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.