy’s has!! Instead of fighting the change, we should learn to embrace it. I thank God for people like the great Adewale Ayuba, who have reached across to our generation to collaborate with, bridge the gap, and help us improve.
We want to learn but your generation has to teach. We want to read but the Government must provide libraries. We want to go to school but the lecturers keep going on strike. We want to travel but previous generations messed up so they won’t give out visas. Most of prefer having our own live bands but the income needed to support that is not forthcoming.

YOU speak of meaninglessness and prurience, identity crisis and moral turpitude. You praise Legends like Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and you ridicule us. 9ice does not drink or smoke. eLDee is married to one wife. Olu Maintain does not drink. Naeto C is currently obtaining his Masters’ degree in England. The ironic thing is, we look up to and praise your generation too. You seem to forget that Baba Fela had 27 wives, smoked marijuana in public, was himself half naked at shows (as well as the women around him) and allegedly died of HIV. However, we look past what some may consider shortcomings and respect and emulate the immense contributions he made to our history. We are in awe of him despite personal choices that some may or may not agree with. All we are asking for is to be appreciated and afforded similar tolerances.

YOU danced to Shina Peters. Let us dance to our music. And for the record: for every “Anoti” by MI, he has a “Crowd Mentality” or a “Talk about it”. For a Naeto C’s “Ki Ni Big Deal”, he has a “The Devil is a Liar”. Just because an artiste uses a particular song to promote his album for commercial reasons, doesn’t mean they should be judged on that alone. Anyone that is familiar with the cost of promoting an album (videos, press, etc) would know that you end up making hard decisions in terms of what you have to push and promote, for your best chance at success. I suggest that you buy whole albums and look at the body of work. Listen to the entire CDs. I think you’ll find that more often than not, Nigerian artistes are doing a pretty good job of representing this great Country of Nigeria. Naija Till We Die. Yes Boss.

bankyw@gmail.com


WE WOULD RATHER HAVE NAIJA OR 9IJA THAN STICK TO LUGARD’S MISTRESS’S NAME — ELDEE

By Lanre “eLDee” Dabiri
I see the article (by Dr Abati) as a threat to the much needed change and development that Nigeria needs, and we must kick against this mindset. This is the general mentality of the generation that mismanaged this country due to selfishness, greed, incompetence, lack of exposure and an overall lack of integrity. The generation that kicks against innovation and development as long as it does not agree with their selfish plots. The generation that has little or no vision for “Nigeria.”
He titles his article “A nation’s identity crisis” and starts off by glorifying the use of a name that was given to us by “Mistress” to Lugard Flora Shaw! in 1914. Why should we attempt to change such a beautiful name? He even says...”Our dear country is now “naija” or “nija”. What happened to the “-eria” that Ms Shaw must have thoughtfully included? ...” The “oyinbo knows best” colonial mentality, as though Mistress Shaw is superior to all of us.
What does it matter if Nigeria is called “Naija”. It has been called Naija since the 70’s. Why pin it on this generation?...
Oh,.. I know why. It’s because this is the generation that finally gave Nigeria a worthy reason of mention on the international scene. The generation that is fighting the ugly image of corruption and underdevelopment (which they created) with exportable entertainment. The generation that has created millions of jobs with an industry that was left to rot in the late 80s and early 90s. The generation Mr Abati himself acknowledges are very successful at what they do. Now that we are worthy of mention, we shouldn’t misinform the rest of the world about the spelling of Nigeria,.. like anyone will one day decide Nigeria is spelt N-A-I-J-A. By the way, “Gidi” is not Nigeria but Lagos. It’s short for “Las gidi”, yet another term which was created in the 80s.
Then he goes on to speak on original names and the use of abbreviations… Just so you know, King Sunny Ade is not his real name, neither is Dizzy K Falola, Majek Fashek, Kollington Ayinla, Ebenezer Obey, Dan Maraya of Jos, Ayinde Barrister, Ras Kimono, nor the very obvious KWAM 1, so was there really a need to criticize the stage names of our generation’s artists? Besides, what is anyone’s business what a man or woman decides to call him or herself?
Then he proceeds to talk about music making sense and all that; and has the nerve to quote “Ifeoma, Ifeoma, i want to marry you” as a more sensible song than “Fall in love”?
“Fall in love” is not only a great song but as Nigerian as it gets. Every generation has its not-so-great artists who make limelight.
He talks about the new generation imitating western hip hop stars. How about the imitation of Jamaica that befell Nigeria in the early 80s, producing much of the boring local reggae music that we had to endure for almost two decades? One would almost think the Nigerian flag was red, yellow and green in the 80s/early 90s. Do you see any of us wearing red, blue and white outfits in this generation or using the American flag in our videos? Yes, the pants sag, yes the girls show more skin. It’s the same as the pants and mini skirts you all wore in the 70s, yes, the bell bottoms and open-chested shirts. The jewelry is the same as you wore then as well, only now we can afford real jewelry. Stop and think for a second, really?

“...most of them don’t play instruments, they use a synthetic piano”...Yeah, same way most of them don’t use typewriters, they use computers. Oh wait,.. I didn’t realize the piano is no longer an instrument.

“...They are more interested in commerce and self-advertisement, name recognition, brand extension and memory recall!”...Yes, exactly what the older generation didn’t do well. The reason why the new generation are more successful. It’s a new day; if we don’t learn from their mistakes, what’s the point?
You talk about identity crisis and you discredit songs like “ori mi wu o...”, “u don hit my car”, etc. If you do not understand what songs mean, you should ask someone that just might. What identity is it that you’re speaking of? oh,.. the one Mistress Shaw and Lord Lugard left us with abi? I keep hearing people talk about how Nigerian artists imitate foreign musicians, yet the ones that have the most “Nigerian” content in their music are your targets. What a shame!
There may be a few Nigerians who share Mr Abati’s sentiments and I will blame that on a lack of exposure, lack of wisdom or the need for enlightenment. This cannot be tolerated, especially when it is being voiced by a journalist, who holds such a crucial position in our media.
There has never been a time in our history when Nigerians have been more patriotic. A time when it has become better to be “Naija”! A time when we wear ankara with pride, listen religiously to Nigerian music, watch Nigerian movies and look forward to a more progressive Nigeria. Mr Abati, your generation failed us and we have learned from you guys how not to fail the next generation.
eldeethedon@gmail.com



...UNDERSTANDING THE Y-GENERATION

By Wahab Gbadamosi
TRUE, there are tons and tons of inscrutable chatter in the renditions of the Y Generation. But this does not detract from their contribution.
In the 70s, 80s and early 90s; many young Nigerians are suffocated with the foreign stuff, most of which you cannot decipher or even comprehend.
Today the Y -generation is reversing this trend and like Abati rightly observed, it is possible to attend a party now and not listen to a single track from a foreign artiste.
But it’s not all about chatter, sex and booze.
What will Abati say, for instance of 9ice’s Street Credibility? It is a work that will endure. It is about being your own man. Even Gongo Aso? A substantial part of it is aji she bi Oyo laari, Oyo kii se biii baba enikokan (People will copy an Oyo man. An Oyo man will not copy anybody). What statement better sums the originality of the Oyo man and the subtle hubris of a Yoruba? The track is almost a matchless celebration of the Oyo man, the Yoruba and if you like, the Nigerian.
I was condemning Yahoozee the other day, when Muyiwa Adekeye and Dapsy maintained that my understanding of that track was faulty. A fellow said it’s a caricature of the outlandish lifestyles of the Yahoo yahoo boys.
And what will you say of D-Banj’s E miti jaa (I have escaped). My understanding is that that track is a warning shot to those who want to live abroad at all costs: the hopelessness of being an unemployed immigrant who wants to live big, live on card scam etc.

On names not being Real

True, these young men are not bearing their real names.
This could rank as one running away from one’s God given identity. But why for God’s sake will these young men labour under the burden of our ethno-religious hangover? For all I know, these young men and women are not ashamed to bear their father’s names. They sing in Yoruba, Igbo Hausa, Edo, Ijaw etc
But, having realised the ethno-religious bias in the country and the burden which Sunny Ade has to bear and which made him more or less Yoruba property or Oliver De Coque an Igbo, the resort to names like 9ice is part of the generational effort to foster trans-ethnic embrace.’
On the preponderance of Y-Generation slangs, like collabo, true this is disturbing. But every generation revolts against the one its succeeding, Could it be that this is at play here?
Or could it be that the Y -Generation is protesting in its own way their parents’ acres and acres of lies in their lexicons that potable water, good roads, uninterrupted electricity are in the pipeline, that government is doing everything in its power to give loans to investors? Or the lie that Nigeria yii sii maa dun oda mi loju.

And on and on...

True, language is the vehicle which a people convey their being, their culture and all that is worth preserving in a people’s memory. But as it is with English language where the likes of Williams Zinzer (On Writing Well) voted against words like input and interface, the ougoing generation might have to vote to determine which word to accept or shut out of the Nigerian musical or mainstream lexicon.
The generation of purists have several options: sing back in pure purest Nigerian lexicon or banish such singers from their world.
But remember, like a linguist (was it Wright or Mark Twain?) once noted) language is about he who has the army.
I hope this generation has not lost the battle already to the Y - and the as in generation. baauswat@yahoo.com




‘WE’VE LOST THE MORALITY TO CHALLENGE THE YOUTHS’ OBSESSION WITH IMITATION OF FOREIGN VALUES’

BY Jude Fashagba
I had read a response to your article ‘A Nation’s Identity Crisis’ written by one of Nigeria’s hip-hop musicians who goes by the name ‘Banky W’ on Facebook before I read the article itself. However, the decision to react to it was already taken; I had to read your piece to put my work in perspective.
Permit my prĂ©cis, but I broke your delivery into a few points; the death or killing of national symbols by the youth, a culture of abbreviations, ‘poor quality’ (or in some cases foul) lyrics in hip-hop songs, and a wholesome importation of the foreign hip-hop culture.
I found it interesting. He accuses you one, of misunderstanding his generation and indeed their symbols, of poor research into the origin of the abbreviations that you condemn, of critising an art you have not taken time to study, of trivialising it as only a ‘business’
Furthermore, you stand accused of praising the older generation, just for its ‘oldness’ even when (as he feels), it is guilty of everything you have accused the new of. Implying that your affiliation to the old is cultural, and not evidential.
Then there is the bit about names. Should there be a difference between stage names, brands and ‘real names’ ? To use your own words ‘what is in a name’?
Having listened to the case against you, I think it is salient to ask a few questions. One, the origin of these dying national symbols; two, the relevance they have in our national life and three, if indeed they still represent our current hopes and aspirations.
You, Dr. Abati described graphically how Mrs. Lugard could have come about the name Nigeria. Probably in their bedroom. Named after Africa’s second largest river. Niger-area they said, to commit what you seem to have called the (‘mortal sin’ of abbreviation), Nigeria.
The truth is that while a good number of European countries are named after their people, their languages or their cultures, African countries are named after rivers and mountains. Who has heard of River England or Mount France? Cameroun, however, is named after a mountain, Congo after a river and Lake Victoria after the Queen of England.
Why is Spain not an acronym of Catalonia and Basque and called Catasque, like Tanzania is for Tanganyika and Zanzibar? The Niger River is called Kogi and Kwara in some local areas, but some ‘foreign discoverer’ named it Niger,and so my country gets its name. Don’t misunderstand me, I love my country but I hate its symbols. Our colours are green and white, representing agriculture and peace. Where is the agriculture? Where is the peace? Are they not alongside electricity the three most elusive things in the country?
And now that we have darkness, 419, oil and bloodshed in the Niger delta as our gross national product, (using those same parameters) it should be sensible to change our flag to red for blood and black for darkness and oil.
However, I have seen the American flag and indeed the elements of the flag redone in creative ways and heard their national anthem sung in slow, mid and fast tempo, so I have no reason to complain about mine being sung anyway. Instead, I praise the people who in spite of the charred and unimpressive present opportunities and the irrelevance of the basis of these national symbols, still found ways to give them new meaning and revive them.
Who named the Naira? What is the origin of the word? What does it mean?
This narrows to the second allegation, a people are who they call themselves. The dictionary calls a word ‘a sound that connotes a meaning’ and a name as ‘word(s) by which an object or a thought is/are known’.

Why should Banky W take more pride in being called Bankole Wellington? After all, it is his name anyway. You alluded to Fela, once a Ransome-Kuti, later an Anikulapo-Kuti. I could not swap the first name for the other for a zillion dollars, but he did, and he found pleasure in that. I remember this conflict myself. In the letters my late father wrote me while I was in school, he would address me as Fashagba but he would sign as Fasagba. He was my father, but our names were different. Never did he make the mistake. What is in a name?
Is a name more spiritual because somebody put alligator pepper, sugar and salt in your mouth when he pronounced it, as was the culture when we were born? What special circumstances could warrant the naming of a child Manager, University, Okuta or Confidence that would dis-warrant the naming of a person X, W or Eldee? Would I name my son Reuben? Does it not mean the same as Yaro in Hausa? I mean, a son.
Is Obey’s name Obe or Obey? Was Okotie Kris or Chris? Where did Felix get Lebarty? Dizzy K? Oliver de Coque?

To say the truth, I know no songs of Banky W, but I was made supremely proud, when taking a one hour boat from Lungi airport to Freetown in Sierra Leone, 90 percent of the songs the deejay played and advertised were made in Nigeria, by these same boys who have braved everything against all odds. Forget the oil, the major export we have is the Nigerian spirit, the attitude of making it against all odds. See how much we have been saved in foreign exchange by the fact that Tuface now sells more that Boys II Men in Nigeria, and Nollywood saving all the sums that hitherto went to Bollywood and Hollywood? True some of the songs and films may be close to rubbish, but to use Fela as an example of morality was excessive.
True, some of these boys say some that older musicians only mimed, but I was so shocked to find Salawa Abeni, Barrister and Kollington on your morality list. In the eighties, these three fuelled by personal feuds put some rubbish on tape.

Music and poetry have always been on the precipice of free speech, and to extend the point, of discovery. Tina Turner’s ‘what’s love got to do with it’ has worse lyrics than D’banj’s ‘you don make me fall in love’.
The other truth Doctor, is that your generalisation has robbed you of a chance to see order in the midst of this chaos. This is evident in your attack on Rooftop MC’s Lagimo. It rubbished some of the good points you were making. That evidence suggested that you have been too dismissive to listen. The parents of yesterday complained about the Okoties ,the Onwenus and the Tina Turners but they are mainstream today. And you used the right phrase; post modernism.
What do we not import in Nigeria? A country where it is a thing of pride to deride people who cannot speak English, or who speak it with an accent ‘tainted’ by their mother tongue? Where we even paid fines for speaking ‘vernacular’ in school. Our very own languages!
We have therefore lost the morality to challenge these kids of wholesome mimicking of Jay Z and Ja-Rule. Even our respected institutions pay a fortune to bring these ‘stars’ to the country.
We hear (and I hope I am wrong) the government is negotiating with and involving Facebook in its rebranding project. Sad. There are enough 24 year olds here, who can extend the frontiers of social networking but they won’t even get a look in.

Dr. Abati, in pronouncing you guilty as charged, I quote an old writer, whose name I cannot remember; ‘symbolism can be esoteric, but it must mean something to ordinary people’.


‘HE IS RIGHT... BUT FOR THE GENERALISATIONS’

By Samson Ogheneochuko Adeoye
I still have great respect for Dr. Reuben Abati but I strongly disagree with these views. Thankfully, at the very beginning of this essay, he says, “irreverent and creative.” I think both terms don’t mean that this generation is totally, um, dumb afterall. Creativity is something that a lot of people will kill for.
About the music, let’s just ... Read Moresmile. Although not everything that plays on radio or in clubs is fantastic, but should we not be grateful that Nigerians are taking more pride in themselves? There’s no reason to hold on to the past when songs were largely composed of repetitive lyrics . You need to listen to MI or Mode 9’slyrics to understand the intellectual rigour that goes into their work- metaphors, double meanings, rhyme and rhythm...
What’s happening now may be a huge shock to anyone who so cherished the 80s, but the sound of that time was fit for that time.I prefer to dance to this new 9ja vibe than sit to watch the mindless drama going on in Abuja.

‘HEY, GUYS, DON’T GET EMOTIONAL... LEARN FROM THE ARTICLE’

By Dafe Ivwurie
Do I listen to all these guys that Dr. Abati wrote about? Yes. Where? In the club because that’s where they belong; in my car, too, because they keep me awake in the life-wasting traffic of Lagos.
Do I think that the music will stand the test of time? No. It is popular culture and it is not expected to. These guys should study and see what is happening with popular music in other parts of Africa and the world (I won’t name names for now).
Forget identities of sagging pants, the bling and the swagger, show me the definitive Nigerian elements in their music that we can sell to the world stage. All we hear is borrowed sound laced with bad diction, illogical lyrics...... Banky W talked about Fela Kuti and his 27 wives and his naked shenanigans on stage. I think if we had something as definitive and engaging as Fela’s Afrobeat, we probably might excuse some of his colleagues’ excesses and actions... popular music. we are only asking for something better, is that asking for too much?
‘STOP HIDING YOUR IGNORANCE, SHALLOWNESS UNDER ENTERTAINMENT’

By Onyekachi Ikejiaku
Well said. I don’t see anything wrong with what Abati has written; he has just described ,and explained how poor and bad this generation in so called Naija is doing. Most of our youths have decided to shy away from the fact that they need to be learned to an extent in life; some of our youths don’t even know how to read and... write. Some don’t even know how to spell their names rather you see more of drop out and the next thing they tell you is I am into entertainment. What does he or she know about event? Nothing... If it’s a guy you find him pimping for ladies and.....if it’s a female you find her doing prostitution in the name of this same entertainment. So what are we talking about here? We need to go back to the books and restructure the Nigerian youths especially, because with the way we are going; I am afraid, the average Nigerian youth does not want to work. The quest for money has taking over, especially in the entertainment world.


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