Thursday, December 30, 2010

Paying My Respect At Long Last

Charles Ibezim, aka J T Cool, one of the pioneer radio personalities of Peace FM during its golden years, insists his girl friend played a role in their making. He insists that they were Peter and Paul until they came across his girl friend that went by the name of T-square. They then decided to become P-Square. That may be one of Charlie’s numerous antics. The fact however remains that J-Town made them.

The fraternal twins started as dancers going to Plateau Hotel to perform each time a big artist came to town. Eventually they were discovered by Benson and Hedges competition, move to Lagos and found continental fame.

When the Nigerian music industry is mentioned, Tuface with his dominant personality easily comes to mind first. There are however, music acts that have successfully competed with Tuface on record sales. P-Square is one such act. I remember one of their albums sold up to a million copies in just one week. It shouldn’t be a surprise that P-Square have been able to sell that much. There is some kind of charm in their music that seems to attract the youths like moths to light. Sooner had they release an album that you hear the songs dominating the airwaves, as ring tones, in commercial taxis and just everywhere. It is possible that if a survey of the most played artists in Nigeria, foreign or local, is undertaken, P-Square may top the list. If you doubt this, begin to observe this from now onwards

Despite the successes of P-Square, they have not been able to win my respect. They are the only big name in Nigeria whose record I don’t ever buy. Part of the reason is that I never believed in them from the beginning. The second reason is that their music is too adolescent to me. The duo also compound the problem as it is alleged that they have always tried to play down the fact that they were born, raised and discovered in J-Town. I found this difficult to believe. While all the others like M-I, Jesse Jagz and Jeremiah have always proudly identified with this city having been born, raised and discovered in it, P-Square remained stiff-naked regarding their origin. This is unfair because the general belief is that had they been born and raised in Imo State where their parents came from, they probably would have embraced Highlife Music because the culture over there is one that is often reflected in Highlife music. They were however born in Jos and the culture in that city shaped there mentality. If they cannot go and proclaim the city, then of what good are they to us?

One day however, I had the earphones of my mobile phone to my ears and Peace FM played that leading song from their latest album. I cannot even remember the title of the song but it is that song about wherever you are…. am loosing my mind... baby come close you are far way... I love you I love you I love you…. The song sank deep and I finally caved in. I am now looking for the album to buy and review it properly. The duo must however lean to recognize the city. Twins Bread, their father’s bakery that was named after them is still here at Jenta Adamu. They must stop that rubbish.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Melody of Bad Prophecy

As a kid, I was a pet child of my uncle. My uncle’s favourite pastime was the hunting of flying games with a catapult. One day he killed a strange bird called an owl. My uncle offered the dead bird to my friend and I. We roasted it badly but we ate it nevertheless. Later I learnt that an owl is an evil bird with the ability to prophesy human demise.

The owl is indeed evil even from the way it looks. It has a round concave face that resembles the inner surface of a piece of broken ceramic pot. The eyes are horrifyingly round and too big for a bird. Even with these eyes, it has a bad vision in the day time and the best vision in the night. It is the reason why it easily gets killed in the day time. Its beak, rather than pointing straight forward curves backward to point at its owner. Most birds like the canary, robin, nightingale and many more sing beautiful melodies. In contrast, the owl has one of the most groveling and horrifying cries.

As a kid, I have, a couple of times experienced an owl heralding the death of a neigbour and the sad event came to pass. In most of these cases, it perches on a tree around the house. Early this morning, December 21 at about 2pm, I woke up to hear the bizarre sound of an owl on the top of our roof as there was no tree anywhere close to our house. It appears my landlord also heard the sound and bravely came out. The sound of him simply opening the door chased the bird away.

If somebody was going to die in the house, I feared that it might be me. I was the only person in the house that is sick. Though I walk around and do the daily routine of life, I knew that I was ill. Coincidentally, my mum died one day after today in 2005. I was terrified by this coincidence of events. I just prayed and said to God, “if is see the next day then fine. But if I don’t see it, I pray you my soul to take.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vuvuzela in Nigeria?

What are the possibilities of Nigeria hosting FIFA’s big boys’ show, the World Cup? Many Nigerians don’t ever think about this –the possibility doesn’t seem to be there. There are too many nations with the most amazing facilities and who are jostling to host the World Cup and for whom the possibility is slim in view of the obvious that the World Cup comes only once in four years.
That pessimistic line of thinking isn’t good however, especially for a nation like Nigeria that pride itself as the most religious nation where all things should be possible with faith. Furthermore, Nigeria is said to have the happiest people on earth. Happiness is a virtue that should serve as a springboard for just anything. In addition, it should be expected that the most creative minds are those of happy people.
I imagine a boardroom discussion of Nigerian football officials in the event of FIFA granting the nation a hosting right of the big boys’ show. In a bid to try to host one of the most spectacular Mundial, there is a chance somebody in the boardroom will suggest the importation of Vuvuzela to spice the tournament. I think that will be one of the irrational boardroom decisions ever taken.
South Africa succeeded with Vuvuzela as a consequence of their tradition of insisting on African values. For example, there was the insistence that an African World Cup must feel African values leading to the slaughter of bulls in the various soccer venues prior to the event. This insistence of African values is what we should learn from the South Africans. In trying to do this however, it will be rational to consider African values that are peculiar to Nigeria. We could request FIFA’s permission to play Nigerian music in the background while the matches are ongoing as it happens in the American NBA. In our choice of the relevant Nigerian music, we will take into consideration; the fact the world may not be able to relate with everything Nigerian. We know Nigerian music that that are highly acclaimed around the world. Artist such and father Fela and his son, Femi could provide a convenient solution. There are others like Sunny Ade and some of his contemporaries. In doing this we must also not forget native music of some Nigerians tribes like the Tivs of Benue State whose music may not be well known around the world largely due to lack of good packaging in the form of CDs. In like manner, we could consider the Irigwes of Plateau State. We could also move to the desert areas of Bornu to bring the exotic sounds of those long native trumpets of the Kanuris.  We could also move to the southeastern corner of the nation to bring something equally amazing from the Efik and the Ibibios. We are more than sand on the seashores; we are more than numbers. Our diversity is equally remarkable and should serve as a solution to any obstacle that comes our way as a nation.
All this however is based on a wild dream. The wildest dreams sometimes see the light of day however. With patience and long time planning, a Nigerian Mundial could be possible. It may not happen in our lifetime but could happen to posterity and for the same nation. When the history of the World Cup is written, it will be said that Nigeria, Africa’s biggest nation also hosted it and used it as a platform to sell African values that are peculiar to it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tapping the Untapped

I learnt that the Nigerian Hip Hop music does make an impression internationally especially when it carries that Nigerian flair. By ‘Nigerian flair’, we mean that the rap is in conventional English but with a chorus in the Nigerian cultural English popularly referred to as pidgin or broken English. It is said that Nigeria’s Hip Hop star of the moment, M-I’s song, ‘fast money’, is one such song that finds a lot of international airplay due to the excellent job the guy on the chorus did by decorating the song with an attractive Nigerian flavor.

As far as the demand for Nigerian Hip Hop with the right flavor in the international market is concerned, I am of the opinion that even M-I has failed to take full advantage of that window. As far as I am concerned, that song is the only one with the right Nigerian thing, of all the songs made by M-I that I know. One would have thought that M-I should have engaged the guy in a whole album since people with such gift are rare.

I have listened to Ice Prince’s ‘oleku’. The guy who sang that chorus did not do a good job as his counterpart did in ‘fast money’. Reason being that the native accent in ‘oleku’s’ chorus is too heavy to a degree where I could say that the guy drifted too much into ‘Fuji’ so that the song is more on that side than on the Hip Hop side. Hip Hop lovers are proud of the exclusivity of their culture which abhors anything that is fundamentally exotic or with some elements of clowning. In that ‘oleku’, there is one expression that goes woko woko in the chorus whose meaning, as well as the word ‘oleku’ itself, I don’t know. It is for the same clowning effect that I cannot accept Nigga Raw’s music as Hip Hop. Let us see ‘fast money’ more critically to see what makes it different.

Money slow to enter

Money quick to go

Where money dey go?

I don’t know!

In this, there is hardly any word that an ‘oyibo’ man will not understand. What made the chorus is the Nigerian approach to pronunciation of English words where the voice descends when it should rise as in money where each of the syllables is pronounced with the voice pointing downwards.

Singers that can be careful enough to observe this are rare. It is however the responsibility of the artist to work towards discovering such persons through deliberate talent searches. They will be helping their ambitions as well as the industry. The sky is the limit but we are just scores of meters above the ground.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Music and Nigeria at 50

Today 1st October 2010, Nigeria celebrates its Golden Jubilee as an independent nation following the concession of the administration of the nation to Nigerians by the British colonial government in 1960. At fifty, there is the need to take stock and see if there is anything to party about.

The immediate challenges before an independent Nigeria in 1960 was how to sustain the economic growth, foster unity and sustain our leadership role in Africa. These issues thus serve as benchmarks for appraising the progress or otherwise of the Nigerian nation.

On the morning of our fiftieth anniversary, I listened to a BBC journalists asking Gen. Yakubu Gowon, former military leader, to list what he feels are the successes of the nation after fifty years of independence. The general was more emphatic on the unity of the nation. According to him, the ability of the leaders to ensure the continued unity of a country with a complex ethnic and religious diversity should be seen as the greatest success recorded and for which Nigerians should have something to cheer about. He talked about the civil war his administration fought to keep the nation as one between 1967 and 1970 as one demonstration of the ability of the government live up to expectation. Yes, it is true. The war succeeded in keeping the nation as one. The point of concern however, is that while the people were united, they did so with grudges. It is not that the Ibos or Biafrans never wanted to be part of Nigeria. They wanted it under circumstances that ensured their happiness. The leaders never gave Nigerians generally, this desire up till this point when we are celebrating fifty years of nationhood.

Music despite its amazing influence on people is often taken for granted. Without any iota of contradiction, the music era of the Tufaces, D’banjs, Ashas and the rest has played a remarkable role in uniting the nation. The industry has given Nigerians reasons to be proud of their nation. This young men and women have exported the beautiful Nigerian spirit to all nooks and crannies of the world through their act. Suddenly, Nigerians realized that their country has something that is appealing to the rest of the world after all. The realization is that there is something in this nation after all and many from north, south, east and west are opting to be part of the nation.” People should want to be part of a nation by will and not by coercion. Music has given people reasons to be part of the nation by will.

While I listened to BBC Africa Have Your Say on the BBC on the eve of Nigeria’s Golden Jubilee, listeners from different parts of the continent where asks to say how the Nigerian culture has influenced them. Nearly all of the youths from the Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana listed Nigerian music of the era of Dbanj, Tuface and P-Square and the humour in the parlance of Nigerian cultural English (Pidgin English) as the greatest things that have made Nigeria the apple of their eyes. I noticed that these persons never wanted to mention the negative parts our nation. When somebody loves you, you notice that he doesn’t want to talk about your weaknesses. 

Along this line, the music has also become the greatest weapon of rebranding for the Nigerian nation. We must effectively rebrand to preserve our integrity and remain the leader of Africa. The artists are doing it at no cost to the federal government that has committed billions of naira to rebranding the image of the nation since the time of Gen. Sani Abacha.

Critics have often complained that the current music industry in Nigeria has forgotten the Nigerian culture as compared to the era of Haruna Ishola, Fela, Sunny Ade and the rest of them. These old generations of musicians are most cherished by people around the world who are more interested in the study of the cultural diversity of the world. While they are there doing their cultural studies, we are here experiencing the pains of suffering as caused by poverty. The contemporary music industry, besides working on the Nigerian image abroad, is also generating money to the artists, their families and communities and healing the economic wounds of the nation. That is what matters for now. But I believe that the music is merely a reflection of contemporary Nigerian culture which is gradually succumbing to the West as is the case anywhere else.

At the age of fifty, this is the contribution the new era of the Nigerian music industry has made. Only a few politicians have done this much. The industry has achieved this against all odds such as piracy and the non-challance of the authorities to the ills of the industry despite this obvious capacity to make a remarkable contribution. In view of this, the government should work towards ending piracy and other challenges of the Nigerian music industry that has demonstrated what it can do for the nation. According to the Holy Bible, “the greatest thing about the youths is their strength.” The leaders must know this.

Do you want to grow? Try

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Rise and Prominence of J-Martins

If you think say na only you sabi, na lie. Plenty people dey wey sabi!

When next you see someone carrying a guitar, making a move to learn music production in a music studio or making noise about doing a music album, just leave him as you see him. Something within must have prompted him. Jamaican Eric Donaldson sang in one of his famous songs that one should not judge a book by its cover but to just turn the pages and read. I agree with him one hundred and ten per cent.
When J-Martins came out with that song of his that features Timaya and P-Square, I dismissed him. The makossa flair in that song turned me off. It is not that I have something against makossa but I was of the view that at a time like this when the Nigerian music industry is re-emerging, any peace of project must take into consideration the Nigerian flair first and any artist that fails to realize that, is lacking in knowledge of how the industry works and is likely not to do any good to himself and the industry at large. Martins eventually made me to understand through his most recent projects, that he was only passing through his music adolescence. Every body grows from somewhere. Like most other Nigerian acts be they D’banj, P-Square or Asha, Martins grew up in the eyes of the fans and should not be judged by his beginnings. The growth of Martins is however one of the most phenomenal.
Each time a big one comes out, he makes the fans proud. To them he is an assurance that the industry has come to stay and the local music industry will thus continue to represent the nation at the regional and world stage. There is no shying away from the fact that the Nigerian music industry is about the most prominent in Africa and is already making an impression around the world. The most recent project of J-Martins sends a message to Nigerians that the industry is more determined than ever to ensure that its prominence will never be floppy.
To me,” Cool Temper” is the song that drives me crazy the most. I used to hold my head between my hands whenever the radio plays it. It meets all standards and Nigerians who are yet to understand the man J-Martins need to listen to that song once again. Apart from the general bliss in the song, it has succeeded in re-enforcing the fact that as long as we remain Nigerians, we cannot run away from Highlife music. Anybody hearing this including J-Martins may be surprised that I am referring to the music as Highlife. I will come to that. All those lines of the song that talks about biscuits, moi moi and mineral, reflect the comic nature of Nigeria. The professionalism of the maker of the song is reflected in the modest nature of the song that seems to re-enforce the saying that you don’t get noticed by necessarily making the loudest noise; it simply takes making just the right noise.
There is the need to discuss what is Highlife to enable us understand if J-Martins music can be classified as Highlife. Good music is expected to reflect the culture of the people. Music, as part of art is also a mirror to the society, meaning that if reflects the society. The old Highlife music of Nigerian reflected the culture of Nigeria. In it, one could hear Pidgin English, Nigerian languages such as Ibo, Kalabari, Ibibio, Efik, the sound of the gong and other Nigerian native instruments. In J-Martins’ music the Pidgin English, the comic nature of Nigeria and the mention of words like moi moi, kulu kulu temper, mineral, etc is a reflection of the Nigerian culture. Though the native instruments of Highlife are not there, one could not pin the instrumentation to a particular genre of music. That represents the originality of the artist. Thus the music is a modern form of Highlife music just as I see D’banj’s and Bracket’s music.
From all indications, the Nigerian music industry is set to keep growing and J-Martins is currently one of the most brilliant colours of the industry.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Nigga Raw, Hip hop Artist?

With Hip hop being the reigning genre of music across the globe, it is now fashionable for music artists to brand their music as Hip hop even in circumstances where the music is apparently not. Here in Nigeria and Africa at large, the artist will refer to their music as Afro Hip hop.

A pertinent question here is ‘what is hip-hop?’ Hip hop is a culture and hip hop music is one that has been influenced by hip hop culture or way of life. That is to say that the music is reflective of that culture and anybody who lives that culture can relate to it.

The bits that make up a culture include dressing style, manner of greeting, language style, most favored sport, most favored music and so on.

When Hip hop music rose, from the late seventies to the mid eighties, to become very relevant attracting followership, the next thing hip hop artists started looking at was how to propagate the music culture until it becomes a global phenomenon. If the music must spread successfully, it has to incorporate local cultures in order to gain acceptance easily. However, the local artist must preserve the Hip hop framework so that it can be recognized as Hip hop by everybody including Americans, without been told.

The obvious impression when one listens to Nigga Raw is that he is listening music that is largely Highlife whose original home is the South Eastern part of Nigeria where Raw comes from. Furthermore, there is an element of clowning in Raw’s music, something that is abhorrent in Hip hop. As if that is not enough, Raw has developed the habit of remaking the records of renowned Highlife musicians, implying that he sees them as his idols.

Timaya and Bracket Embarrassed in New York

According to a gist monitored on Peace FM Jos on Wednesday 21, 2010, Timaya and Bracket, Nigerian music artists were refused the chance to perform by New York music fans that prefer live performance as against miming which the Nigerians planned to doll out. This is a practice that is not only common in Nigeria but acceptable.
A live show is so called as it is performed live with all vocalists and instrumentalists on stage. There is a difference between playing from a CD and watching a live show. When music is played from a CD, there is nothing to suggest that it was produced live or via computer instrumentation especially if the software used is sophisticated. All that matters to the fan is the sound. If however the fan paid for a live show he will not accept a CD playing from somewhere in the background while somebody moves his lip behind a mic in the foreground. The fans must have interpreted this to mean cheating and an insult not only to them but even the city of New York, the Mecca of showbiz in the world. The implication is that we have been cheated so many times, here in Nigeria.
Here at home, Timaya and Bracket are big names that have sold millions of CDs across the continent. When it comes to live shows however, it has to be the real thing. That is how it is done elsewhere and the Nigerian fans also deserve the best. While in Port-Harcourt, I watched American Usher and Shaggy at different times. The shows were all live in the actual sense of it. Even when Shaun Paul came to Nigeria I monitored his show on the NTA and it was live with guitarists, drummers and back vocalists playing live. It was the real thing.
Despite the disappointment, there is however, a silver lining to the whole incident. It is a challenge urging the Nigerians to live up to global standards which, in my opinion, is in the interest of the Nigerian industry. Furthermore, Timaya and Bracket have been challenged to use their money to put up live bands and go back to New York to clean up the mess. Anything contrary will amount to a total defeat.
Should the Nigerian music fans learn about the New York embarrassment, only God knows how they will feel when next a big name in Nigeria appears on stage without a live band. It will however be good for upcoming artists who are financially weak to be allowed to perform shows without live bands as is the only way the growth of the industry can be sustained.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bank-W Makes Up for J-Town

Following the Jos crisis of January 17, 2010 we learnt that one of the boys that have made us proud in Jos by successfully taking his music efforts to the national level, M-I, was to come to Jos to donate relief material to victims of the Jos crisis. But he wasn’t coming alone. It was said that he was going to come with some other big names from the Nigerian music industry, one of the world’s most dynamic music industries. Among these artists, we were told, was Bank-W. We were delighted that one of Nigeria’s biggest was coming to Jos. At the end of it we were however disappointed as M-I’s delegation did not include Banky-W. The feeling was that the artist failed to identify with us. My personal feeling at the end of the day was that the artist was on his own.

Today however, I woke up to hear a music presenter with Rhythm FM Jos talking about a record Banky has made and it is titled ‘why.’ The artist explained that it was a question regarding the fighting in Jos. He then played the record. I listened to it and concluded that Banky has made up for his failure to come to J-town at long last.

The record makes reference to the regions of Nigeria and the blessings God has deposited in each of them and wonders why we choose to fight all the time rather than take full advantage of the resources to make the nation a better one. The record conveys some sad emotion and reflects the subject at hand. It also was replete with the Nigerian parlance ensuring that the Nigerian identity is not ignored.

I enjoyed it and accepted it as a compensation for the failure of Banky to come to J-town. We look forward to a Banky show in J-town and hope it will happen anytime soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Plateau Music Artists and Subcultures

Native Plateau State people are the real Nigerians. Real Nigerians are people who combined the qualities of both northerners and southerners. Yes, we combine these qualities. The northern quality in us is seen in our ability to speak Hausa language in addition to our native languages for which there are more than thirty of them. The southern quality is seen in our liberal lifestyles, something that is rare up here.

When one takes music artists from Plateau State into consideration, one sees that they represent three subcultures.

The first category is seen in native Plateau boys. The languages they use to express themselves when they sing are Hausa, English and their native tongues. Examples are Jeremiah Gyanga and Dach-mo. Artists like P-Square whose parents are of southern Nigerian origin are seen to perform in Pidgin English and their native tongue. While artists like M-I who seem to come from educated parents are strict in their of use English exclusively.

These behaviors are merely an expression of the type of upbringing they had while growing up from boys to men. One thing about native Plateau people is that they find themselves in circumstance where Hausa is the major language of communication. It is generally the situation in this part of Nigeria. Their children thus grow up speaking Hausa which they learnt by virtue of the environment and English which they learn in the classroom. The situation is however changing albeit gradually as most people are beginning to understand that compelling their children to speak English strictly is a way of giving the kids some class. I personally don’t think so. Children should learn the English but also the native languages.

Other Nigerians who came to Plateau from the south are also compelled to speak Hausa language since it is the lingua franca up here. They however speak this outside of their homes. Under a normal situation, this Nigerians don’t speak Hausa to their kids at home however. Instead they speak to them in their own tongues as the children must know where they are coming from.

Education gives people some class. This class is accentuated by the use of English in the home. The children grow up knowing that their parents are different and grow up upholding this class. As a matter of fact the kids are trained that way.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dachmo: The Next Superstar to Blow the Nation from Jos

Good music must have that feel that keeps music fans coming back. By this, the artist remains relevant in the lives of music fans. If that is true, then the next superstar to come out of Plateau State Central Nigeria, would be Dach-mo, real name Solomon Dachomo. This was the revelation at the Azi Nyako Youth Centre, Dadin Kowa in Jos when his long awaited album, titled the Love Song was dedicated today.

Those charming feels that will keep people coming back to his music are the amazing power in his voice, creativity and his general professionalism. The album is a general embodiment of all these. His style is similar to that of Jeremiah Gyang, a lyrical mix of Hausa and English. This stands the two artists out from others from Jos like, P-square and M-I whose lyrics are either pure or Pidgin English.

Novices are of the opinion that the biggest challenge of making music is just having the talent and being able to write relevant songs. But the additional challenges are also in publicity and distribution. Even the great Bob Marley had this difficulty and had to team up with Tosh and O’Rilley to form the Wailers after his first album could not make it. When he eventually saw the limelight, the first album suddenly started receiving massive airplay. Dachmo says he never had challenges in area of airplay. The biggest challenge he says, is actually in distribution. Right now, he hasn’t got a marketer. Going by the multitude that turned out at the dedication however, there is a good chance that even that seeming obstacle will fizzle out soon.

Dachmo said his music talent was revealed as a kid when he became fond of playing improvised drums in the form of empty Jerry cans, powdered milk containers etc. Eventually he went to stay with one of his close relatives who led a flock at a church, the COCIN, Sarkin Mangu Street in Jos Township, where he had full access to the real drums and mixed with singing groups within church. These events helped him to fully realize how to put his talent to use. Besides being a singer/song writer, he is also a full-fledge drummer now.

He is Berom from Barkin Ladi but who was born and bread within the city of Jos. He was educated at two secondary schools, Tempest Secondary School and GSS Jos, now Sardauna Memorial Secondary School. He later had a diploma in Business Administration at the Plateau State Polytechnic. Not wanting to be left out of the golden bowl of the computer age, he went to ECWA Computers to study Micro Computer Engineering, bagging another diploma. He says he is done with education yet.

He is without any shadow of doubt, the present music maestro in Plateau State and a promise that the state will continue to make its impression felt in the fastest-growing music industry in the world. Take note!