Saturday, July 21, 2018

Music and Your Community

I had just finished watching one of Tekno’s music videos when I decided to write this.  The video brought to mind the immense musical talent of the artist. I was compelled to recall a well-popularized fiasco when he performed in Kenya, sometimes in 2017, when I was left wondering how things went wrong for one who is so vastly talented.  

What often comes to mind, each time I recall that Kenya incident, is what a Kenyan fan had said while spitting his frustration. The guy posted on Facebook, that Kenyans do not wish to shape their music in the path of the Nigerian music industry. The statement could mean that he knows that Kenyan music was supposed to sound Kenyan. But since no Nigerian had asked Kenyans to design their music to sound Nigerian, the implication is that he is ignorant that music is supposed to mirror the community from which it is born.

Music is an art. Art is the creation of beauty. Art will never expect Kenyans to design their music to sound Nigerian. If you come to Nigeria, you will know that we listen to music from everywhere around the world. Even though we listen to all these forms, we only get inspired to create music that is ours, music in which you find the Nigerian character, notably in the parlance, dance, costume, and remnants of Nigeria’s music past.

So, what is expected from Kenyan music artists is for them to get inspiration by any good music, not minding where it comes from. The spin from the music would then trigger new songs, songs that would endure through generations. Yes, music that mirrors society from where it was created endures, as it makes the people proud, playing what they feel belongs to them. On the other hand, music that fails to reflect the community from which it comes is fleeting, like a candle in the rain.

To end this, I want to recount what I learned reading the history of Reggae. According to the article, Reggae is the end result of the mimicry of American pop. The music evolved to embody a Jamaican identity, a character in which there is only a small fragment of the American music culture. It is the same with Nigerian contemporary music industry. When it started, I was a strong critic of the music, asking why there is that constant effort to sound American. But just about a decade and a half later, we can confidently say that we have finally found our own music independence as well. If the Kenyan music industry is still uncharacteristic of Kenya, they should just carry on. Eventually, it will begin to reflect a Kenyan identity.

Monday, January 1, 2018

How to Become a Music Maestro: video slide

The Theory behind Peter Tosh’s killing

I am a reggae fan. I prefer reggae from the golden generation. Of this generation, I consider Winston Hubert Macintosh, better known as Peter Tosh, as one of the most extraordinary artists ever to walk the soil of this earth. It is the reason why my attention is drawn to anything that mentions his name. It was in so doing that I found a video that chronicled how he was killed in September of 1987.

Tosh was killed by a friend named, Dennis “Leppo” Loban. It is said that Leppo went to Tosh’s house alongside two other men and asked for money, holding a gun at Tosh and all others who were in the house. When Tosh could not provide the money, Leppo shot him in the head, twice. 

Tosh had gone to jail a couple of times for “ganja possession.” It is generally believed that the actual motives for his prison terms were often the constant criticism of the Establishment. It was while serving one of such sentences that he met Leppo. 

In the video, Tosh’s friends who were with him at the time of the murder said that Leppo had taken advantage of Tosh’s generosity. Every two or three weeks, he came around, asking for hand-outs. One day, sadly, he came with a gun to ask for the money, when he couldn’t get it, he then shot the singer.  

A Jamaican man, who was asked to give his opinion about the incident, said that, prior to Tosh’s death, a police random search of a car in which Tosh and friends were driving, uncovered an unlicensed gun. Of the friends that were in the car, there was Leppo. But, instead of Tosh going to jail, Leppo was the one who, in the end,  went to jail. After his prison term, Leppo came out feeling bitter because Tosh couldn’t adequately compensate him for the sacrifice he had made for him.   

The Theory

When Leppo agreed to serve the sentence, he was hoping that, in return, Tosh will make him a wealthy man. But, Tosh felt that Leppo was doing that to show appreciation for favours he had done him in the past and those to come, after Leppo would have finished serving the sentence. The misunderstanding came because the covenant was not clearly spelt out in writing; Leppo simply assumed he would be made wealthy.  But when he came out and all that the singer could do was to give him enough to last for two weeks, each time he came, Leppo felt betrayed. Then he said things that hurt and ended the friendship. The singer, seeing how the friendship had ended because of money, went on to record the song, Lessons in My Life, which was released in the No Nuclear War album. Some lines of the song went thus:

I've learned some lessons in my life
Always be careful of mankind
They'll make you promises today
But tomorrow they change their mind...

...I've learned some lessons in my life
Always be careful of my friends
Money can make friendship end

But I'm an upfull man
And I love upfull people
I'm a progressive man
And I love progressive people
I'm an honest man
I love honest people
I'm an intelligent man
And I love intelligent people

When Leppo heard the song, he felt Tosh was referring to him. And, considering the sacrifice he made for him, he felt the betrayal had gone past the red line.

Leppo’s trial lasted for only eleven minutes. He was sentenced to death, but later commuted to life imprisonment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Alaba and the Nigerian Music Industry

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery” –Bob Marley

Ha! The Nigerian music industry has gotten bigger and bigger, since the mid-2000s. Sadly, not everyone who ventured into it came out with a beautiful story. To a large extent, the Nigerians scooping the millions of naira in the industry are from the south of the country. 

So, what is the fuss? There are, definitely, more than one issue here. The most important issue, which has always come into my mind is what I want to speak about here. In Nigeria, if you want to make it big, then your music must find its way to Alaba International Market, Lagos. The marketers in Lagos are said to have given conditions for the kind of music they consider to be fast-selling. According to them, you have to sing in Nigerian street English. We call it Pidgin or Broken English. But that is not all; it has to go with a lot of jargon. When I say, “jargon,” I am referring to utterances that are gabbles, without meaning.  You could listen to Davido, Tekno, PSQuare, e.t.c, to get a feel of the type of lyrics that are rendered that way. This is a high hurdle that has stood in the way of artists who are native to the rest of the country, starting from Benue up. This is because Pidgin English has a southern face. It feels heavy on the tongues of those of us outside of the south and does not flow naturally as a result. So, the music sounds dumb, irritating and turns one off.

When you make a song, it is a copy of a song that is already performing inside of you, after something had inspired it. So, when someone insists that you play something else, there, definitely, would be problems. Furthermore, music is an art, the creation of beauty, the reflection of identity, which bestows originality to your music. Once originality is missing, you know that the music has failed.  It works for them in the south because they are reflecting their identity, their nature. So, when a marketer in Alaba tells you to reflect it in your music, he is telling you to reflect a nature that is not yours. You surely would fail.

Again, music is an art, and art is the creation of beauty. Beauty comes from diversity. If you make your music well, it will sell, as long as you speak the kind of English (or any other language) that you are comfortable with.  If you tell someone to sing only in a particular way, you are putting chains on the legs and arms of creativity. Music is a synonym for creativity. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Dismantling Tekno Miles into Bits

I knew about Tekno from one of his earliest songs, Dance, sometimes in 2013. The song was everywhere: underground, above the ground, in the sky, in rivers, and anywhere else.  

Then, I didn’t know his name. In time, I learned that his name is Tekno. You know a musician is creative even from the sound of his name. I told myself that this guy promises so much for the Nigerian music industry, that he was going to bring his contribution to the role Nigerian contemporary music is doing to the name of the country. 

Today, after hearing the brilliant pattern of rhymes in his song, Diana, on radio, I decided to look up the song on YouTube. I found and downloaded it. Then I went on to download the controversial Pana. Then I downloaded Rara, Samantha, Where, and, even the video to Dance. From this downloads, I saw that Tekno is, indeed, Avant Garde. There is always a new feel in every song, a feel that has never been heard in the history of Nigerian music. Thanks to the vast options presented by music software. But one has to know the worth of these options and know how to harness them. Tekno is one of such artists. 

In the video of Dance, Tekno is younger and full of energy, so much that one could feel a reserve of the energy, saved for the long future ahead.  His music is a mirror of the Nigerian character. He plays the new contemporary Nigerian pop in a way that satisfies. I want to call the style Azonto, but that name is becoming less heard. The music straddles to also include Afro-beat. 

I had been pessimistic that the young Nigerian musicians of today may not be able to play Afro-beat in a way that satisfies, because what I have heard in the past are artists trying to play up the inborn traits of Fela Anikulakpo Kuti, the inventor of Afro-beat rather than playing their own brands of Afro-beat. Just as Wizkid, Tekno proved me wrong. 

Listening to his music, The Nigerian feel is heard and seen in the Pidgin English that flows spontaneously so that originality is not lost. You hear it in elements of the music, and in the dance that is decorated with Igbo native dance effects.
The Nigerian music independence is with us, and, if you fear that there won’t be artists to continue the good works of Tuface, D’banj and the others who led the way, you are making a mistake. Tekno, the Bauchi born artists, is a reason for you not to fear.

Music and Your Community

I had just finished watching one of Tekno’s music videos when I decided to write this.  The video brought to mind the immense musical tal...