Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Music Review: Nigerian Dbanj’s Entertainer Album

Dbanj’s latest album, entertainer, released last year 2008 represents a fulfillment of the wishes of the Nigerian music fans who want an assertion that the new and highly effervescent music era isn’t a flash in the pan but one that has come to stay. Records of how many copies of an album have been sold is often difficult to track in Nigeria as a result of piracy. This is however one album that many agree has sold remarkably in the history of music-making in the country. Seeing how rich the promoter has become as a result of the sales of just the album has raised the question of who is supposed to benefit more as a result of an album sale. Is it the artists or the promoters who presently benefit more than the artists in the Nigerian setting?

The new music generation in Nigeria is distinct by virtue of the fact that it is characterized by a music style that has refused to take into consideration the Nigerian music past. This album however stands out as an exception. While most artists of the generation have relied solely on the use of Nigerian Pidgin English to give their music the Nigerian identity, Dbanj goes further to include Yoruba and Igbo (Igbo is used in the song Igwe). Further more the use of the talking drum has also fired up the Nigerian identity in the music. Dbanj’s deep voice and an almost talking vocal rendition also reminds one of Fela and Afro-beat. Though other instrumental elements of the songs cannot be tied to high life, juju or afro-beat, it is difficult to link them to other popular music genres from outside of the country. They thus represent his originality. Above all, the album conveys an intention to produce a record that is highly entertaining and the ability to accomplish this intention.

The album is also a confirmation that Dbanj has grown lyrically. There is always a message in every song as the lines of the lyrics are inter-related. The messages in successive songs are very distinct, demonstrating that they come spontaneously. It represents a strong mark of professionalism.

Highlife and juju music went comatose as a result of their inability to move simultaneously with a changing culture. While the culture was changing the music remained stationery, leading to an instance where people and the music failed to understand each other. Dbanj has finally proven that it is not too late to produce music that is Nigerian, highly acceptable at home and internationally.

With all these, one cannot help but agree with the fact that the artist is a master of his own style known as the Koko style. This stands him out as the colour of the Nigerian music industry and will remain so in our memories for a very long time.

Wyclef Reciprocates Nigerian Hospitality at Last

Sometimes in 2004, the American hip-hop artist Wyclef visited Nigeria and had shows in Lagos and Port-Harcourt. From the way Wyclef was received in Nigeria, he must have felt like the president of a nation. Charlie Boy who happened to be the President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) led the mass of music artists and fans who wore special costumes to welcome Wyclef.

One thing that I know is that Africans, not just Nigerians are often proud of distinguished African-Americans. They see them as their kin doing great things out there. Thus the frenzy that greeted the arrival of Wyclef was understandable. Every young woman wanted to get close to Wyclef and be recognized. Others wanted to as least have a picture with him. Every young journalist felt his resume will be enriched by having an interview with the artist. Wyclef was made to wear Yoruba traditional attire. I am sure that behind the TV cameras he was also compelled to eat some pounded yam and all those other Nigerian stuff. Nigerians wanted him to be at home because he was actually home. He has made an impression in their minds, first with the hip-hop trio, the Fugees who blew up to worldwidetinental eminence following their release of the album The Score.

Tuface then was a nascent Nigerian music artist that that promised to be the torch bearer of a re-invented Nigerian music industry. Nigerians were very proud of Tuface as the man that holds the promise of becoming Nigeria’s envoy around the world, telling it who we really are. While local journalist hovered around Wyclef who has often sympathized with Africans, he made clear his plans to do a little collaboration with some local artists to see how it works out. Nigerians were so pleased to hear this and saw him as the architect of a bridge by which Tuface will attain international visibility.

When the project which also featured Faze and Sound Sultan was eventually released however, Nigerians where disappointed, to say the truth. While the Nigerians music fans thought the song will carry that international flair that will fly the Nigerians around the world, it instead came out with an exotic feel that Nigerians felt was meant to confine them to where they had been. The lyrics centered on been proud to be African despite the problems of the continent.

Nigeria is one of the world’s leading oil producing nations and quite rich as a result. With such a status so many good things must follow despite the odds. The song was never popular.

While the song took that format, Wyclef packed his bag and baggage, made some remarks about how intelligent Nigerians are and found his way back to the US. Good music carries a message better than a few remarks made to some journalists. The music should have said the good things about Nigeria and Nigerians.

The other day while I listened to Rhythm 93.7 Jos, I heard a song playing. I could hear Wyclef’s distinctive voice introducing the song during which he said something about Wyclef alongside Tuface. Following the experience of the previous collaboration done in Nigeria, I listened critically as the song played. My aim was to see whether the current collabo is a semblance of the previous one or not. In this song however, Wyclef evokes the kind of effervescence and bliss that characterized his role in the Fugees and in his personal projects which immediately followed his departure from the group. Before this song, I have actually considered Wyclef to be on the downward side of the curve. The song however proved me otherwise. I thus came to the conclusion that the latest collaboration has reciprocated the hospitality he enjoyed during his visit to Africa’s biggest nation. I sought the opinion of others who heard the song. We concurred that this one tallies with the reputation with which Tuface has been held by his compatriots.

The Significance of a DJ to a Community

The word DJ is often used to mean one who presents a music show on radio. Technically however, a DJ is he who mounts the music on a machine and commands it to play. He works on the instructions of the presenter who is wrongly referred to as the DJ. Here we will also abuse the term to refer to the presenter. It sounds more convenient. Thus in this context the DJ is the person whose voice you hear on radio.

This brings us to the significance of such personalities to the people they serve. DJs are no doubt significant to the community. Life is not worth living if it is unpleasant. The radio when it was invented added value to life thus making it more pleasant. Music is one joy that was derivable before the coming of broadcasting through radio transmission but one could not listen to it readily. The coming of radio transmission however ensured that any new music artists could have his songs played from the radio station so that a whole community within the transmission range could enjoy them. One can now listen to music from the radio station in his house, car or in the office as a result of radio technology. Since the DJ is he or she that plays the music, he becomes very significant as one who gives you that joy.

You cannot persuade the parents, relatives or friends of any successful musician to believe that the DJ is irrelevant to the community since they have seen the role DJs have played towards the fame and fortune of their son/daughter, relation or friend. The DJ is the link between the musician and the people because he relays the music from the artist to the people who then go to the market to buy, thereby making the artist rich and eventually, successful.

The DJ also finds relevant information about the artist and makes it available to the fans during the show. Thus the DJ entertains, educates and informs the people.

The coming of computer music technology has made it possible for a lot of youths in my own community to begin to experiment on becoming musicians. Many have succeeded and have found national and international fame. From the experience of my own community, DJs have often been biased in favor of local artists even when the music is of modest standard. In this wise, the DJ also gives hope to upcoming artists.

Is Tuface Truly Nigeria’s Greatest?

TML clipboardThe Nigerian music industry from independence till date falls under two dynamic generations. The first has its origin in the colonial era to end in the eighties. The hallmark of this generation was characterized by highlife, Juju and afro-beat. One sees the strength of this generation in its ability to promote the Nigerian cultural identity around the world.

Certain icons of this generation that played music that were highly loved by Nigerians and the rest of the world but whose contents by their nature compromised the Nigerian cultural identity. They include Bongos, Chris Okotie, the Ofekes and the others in their group.

By the end of this era, the industry found itself in a period of confusion during which it lacked bearing. It turned out however that the period marked the gestation of another upcoming and stunning era that was eventually born in the late 90s.

There are people who argue that the new era dominated by artists such Tuface, Asha, T-Y Bello etc is essentially not Nigerian since the generation is built on a foundation of foreign music, hip-hop/R&B rather than the traditional Nigerian juju, afro-beat and highlife. Conversely there is a school of thought that believes that though the music found its origin in the west, the songs are performed in Nigeria Pidgin English and vernacular. For those who argue that the music does not carry all Nigerians along, there is the need for them to understand that even highlife, juju and afro-beat never carried all Nigerians. Furthermore hip-hop/R&B does not carry all Americans along. Again this school of though argue that entertainment draws its strength from surprises and that the music is just a reflection of the time as our culture has also been influenced by the West through the decades gone by.

In other to avoid downplaying the Tuface/Debanj generation, we may need to see the significance of the industry they have succeeded in building. First their various projects have been accepted by the Nigerian music fans. In addition, the generation has not only helped in moderating the domination of our airwaves by the Americans and Jamaicans but now own the lion share of the airplay. It has never been like this before. The music is also making an impression outside the country with the artists now engaged in collaboration with the big ones in the US and Jamaica.

It is thus difficult to resolve the idea of who is the nations greatest but we can unravel the jig-saw if we come to a conclusion as to who ruled the earlier generation and doing same for the reigning generation. The king can then emerge from the two.

Bongos Ikwe during his time made songs for the soap opera cockcrow at dawn. The show turned out to be the cradle of Nigerian Nollywood that is rated as the third most watched globally. He also did songs in eulogy of the nation. It isn’t a surprise that the administration of Umar Musa Yar ‘adua thought of him and subsequently invited him to perform when it launched the Nigerian rebranding campaign in Abuja earlier in the year. He was the most spectacular performer at the event. While he stands out as a musician extraordinaire however, he made a sacrifice when he opted for a style that carried along a comparatively smaller category of Nigerians at the time. At his time, the Nigerian identity on a world cultural map was distinct. Thus abroad, highlife, juju and afro-beat were more representative of Nigeria at the time.

When one talks of the greatest Nigerian superstar, it is easy for Tuface to come to mind. One reason is that he belongs to the reigning generation, beside been among the number of artists who started the generation. He is the first Nigerian music artist to win an MTV music award and later another award, the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) award. His first album face II face sold over two million copies. The third album is currently selling. In the third album he has collaboration songs with R-Kelly and Shakademous and Pliers all of whom are world class artists.

The arrival of gifted artists like Debanj, 9nice, Asha etc seem to suggest that the reign of Tuface can be challenged. Some Nigerians are even of the opinion that these artists should be given a little time so that we can see who they really are.

Coming to a conclusion as to who is the greatest is a nut whose cracking may remain futile. This is because it will involve the analysis of a complex number of criteria. While Tuface, Debanj and the others in their generation currently rule the industry, playing music that gets fans holding their heads between their hands, the soaring creativity and originality of Sony Ade and Fela cannot be ignored without suffering insomnia. Their records effectively ruled the world during their time. They proved that music professionalism is not exclusive to the west -Africans too can do it! The best repository of music around the world will feel that their collection isn’t total if the works of these artists cannot be found there. The artists and their contemporaries can argue that had the world been as globalized as it is today when they played, they would have been Grammy award winners.

Big Brother Africa 2009: Kevin gives out a huge portion of his price money as offering to the church

During Big brother 1, a South African Journalist, Mark Pilgrim, remarked that the show had done what politicians have not been able to do, which is uniting the continent and also painting an exact picture of the countries from where the inmates came. The additional fact that Pilgrim did not mention was that the contestants often come out bigger in fame and more revered than the politicians.

This was the situation when Kevin was received in Jos the Plateau State capital. Kevin arrived his native home of Jos in Plateau State Nigeria ten days after he was crowned the winner of the Big Brother Africa show for 2009. At the Maraban Jama’a (the people’s junction) where he was received, there was an amazing joyousness. Friends, relatives, women hawkers, filling station attendants, bus conductors etc, danced. The chilly Plateau weather of December simmered while the surrounding rocks watched. The same day, he was hosted on Global News on local TV, the PRTVC. Two days later he granted a press conference during which he mentioned that his greatest strength during the show were education and discipline which he attributed to his dad.

Kevin granted this interview after his thanks giving at his church, The Covenant World Christian Center. During the thanksgiving he made it clear that he gave out $20 000 of his $200 000 prize money from Big Brother Africa as offering to the church.

At Big Brother Africa show, he was not stunned by any of the inmates because of the strong faith which he has often had. But there are those who believe he won because him be fine boy. Kevin however disagrees.

At the House he said he loved someone but it did not grow into full-fledged romance.

In the press conference he granted at the press house at Hill Station Junction in Jos on December 18, Kevin mentioned that he intends to go into entertainment. He gave the details to News Tower. It included music, writing, emceeing and event management.

Kevin is one of three males from a total of nine children and is Berom by tribe from Du in Jos South of Plateau State. The Berom from Du are said to pride themselves as a special class of Berom people. The present Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang is a Berom man from Du and is the first Berom man to have broken the jinx for his people. Other Nigerians have gone to the Big Brother Africa show without winning. Now a young Duyorkan is the first to have won for the country. Hence it could be said with certainty that the Berom from Du are indeed special. It could be sheer coincidence however.

According to Vincent, the elder brother, Kevin went to three primary schools which include Mafeng, Tender Foot and Nagode primary schools all in Jos. He then went to Federal Government College Kwali in Abuja. Later he was a student at the Plateau State Polytechnic where he obtained a Diploma in Law. Not satisfied with a diploma, he went to the University of Jos and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2006. He served in Port-Harcourt Rivers State during his National Youth Service Corps. During the national youth service he made his fifth attempt at Big Brother Africa and was successful. The rest is history.