Monday, April 24, 2017

I’m Under Pressue to Change My Style

Kefas at Eyana Kpaja

Kefas Sabo is a reggae artist that holds the promise of becoming the next big star in Plateau State and beyond. After watching his music video for his award-winning song Seventeen Questions, I vowed to meet with him.

Kefas told me that he was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, his native state. At age six, he moved to live with his aunt, who worked with a federal health institution, in Plateau State. Since he moved to Plateau State at a very tender age, all his education was in Plateau State, starting from primary to the polytechnic, where he obtained a Higher National Diploma in Mining Engineering. 

He discovered his music talent after joining his church’s band in Barkin Ladi town. In the band, known as Sammies band, he met talented members such as Iliya, James, and some other guys who love reggae. His talent became manifest when he was given a chance to lead the group. He discovered he flowed well, not only with the band, but with the congregation that resonated with his lead role, sometimes becoming emotional and crying. 

Kefas, who loves Jamaican Christopher Martin’s reggae crossover, talked about how his songs get revealed. The songs often come as a bouquet that involves the melody and the lyrics, while he walks along the road, or when he is alone in a quiet place. When that happens, he says, he records the melody using his phone. Later he develops the lyrics fully. 

Kefas is extremely proud of the way his music move people. When he ministered with his music for the first time, there were two women who sat on the front row. They laughed at the first line of his songs because it sounded frivolous: “I’m angry because there is no salt in my meal…” But then, in the course of the song, there was this line that said, “Someone is crying because he hasn’t got what to eat…” Kefas said that, after this line, he noticed the expression on the faces of the women changed; they started crying. At the end of the show, they approached him and told him he was anointed.
Kefas has enjoyed some of the rewards of his talent. While at the Eyana Kpaja Orientation Camp, during his youth service, he won Airtel’s Copa Has Got Talent contest, for which he received the sum of N200, 000.00. He also won the PRTVC/Sauti Lab Award for the Best Reggae Artist of The Year, 2012. Each time he walks along the road, children mime his songs and point at him.

Kefas’ songs are rendered in both Hausa and English. I asked him if he thinks that doesn’t affect the complexion of the music. He said that, for him, it boils down to ministering. When he sings in Hausa, he is targeting the large Hausa-speaking population of northern Nigeria, and when he sings in English, he is targeting the English-speaking population. He says that one of his songs titled, “Which Image are You,” has been used by an American pastor, each time he’s preparing to deliver a sermon in the US. 

As for challenges, Kefas says he is facing a challenge that is truly mountainous: a lot of people are telling him to change his music genre to Nigerian R&B. How he reacts to this challenge will confirm (or do otherwise) the saying that reggae can bring down Babylon.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Discussing Gospel Music with Job Manja

Job Manja: Picture source: Job Manja's photo album on Facebook
Politics is everywhere: it is in classical politics, but there is politics in the home, at work, in the church, and mosques, too. If you want to understand the politics of Gospel Music, you have to hear it from someone who has been in it for a very long time.  One of these voices on the Plateau is Job Manja. Over the years, Manja has grown, presiding as a youth leader from the lowest level of his church administration to being a committee member at its pinnacle. He has, as a result, built a strong voice and base, and has become blunt. Thus, he is in a position to challenge traditions he considers old-fashioned, as long as doing that does not cross boundaries. 

I met Manja at his home at D. B Zang Junction, in Jos-south. We talked about the identity of Gospel Music, the tension that exists within evangelic churches as a result of changing views of today’s Christian youths, which have been triggered by the rise of flashy, liberal churches. We also talked about how a gospel music artist is supposed to earn a living.

According to Manja, Gospel Music is “a call into a ministry.” One has to be called and then answer the call. The implication is that if you are not called, or if you refuse to answer the call, after you have been called, whatever you play could not be classified as Gospel Music. There would be collisions between what you are playing and what Gospel Music is supposed to be. Gospel Music is not supposed to be explicit. The videos are supposed to stay miles away from human nakedness, or any other form of expression that corrupts the mind. On the reverse side of the coin, however, a secular artist doesn’t have boundaries as far as his messages and video scenes are concerned.  

When evangelical churches started getting invaded by an avalanche of music rhythms that had been made popular by raw pop music, most evangelical pastors were uncomfortable, but they were compelled to tolerate the youths for fear of losing them to the liberal churches. Manja says his personal opinion is that any genre of music, whether Reggae, Rock, Rhythm and Blues, does not matter. To him, the lyric is what matters. In Benin Republic, he cites, the rhythm that is mostly played in churches is primarily Macossa, but laced with spiritual messages. For those who argue that those genres of music are borrowed from the secular realm, which is essentially influenced by the devil, Manja counters by saying that he believes God is the originator of all genres of music, and that, if the devil has made an attempt to smear it, the devil should not be considered the originator of the style.  

As a spin-off, Manja referred to a grouse he has with a lot of pastors who don’t have room for discipleship. Simply put, “discipleship” refers to spiritual mentor-ship. Most pastors, he says, do not draw younger members close, for the purpose of spiritual mentor-ship. When that happens, it creates a window for the devil. He admits the truth about the evangelical churches losing members, a situation that suggests that the pastors affected must have to wake up. By “waking up” he means that the pastors must encourage the culture of discipleship. “Everyone is going to die, whether by sickness or by age,” he says. When that happens where there is no discipleship, it creates a missing link that could compel a church to shut down. According to Manja, Gospel Music has lost so much to its secular rival because of this issue, but he who knows his calling will never derail, no matter what happens. 

My host went on to dig into the book of Leviticus, where there is a reference to the Levites Family. God was sharing land to the twelve tribes, but did not include the Levites Family. Instead, he told them that they would eat from his temple. The Levite Family was made up of the Priest and the singers.  Asaph in the book of Psalms was a singer who led the Levites that performed the spiritual art of worship in the tabernacle. Everything that was channelled to the priest was equally channelled to Asaph. So, singers are supposed to be accorded the same respect that priests are accorded. Today, there are churches that are aware of this and take it seriously. Even here in Nigeria, we have Christ Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy. His artists are among some of the richest, not only in Nigeria but in Africa as large.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Music is Africa’s Dream Sound –Daps

Daps in his studio

All my life in Jos, I have never heard a jingle that as creative as it. It is that Hausa jingle, which started getting aired last year, 2016, on Peace FM 90.5. It urges the people of Plateau State to unite for its prosperity: ku zo mu daga Plato ta ci gaba.

I never suspected that the very jingle had been made by Daps, one of Jos town’s most talked-about and long-reigning music artists.  This is because his vocal idiosyncrasy did not manifest in the jingle. So, I was shocked when the Plateau Radio-Television Corporation’s, PRTVC’s, Director of Programmes, Sunday Ali Gyang, told me Daps made it. 

I met Daps at his studio in Kabong, at the Gada Biyu suburb of the city. I had heard his voice for over ten years, but had never set eyes on him. He wasn’t anywhere close to the picture that I had built in my head: short, with a crude look. 

Daps said the rhythm and the message in the jingle just came naturally. Given that the song actually exudes a Plateau ambience, I asked how he achieved that. His answer was simple: “it is a gift.” Then he adds, “I love ethnic sounds. My music is Africa’s dream sound.”  As to why the voice does not sound like the voice we are used to hearing, he revealed that; even though he wrote, founded the melody, and produced the song; his younger brother, Sha Gwom, and an obscure security guard who is responsible for that Central Plateau feel in the jingle, performed it.

This jingle is the latest of Dap’s jingles for PRTVC. Before it, he had two other jingles for the pioneer radio station, one of which has been aired for more than ten years.  But in my opinion, this recent one is the greatest. It is original, not just because it talks about the uniqueness of Plateau State, but because, listening to it deeply, you get the impression that the maker was, from the beginning, conscious of the need to approach the music from an astonishing angle and was able to achieve just that.

Done with the jingle issues, I then asked Daps about his international connections that saw him working with other artists from around the world. He talked about one Margaret Motsage from South Africa, James Vincent from Texas-USA, and the Spanish Project in North America, etc. Daps has also done international movie soundtracks and was nominated for one of the best African Soundtracks for the movie, Seventy Six, which was released this February. 

Daps is of the opinion that if upcoming artists really want to actualize their music dreams, they need mentors. It is the mentor that guides an artist towards designing his music style. According to him, “skill is good and comes naturally, but there is a limit to where it takes you, and there is a limit to where discipline can take you. The mentor brings discipline into the musician. The best musician is not he that is skilful. It is he that is disciplined.”

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mees Palace Boils

On June 8th, Mees Palace, Rayfield, Jos, will be hosting an international music show.  

When my path and that of Jos town’s biggest reggae star, Jah Device, intersected today, he gave me the scoop. “Jos is going to be hosting a big music show,” he said. Device, sporting his dreadlocks that have now grown some four feet tall, said it is going to feature artists from within and outside the borders of Nigeria.  From the UK, there will be Peter Huningale and Zige Dub. There is an artist who switches home between the UK and Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. Jos will have the chance to listen to his colourful music style as well.  Then, there will be Jeremiah Gyang and Apsis, representing the host city. In addition to these men, Device says there will be a medley of other artists whose name he couldn’t disclose. 

It is going to be a live-recording concert, with copies of EP (extended play) that he released on May 6th, the 2016 edition of Device’s birthday.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tuface: The Greatest African Lyricist of all time

Tuface. Source:

Over the past decade and half, Tuface Idibia, the Nigerian Afro Hip-hop/ R &B superstar star, has been in the minds of millions of African music fans. For many of us, enjoying music boils down to savoring the melody and the rhythm, without worrying about the lyrics. This is largely how many of us have appreciated Tuface’s music: without heeding his messages. It amounts to wasting so much of what his music has to offer. Paying a keen attention to the lyrics of his music would compel one to see an ignored, yet powerful element of his music, and appreciate the rightful place of the artist.
When we talk of outstanding lyrics, what are we looking at? We are looking at the depth of wisdom tied to it, the intricacy of rhyming and the emotion that spills out of it.

After my computer crashed, I lost all the music files I had stored in it. With a new PC, I had to repeat the ripping, sorting and storing of the music files. It was while doing this that I gave Tuface’s music another scrutiny. Amazed by the lyrics, I was compelled to begin looking at the Nigerian music setting to see if there are others like him. I couldn’t find any. I then proceeded across the border to other nations on the continent. To make my work easy, I thought of his contemporaries, artists who had contested awards with him (I recalled he had always scooped the awards whenever he was nominated). Doing this, I came to the conclusion that there is none like him on the continent as well.  Also looking backwards, I came to the decision that there, also, was none like him even in the years behind.  Believe me, Tuface is the greatest African lyricist of all time!

Check out some of the lyrics

If you know any African who stands ahead of him, do not hesitate to call my attention (+2348032982190).

I’m Under Pressue to Change My Style

Kefas at Eyana Kpaja Kefas Sabo is a reggae artist that holds the promise of becoming the next big star in Plateau State and beyond...