By Femi Akintunde-Johnson
WHEN you look at the staying power of redoubtable musicians such as King Sunny Ade, Admiral Dele Abiodun, Sir Shina Peters, Femi Anikulapo Kuti, Majek Fashek, Ras Kimono; and performers/singers like Alhaji Agba Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Kollington Ayinla, Wasiu Ayinde (K1), Onyeka Onwenu, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Orlando Julius, Salawa Abeni, and a number of others; the most significant common ground is the fact that they have sustained and solidified their relative musical reputation, legacy and relevance in the past 20 years, at least.
After those mentioned, the second generation of artistes digging hard and deep into our consciousness include Lagbaja, Adewale Ayuba, Pasuma, Sunny Neji, and few others.
Most of these artistes, with few exceptions, were trained professionals, instrumentalists and long-standing bandleaders. You see, music business is first a business, then an art form.
These unfading and constant-as-a-northern-star musicians and singers built their bands painstakingly, to run smoothly and professionally, such that even if they are not there as headliners, the band will sail without losing steam.
That was the reason Egypt 80, Fela’s band, rallied and sallied from when Fela died (and Femi, with his own band, could not possibly sustain his father’s), until Seun, the last of the Anikulapos, was old enough to ascend his father’s ‘throne’.
Now, Egypt Band is contesting the grounds, and reclaiming the glory, “gradually, gradually”.
My point is this: any music form (it doesn’t matter by what tag it’s called) which joints and sinews are not firmly rooted in a solid band management infrastructure, its end has begun even at the first album.
The hottest music of today are recorded on CDs and DVD compilations; sold on the streets and corners; played endlessly on radio and (if they cobble up a video production) on television… and pronto a star is born. But the cornflakes can only taste sweet for a moment.
The poor artiste does not bother that he has begun the burial ceremony of his musical talents and relevance with his excitement to “get out there and be appreciated”.
He cares only that he can enter the studio without any inkling of how to play any instruments; beg or bribe a studio rat to pretend as his producer; lay his voice to beats he has never heard before, or lifted from pirated beat-making software. Yeah! He’s got a great feeling “this thing” will blast. He runs to the profiteer marketer otherwise known as pirate; begging him to slot his “single” (if not all the entire tracks) into one of the pirate’s numerous ‘Hottest Hits In Da House!’ If the pirate is reluctant, unsure if the untested “hit” being canvassed by the aspiring star would catch the unquenchable thirst of the Hit-loving music freaks, the young man flings himself up, amusing the pirate with his readiness to pay so as to get just a song on the ‘compilations’.
And yes, he pays the pirate to help him ‘pirate’ his own work (no contracts; no indemnity; complete ‘dash’). Frankly, he doesn’t catch the macabre irony. He just wants his chance to be a star.
Shocked? He has just begun. If he’s “lucky”, you begin to hear the song on radio… he makes the rounds, getting in the faces of notable DJs. If need be, running errand for them. He joins a posse (a group of creative malcontents), showing up at shows on the apron strings of more accomplished, more pirated “superstars”… he gets photographed… interviewed, and ghost-written… and viola… a new star is born. He starts getting shows, concerts and “mouth-watering” deals. He goes ballistic! Mission accomplished.
His sense of importance is exploded by unquestioned and pedestrian media adulation; uncritical fawning of fans and admirers. And the singer/pretender-musician loses the plot. He forgets the reason he was blessed with the raw talents: to make the world more tolerable, and sustain a profitable and pleasure-giving posterity for himself, his family and community. He does ask about Pa Fatai Rolling Dollars, Commander Ebenezer Obey… how they came back after long hiatus. What makes them still tick…?
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