Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Davido Sustains the Sexy Swing

Sometimes I am hasty in my condemnation of some artists that I review. P-Square and Waconzy are some victims of my swift judgment. Eventually however, they proved me wrong. My latest victim is Nigeria’s reining music act, Davido. Right now, he is about to prove me wrong too, especially with his bandwagon, Skelewu.

In every business anywhere around the world and, perhaps, beyond, what adds value to the practice are new inventions. Just imagine the change and rise that has been brought about by information and communication technology.

Music is, perhaps, as  necessary as bread is to life. Furthermore, it is a generator of amazing prosperity that sustains millions directly and indirectly. The ability of music to continue to play this role in life is reliant on the capability of the artists to remain creative enough to keep the fans hooked. New styles must be born so as to hound away boredom in the music and keep the fans. It takes an artist with a big heart that knows the significance of a new style and sees its attraction to be able to make out a potential for a new variety and then work towards ensuring it does not fizzle out. Along this line, Davido has proven that he’s got a big heart and is not a run-off-the-mill opportunist that I thought he was.

The music assortment which I will like to call the Sexy Swing is currently called Iyanya Dance after another Nigerian singer, Iyanya who invented it. The style manifested in his song, Your Waist, a song that found rave reviews across Africa and beyond. I never really loved the music that instigates dancers to swing their waists and hips seductively thereby making onlookers to suddenly move on to a heat session. Seeing the popularity of the song however, I was compelled to join the bandwagon. This finally happened after a radio presenter I hold in high esteemed played the song on air. I asked her what she thinks is the attraction in the song and she replied that she saw relevance in the song as a result of the widespread acceptance the song has received among music lovers.

Besides Your Waist, the flair of the Sexy Swing did not reflect in any of the other songs by Iyanya. Thus it is difficult to say that Iyanya invented the style consciously. If he had made a complete album of songs with that flavor, it would have been easy for one to conclude that he knowingly invented the style.

After I listened to Wande Cole’s Ten-Ten I perceived the potential for a distinct music color and wrote to say that if the artist can carry on with that discrete music type, he would have invented a new one. He never sustained it and everything just vamoosed. Not only that, the artist also disappeared from the scene, again confirming and re-instating the fact that Nigeria is a country of wastages.

What Davido has shown, by doing a song along that line, is that he is aware that if other artists can continue to do songs with that flamboyance, then a music invention would have been recorded.

One thing about the Nigerian music industry is that it has the capacity to drag creativity to the latches since music marketers insist on what elements should and should not be in music if they must market it. By that they take away music democracy and frustrate the possibility of new inventions. If Davido and the others to follow are aware of the dangers of the demands of the marketers and work consistently to ensure they maintain the flair, then Iyanya Swing would have established itself as  new music style that was made in Nigeria. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Blurred Lines: Robin Thicke

Robin Thicke, right, with one of his Video Characters

As somebody once said, music is organized ‘noise’. Noise is sound that irritates people rather than soothes their minds. If one must rank music on a scale of noise that stretches from zero to hundred, nearly all music will find a place on the scale. It is just that some will rank, closely, towards the zero end. Some might even score zero. When I was younger, I used to love music with a reasonable degree of noise or madness. As I got older however, I started getting attracted to music towards the zero end of the scale. I discovered that Thicke’s Blurred Lines gets me enchanted as it falls at the point on the noise scale that I like. It is the reason why I often jump each time it comes on Trace Urban television channel.
At one point it was Jazz, then Blues, Gospel, Soul and now Hip Hop. Hip Hop dominates the popular music landscape across the planet. It has, however, grown to become extremely complex with people like Wiz Kalifa and his friends as architects. This current derivative of Hip Hop that finds a place in the hearts of, mostly, adolescents is said to be financially more rewarding. It is the reason why it is most favored. However, there are people who love doing certain things for the sake of it and money will not sway their direction as a result. The song, Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, to me, seems to reflect the mind of a guy that has chosen to defy the rule. It moves far away from Hip Hop barring the contribution from TI Pharrell.
The lyric is also at variance with what obtains from the mostly abstract or illogical lyrical tradition of mainstream Hip Hop and related genres of music. The lyric represents the words of a man who is trying to persuade a woman to leave her boyfriend because he is a better man than the boyfriend. The role of rapper, TI Pharrell, is an extension of the same message albeit in rap format.
Robin Thicke was born 1977, meaning that the genre of Disco was about to fade away at the time he was becoming conscious of his surroundings. By the time he became a man, Hip Hop has dominated all the space there was for any music style. But passion is strong and overcomes just anything. His passion created the space for his genre of music. To me, Blurred Lines’ tends towards Disco. What I don’t know is whether it was by design or coincidence. One hears heavy baseline, seemingly from a bass guitar and some percussion and drumming.
Above all, the music reflects the mind of a guy who wants something unique, something that he alone has. You feel and see this in the pace of the song, the feeling it evokes, the video characters and their dress code. The video appears to have been short in just a single location, obviously to avoid any complex and potentially rowdy outcome, enabling the man to come out with exactly what he intended to present to music fans.
Music is the foundation of showbiz. Where it becomes boring, the opposite happens. Robin Thicke knows this and wouldn’t want to give the slightest room for such to happen.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

X-Raying Ice Prince’s Aboki

Hip Hop in Nigeria has gradually grown from something that was largely alien in the 90s to a big mainstream show today. At every stage in the journey towards acceptability, there were individuals who worked hard to push the music genre to a wider audience. Today, it is the turn of the Choc Boys drawn largely of J-Town in heart of the nation. One of them is Ice Prince whose latest project is a single titled aboki.

When Ice Prince released aboki, I just waved it aside because of the title which is a local Hausa vernacular that means a ‘friend’ I have that tendency for one to feel that local vocabulary doesn’t fit well in Hip Hop. The audio and video of aboki reminded me, once again, that a guy with the right talent will always find a way to get it right. That is what talent is – an unusual ability to do something. Just a word cannot create an impression that music should in the mind of a fan. It takes the song with the usual modules such as the lyrics and the poetry, the flow, the beats, melody and the feel. Currently the Choc Boys rule the nation and the continent when all these are taken into consideration.

Ice Prince has given another piece of entertaining material to engage fans but has also shown he has a sense of maturity and responsibility. Hip hop has always been viewed as the business of adolescents who don’t know the pains of society. This is a misconception for people outside the periphery of the art. Ice Prince has shown this with his new single. Nigerian has always been, sadly, two nations in one. The northern and the southern halves have always reflected that remarkable cultural contrast. It explains why Nigerian music artistes from the South always consider it necessary to do a song that the northern fans can relate to. Style Plus, Dare ‘Art’ Alade, Onyeka Owenu, Tuface, Faze and many others all have  songs made primarily to appeal to the northern fans. Aboki is the latest of such songs. In the song, Ice Prince is heard calling the names of prominent northerners and referring to them as ‘his guys’ or friends. To get the northern fans to really appreciate the song, the video shows him wearing a white Arabic type of wear and works bare foot in a beautiful and sprawling desert landscape. As usual, the magic in the song is Ice Prince’s extraordinary fervor, poetry, flow and flamboyant flair, compelling one to hold his head between his hands.

The authorities since the military era have often spent money to air documentaries in foreign media organizations to get the world to understand the Nigerian nation better but to no avail. Even during the era of Dora Akunyili as Nigeria’s Minister of Information, there was the ‘Re-brand Nigeria’ thing aimed at changing the attitudes of Nigerians with the sole purpose of correcting the modest appeal of the nation abroad. One thing that contemporary music has done to the Nigerian nation is getting the world to understand, better, the kind of nation Nigeria is. Ice Prince, from previous projects, has already made his contribution towards presenting the right face of Nigeria abroad. His popularity in Africa, Europe, North America and Asia measures the remote perimeters of his role in rebranding the nation. Growing political differences between the North and the South of Nigeria with remarkably bitter outcomes has, unfortunately, tended to push the two regions further apart. Thus well meaning Nigerians consider it a duty to work towards healing the cancerous situation. The song, aboki, is, without a shadow of doubt, an effort to mend the social division created by political repulsion of the two regions.

While hosting the victorious Super Eagles at African Cup of Nations of 2013 on Tuesday 11th, 2013, Mr. President, Goodluck Jonathan, acknowledged the fact that Nigerian youths have, through music, created a good image for the country abroad. The victory of the Super Eagles, according to him, was another demonstration of what the youths can do for the nation, this time, through football. The Super Eagles members were given financial rewards and national honors. The truth however is that music, more than football, is silently chasing away the darkness around the nation. It is time the authorities begin to give national honors to music artistes and not just footballers. When this begins, Ice Prince should surely not be forgotten. Aboki deserves to win an award.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

P-Square’s Invasion Album

I came across P-Square’s Invasion album from a friend of mine who bought it to please the comparatively younger girls he usually carry in his car. I decided to carry the album to review it and post it on this blog. My attentions drifted to other things before I could play the album enough to enable me have a good grasp which is imperative for a good review. About seven months later, I heard another version of the song, Chop My Money featuring American’s superstar, Akon. At about the same time, I watched a video of Beautiful Onyinye,another joint from the same album, featuring the sturdy and heavily bearded American rapper, Rick Ross. Collaborating with the Americans called my attention to the fact that Nigerian artistes are, indeed, travelling. My interest in Invasion was again reawakened.
Invasion is a fourteen-track album that includes Beautiful Onyinye, Chop My Money, Asamkokoto, Do as I Do, Forever, Me and My Brother, Jeje, Buneha Enu, Ole Buruku, Player, She’s Hot, Fire, Anything and Shake it Down. Jeje is a Tecno song while Me and My Brother is Reggae.
The singing language is the traditional vernacular, pidgin and Standard English language mixes that is common to Nigerian artistes.
From Invasion, one could see that the twins from Busa Buji Street, Jos, have become remarkably professional in their mastery of music instrumentation.
The successes of P-Square over the years have, in part, been an outcome of their realization that the youths in Africa love danceable music more than anything else. It is however not new that the older one gets, the more his interest in party music diminishes. Invasion demonstrated that P-Square has found a way of defying the rule in order to remain in business. Going by the astronomical airplay the album has received and which is still receiving, one understands that the album like the others before it has sold as high. The popularity of P-Square’s songs is usually seen from the way school children mime the songs along the streets. Invasion is not different, revealing how wealthy the duo must be. The album has worked to, again, confirm the leading position of P-Square among contemporary African artistes and perhaps beyond, going by the prominence of the artistes with whom they collaborated.
The number of artistes featured in the original versions of the songs includes Naeto-C, Waje, Muna and Eva. Muna and Eva where featured in the song Shake it Down. The instrumentation of the song is reserved. I figure out that it was deliberately made so to enable fans to appreciate the lyrical wizardry of the two girls.  Despite their lyrical elegance, Muna and Eva were previously unknown to me. The duo rapped in Jamaican Patois such that one is tempted to think they are Jamaicans until he listens to Nigerian vocabularies in between. The depth of poetry of the girls left me wondering which schools they attended. I could only compare them to M-I and Fresh Prince, as far as Nigeria is concerned. If I were Peter and Paul, I would not have featured the two girls as they only worked to play up the poetic diffidence of the twins despite many years in the industry. The message in P-Square’s music are, at times weak,  just to enable rhymes to be made. Also there are times P-Square makes wide of the mark choices of words, making a song to appear unprofessional. For instance, referring to a woman that has stolen your heart as Ole buruku, meaning a thief sounds too harsh for a love song. A love song is supposed to be mellow and soothing. The contrary only makes the song funny, making everything to appear unserious. Some lines read thus: you are just like a thief in the middle of the night; you broke into my heart just like a dagger knife, etc.
Nigerian music has no doubt grown remarkably in the last decade. It is however not the best on the planet. There is thus room for more progress. As said above, the language is usually a mix of Nigerian languages, pidgin and conventional English. My opinion is that rather than use two or three languages in one verse, it is more professional to use a single language in the verses and use the second in the chorus. A verse conveys a particular message. If one starts a verse in English and ends it in Ibo, Yoruba or Hausa, the person listening will be lost if it happens that he lacks an understanding of any of the languages. One can also sing verses in English and perform the chorus in Pidgin English or vice versa.
By-and-large however, the album is marvelous and again confirms that P-Square is not just a big name but one of Nigeria’s biggest of all times.  Peter and Paul have made a lot of Nigerians very proud but we in Jos consider ourselves the proudest. 

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Jeremiah Gyang: Gospel or Secular

On the Sunday of October 14th  the unmistakable Nigerian music artiste from Jos, Jeremiah Gyang, launched his latest music album at Crest Hotel in Jos. The album titled “The Love Album”, represents his third album.
With the renaissance of the Nigerian Music Industry, Jeremiah was the first artiste from Jos to make a representation for the city at the national phase. Some will say that he made a representation not only for Jos but for the whole of Northern Nigeria, more so that his style embraced northern languages in addition to English. P-Square and the bunch of rappers to have come from Jos to make an impression at the national level, as well, merely followed the path he paved. His song “Na Ba Ka” which means “I give it to you” went to the top of MTN Top 10 Music Chart that was anchored by famous DJ Olisah in Lagos and broadcast across the nation. The song featured a cameo role by the tall rapper, Six Foot Plus. “Na Ba Ka” did not only top the charts but is the single most important song that made him popular. Jeremiah’s successes included a jingle for Nigeria Television Authority sub-station, Abuja and the use of one of his songs by the BBC Hausa Service to call attention to upcoming events.
 “Na Ba Na” when translated in English means “I give it to you” as said before. “You” here refers to God. Hence the song is talking about a surrender of one’s heart and life to God. Since the song is his most popular song, it created an impression of Jeremiah as a gospel artiste. A proof of this impression of Jeremiah as a gospel singer is the fact that he became a friend of the church in Nigeria especially in the north. He is always a guest singer in any major church event or a gospel crusade.
One day I was compelled to ask a question as to whether Jeremiah Gyang was actually a gospel singer or not.  This was because I noticed that each time he performed at a church or a gospel crusade, he performs just that song such that the song has become so boring. After the “Love Album” was released, I decided to listen to it to confirm my suspicion. A mere 25% of the sixteen tracks in the album were on the Gospel side while the remaining 75% were on the secular side.
Traditionally, a gospel song is one of worship and adoration to God with a strong solemn flair. Today however, many so-called gospel artistes simply add spiritual messages to any of pop music such as Rap, Reggae or R&B and call it gospel. Others invent their own genre of pop music and add the spiritual messages. That is the category that Jeremiah’s music belongs to. The artiste fulfilled the demand of bringing something new into your music in order to succeed by inventing his style that involves combining the sounds of local music instruments with a few Western instruments, mainly the guitar and the piano and singing in English, Hausa and Berom, his native language.
The announcement of the lunch of ”The Love Album” to me, was unexpected. This is because Jeremiah had relocated to Jos from Abuja where he used to be based. My impression was that the relocation was an indication that his music career was grinding to a halt. The release of t he “love Album” however seemed to have proven me wrong. Now that I have listened to the album, I must say that the album has fallen below my expectation. It takes an invention for an artiste to have a style that distinguishes his music from all others. He worked hard and found it. Now it appears he is throwing it to the garbage bin and drifting back to the background. 
Most artistes often do this. It is like” I have found what I want. The whole world can go to hell.”   Most people who go into music are motivated by money, stardom and success. These successes once they come can make an artiste lazy. The artiste prefers to relax and enjoy his wealth. Talking about wealth, one cannot say how much wealth Jeremiah has been able to make from his music career. Gospel artistes are motivated by need to spread the word and glorify God. This should be a life-long commitment or should last for as long as the artiste remains strong enough to carry on. Jeremiah is still young. If the artiste sees himself as a secular artiste however, the career can end at anytime he chooses. Jeremiah’s music suggests he may not be a gospel artiste. If he chooses to end his career then it is only normal. The point however is that he has not said he is retiring. Discarding his music distinction however means that he will not be able to stand competition and will inevitably be forced into retirement whether he likes it or not.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tuface Idibia: Away and Beyond

M-I, Nigerian rapper from J-Town once referred to Tuface Idibia, Nigerian singer also with J-Town connection, as “The Great Tuface.” Before this, I have never thought of Tuface as great not because he isn’t but because the need to rank him using one of such words never occurred to me. Of all the music artistes of his time, Tuface is the single one of them that can truly be described as being great, in my opinion.

I was surprised however, to find out that Tuface actually released a new album in mid-2012 and I never got to know about it until I stumbled on the info online and by chance in December of that year. The only reason would definitely be the fact that the radio never gave it the right attention and why?
Today I decided to buy the album to listen to it. The album sold at a modest N100 despite the status of the artiste. I couldn’t wait to listen to the album that has fifteen songs. I played the first two songs with moderate bliss and kept hoping for the best to come as I played the subsequent songs. I was disappointed. I had to skip some of the songs if, from the start, I could tell how it is going to end. From the fact that there are just two songs that I enjoyed out of the fifteen tracks I rate the album 2/15 or one out of five stars. This isn’t good.

Tuface’s music has evolved from Nigerian Hip Hop/R&B to something that is largely the R&B and then something more Nigeria with a tinge of humor. The current album, to me, is more on the later side. This is in addition to little consideration for vocal excellence, instrumentation without any distinction and the raw use of Nigerian street English...  the message is clear: “I got nothing to worry about.”

The album is an indication that Tuface has already conquered what there is to conquer in terms of the cash, the fame and the optimal use of his strength and feels there is nothing more to explore. At this stage, most artistes begin to think more of businesses they should engage in to sustain the wealth they have made. With a wife, children and his Hypertek music recording business, I think that the path of the rest of his life is already set. We must begin to look for new artistes to take his place and continue to make us proud.