Friday, May 22, 2015

City of Jos: Lose Not What You Have

Picture source:

As far as music entertainment is the topic, every region of Nigeria had been unique, coming with a music style that was peculiar to it. According to Toni Omeoga, foremost Highlife Music presenter in Nigeria, the variations in the ambiance of Highlife music in Nigeria was a reflection of the setting in which the music was made. 

Omeoga gave examples: High-life music buzz, as we all know, had been largely in The South of the country. There were, however, daring men who felt that The North would not simply stand aside and be a mere spectator. There was late Bala Milla, who was based in Kaduna. He sang his Highlife music in Hausa. Having known Milla’s music myself, I would say that some of the native instruments that were imbued into southern Highlife were missing in his music. Omeoga also gave another example of a Highlife band that was based in Jos. It was the Sahara Old Stars Band. It was lead by a young Itshekiri man by the name of Ayo Ehindero, and had a prominent member that was known as Herbert Okeiyi, who was from the Ibo-speaking areas of Nigeria’s south. Hence, there were Yoruba and Ibo influences in the music they played, in addition to Hausa, which was symbolic of their setting.  It also was difficult to hear the strong presence of native music instruments of the south in their works.

This brings me to the core of this article. Beyond Highlife music, there were musicians in Jos who looked towards The West, rather than Highlife, which had an African origin. The music had a pervasively strong western influence. There was Bongos Ikwue, who had his early childhood in Jos. On a music scale, with purely Nigerian genres at one end and western music at the other extreme, Bongos music tended remotely to the western end.

I never believed it when rumors made the rounds that Tuface, Nigeria’s contemporary music superstar was born in Jos. I was later convinced, however, when I read an interview Tuface granted a Ghanaian publication. In the interview, Tuface narrated that he believes the cold weather in Jos was the reason why a lot of people who were born in it later became personages in the country. According the Tuface, the cold weather created an atmosphere that allowed peak concentration and creativity. Tuface said he was born in Jos, from where his family moved to Makurdi, then back to Jos, then to Kano, and back to Jos again, from where they moved to Enugu, where his musicianship started. Today, we are all witnesses to the fact that the feel in Tuface’s music is skewed towards the west.

I have often thought that had Peter and Paul –P-Square - been born in Imo state, from where their late father migrated to Jos, they may have ended up as Highlife musicians. If one should listen to their early albums, the music was almost one hundred percent Hip-hop/R&B. It, however, mellowed down, after their long stay in Lagos. But, essentially, their music still hangs helplessly to the western end of the scale. 

A strong western influence is what we see of the Choc ensemble, key members of which are J-Towners: MI, Ice Prince, and Jessy Jagz. If you take Brymo, a Choc who isn’t from Jos, one could feel the heavy Fuji influence in his music. 

We cannot fail to mention the fact that even Radio Plateau, that evolved to become Plateau Radio and Television, had a strong and charming western chic in its broadcast and presentations. It made the station the cynosure of the country. As a matter of fact, it was the station that sustained and preserved the distinct music culture in the city.

The question is: why had pop music from the city of Jos assumed the western stand. Many key onlookers feel it has to do with the history of Jos, a history that created its metropolitan character. This history was shaped by the tin mining activities. Tin mining drew people from everywhere around the world. There were English people from the UK, Arabs, other Africans, and Nigerians from other regions of the country. At that point, the only language that was of relevance was English, which had been the official language in the country since colonial time.  We shouldn’t be in a hurry to forget that English folks controlled the mining activities in the city.

Everywhere around the world, people hold on to a character that differentiates them from a pack, something that is responsible for their identity.  It is the reason why we should hold on to that which made us unique in the country. These days, however, it seems that there is some confusion, as it is difficult to accept that we are still holding on firmly to a music culture that made us distinct. We have to find a way of reviving this culture, or be lost in the crowd.

*The Itshekiri is a minority tribe that lives under the shadows of the Yorubas, just as the northern minorities live under the shadow of the Hausas.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Apology to Innocent Tuface Idibia

Tuface. Source:
Electric power influences everything in a nation. We are a nation in which jobs have become elusive, with the population of the unemployed climbing every day. I am lucky that I have a job that has saved my life from ridicule. However, I have had a number of experiences that showed me how regressive, a paucity of electricity supply or lack of it causes a community, region or nation.
One painful thing about the power supply is not the fact that it hardly comes, but the fact that you cannot predict when it will come. If one is certain that every morning there will be electricity, he would wait to accomplish whatever task that demands electricity the use of electricity. Sadly, however, the supply pattern is never predictable. If the few hours of supply come with a rhythm that one can predict, however, it would be better than an unpredictable pattern that can be of no use to one.
It was after I joined a writing forum, online, that I saw, vividly, how lame power cables can slow down the progress of a nation. In the forum, called Fanstory, there are members from all parts of the world –Australia, USA, Canada, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, Jamaica …  On Fanstory,  which is a union of authors, you write and then post. Other members will read your post and write reviews. Since I, at times, stay for days without electricity, it is the reason why I don’t always post: I will stay for days without logging on to the site. By the time power returned, other members would have posted uncountable numbers of short stories, book chapters, poems, scripts, etc. Each time I post a single stuff other members would have posted dozens of their work pieces.
Every month, I often buy up to 3 Gigabites of data for my browsing, but I never use all of it due to power shortages, or lack of it. On the 10th of May for instance, I lost 1.4 Gigabite of data at expiration because there was no electric power for a greater period of the month. I felt like crying, losing that amount of data. Yet, at the end of the month, the power authorities brought a funny bill, expecting me to pay for electric power not supplied, a service not provided. I just laughed and threw slap across the face of their manager.
This brings me to the purpose of this article. Some years back, I discovered Nigerian pop music King, Innocent “Tuface” Idibia, let loose a brand new album titled Away and Beyond into the market. I bought the album to listen to it and write a review, but there was no electricity. So, I resorted to buying fuel to power my electric Gen and play the album. Since I was not using electricity, I never settled down to listen to the songs adequately. Usually a music album is most understood when heard for a good number of times. I listened to Away and Beyond hastily and, in the end, I wrote a review that wrote off the album as the worst album Tuface has ever released. I remembered writing that Tuface’s fame and fortune had made him lazy and explained the horrible nature of that album, that he needed more time to spend his money than the time to make new albums.
A few years later, there was news that Tuface’s wife had given birth to a bouncing baby child. The story as I monitored it on one of Nigeria’s music channels had the video of Blood on the Dance Floor, a song from that very album. But, since I never listened to the album, adequately, I was unaware that the song, which turned out to be a hit based on my judgment, was from that very album that I had reviewed. The album was tucked somewhere in my CD rack. Funny enough, I had to go online looking for the song to download when it was, actually, in my room.
One day, when something let me to play the album again. I, then, discovered Blood on the Dance Floor was in it. That beautiful song was not the only good one, but there were many other good songs from the album, as well. They were songs Usman “the Wizzle” Agio had often played in his show on Peace FM, Jos. I had thought the songs were singles, each time he played them. My conclusion now (sincerely speaking) is that the album is the best album Tuface has ever done.
I felt extremely bad that I had branded the album as the worst in Tuface’s music history. Remembering that many had read the review, I was left wondering how people had rated my status as a music reviewer.
Nightingale writes this apology to Tuface for the injustice the review did to him. It is what the notorious power authorities, an organization that is riddled with corruption to the pit of its rectum, caused. We pray Tuface accepts Nightingale’s apology.
 As a Nigerian, Tuface makes me proud each time he performs overseas. I feel the pride the most when songs from that very album are featured in the concert, as they exude maturity and sophistication.
I am not sure I will find justice if I should take the Power Holdings of Nigeria Plc to court; as birds of the same feathers, the judiciary and the power authorities are sympathetic of each other. I pray things change with the new government.