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.