Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Paradox of Nigerian Music Producers

A Music production studio

A music producer is that guy who is skilled enough to identity music talents, their weaknesses and how to fix these weaknesses through improving on their song-writing abilities, bringing out their originality/creativity, leading to the production of chart-topping songs and bestowing that fame to the protégé. It takes a musician to be able to perform these. Hence, a music producer is a musician who has chosen to use his talents to help others with the potentials and build the industry.

The principle of equality of all mankind where the son of a miserable pauper can rise through talent and skill to become the richest man, thereby fulfilling that Shakespearean saying that some people are born great, is also demonstrated in music as it is elsewhere. Matter fact, it is demonstrated in music than in other niches of man’s struggles. This is obvious because “uptown babies don’t cry; not knowing what suffering is like” and so see it as weird taking the stage to sing and entertain others when they are the VIPs that should be entertained.

Prior to the coming of computers and software like FL Studio, Sonar …, the path of music production has been narrow, thorny, slippery, rocky and infested with venomous reptiles; not everyone with talent ends up in the spotlight. That slippery option was and is still the acoustic option which involves the assembly of a live band. You got to have two or even three guitarists, a percussionist, a drummer, a keyboardist, wind instrumentalist(s), back vocalist(s), and have enough cash to sustain them while the rehearsals last.  Because of this long trajectory, music stars in Nigeria where often a mere handful, if there were at all. In Nigeria especially, sponsors were often difficult to come by as we had an inhibitive culture, particularly in our north that saw musicians as unserious.

Technology changes the way we do things by presenting easier and affordable options. Thus the coming of computers and accompanying software gave talented men and women that warm option.

Music software is a masterpiece, a blend of all the components of live music production. Before software, live music bands were unavoidable. Initially, there were fears that software will never serve as replacements to bands; the sounds they produced were nowhere close to the sounds of live music instrumentation. However, later and superior versions came. They rendered their previous versions as ancestors, equaling and perhaps exceeding live instrumentation in quality and again reminding us of the gorgeous face of technology: evolution. Live instrumentations are, these days, used only by many, for live-shows or by those guys with the strength to trudge through their difficult paths.

Rather than a band of many people, all that is required now is a dude that is skilled at using the music software. That dude is the music producer. You write a song, find a melody, create the plain song, approach the producer and sing the song to his hearing.  He listens and develops an instrumentation that rhymes with the song, with the ultimate aim of appealing to the fan that is expected to pay for the music and put cash into the pocket of the artist, the producer and all others along the line, from the studio to the fan.

As the northern saying goes, “the well makes water available but the drawing bucket denies the thirsty man.” Rather than solutions, a lot of “music producers” in Nigeria have become the stumbling blocks. Since the exclusion of music as a course of study in most schools in Nigeria has become the norm rather than the exception, students leave school without basic knowledge of what good music making entails. Thus aspiring music artists approach producers without basic knowledge of benevolent parameters such as song-writing abilities, significance of melody, cultural reflection in music, how to professionally fuse music from different cultures to create acceptable hybrids. This is where the producers come in and if they fail to do the right thing, they become the problem rather than the solution.

Sadly not all “producers” know these swingers. Such producers have worked for many years for many aspiring men and women without pulling any of them from obscurity to popularity and crediting their bank accounts with millions. Since the clientele are wide, such producers are always in a rush to attend to as much customers as possible – the more artists they produce, the more money they make. It is know however, that speed kills.

Another way producers can kill dreams is by insisting on how your song should sound even when you same with an idea of how your song should be. Some of the best songs are revealed in dreams. Imagine a scenario where a song, the lyrics, melody and instrumentation are revealed to you in a dream (by God) and a producer insists that you must abandon this obvious fact that the song is already made to embrace what he has to offer. He is doing this not because he truly believes in the possibility of success for what he is offering, but because he has to be seen to be the boss and in control of all that goes on in the studio. This is a clear scenario of the abandonment of the principle of the game to embrace politics. A guy like this is not music producer; he feels the influence of politics more than he does for music influences.

What is certain is that the people who approach a producer are not completely ignorant. It is just that they are not sure of a few things. Thus a producer is supposed to help them in areas where they truly need help. Issues of variance such as these are the result of altercations often recorded in music studios. An artist comes out of the studio with a swollen face rather than a chart-topping single.

Good music producers appreciate the beauty of the talent of others and what it can bring. If an artist comes up with 80% of what is required, a good music producer should be happy to complement this by contribution the remaining 20%. A good music producer should not just be there to make a living but also to help build the industry through ensuring that a good knowledge of the profession spreads across, rather than wanting to reserve all the knowledge to himself.

Artists like D’banj, 2face, P-SQuare and the others, by their successes, have proven the potential of the industry to create millionaires from the deepest valley of penury. A lot of producers, by their selfish, deceitful or incompetent disposition inhibit the growth of the industry. Any folk that personifies these is an enemy of the industry and should be treated as such.