Why it is shameful that Nigerian music has lost its social voice

Posted on July 31 2017 , at 05:11 pm
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  • Our elite artistes simply do not care anymore or they are too afraid to take a stand because of what they stand to lose.

A cross section of Nigerian artistes with Lagos governor Akinwunmi Ambode during his campaign.

In an exclusive interview with NET TV, legendary reggae act Majek Fashek shared his thoughts on the state of the nation, berating the politicians and described them as ‘greedy’.

Majek Fashek represents one of those acts who in his prime highlighted the ills in the society through his music. His debut solo album Prisoner of Conscience had songs with messages like Africans Keep Your Culture, Police Brutality and Send Down The Rain.

We all remember how Eedris Abulkareem at the peak of his career released JagaJaga which mirrored the sudden political killings happening in different parts of the country. Dancehall act African China burst onto the scene with his hit single, Crisis at a time when the Yoruba Militia group OPC was becoming a menace to the society. He released songs like Our Government Bad and Mr President at later stages of his career.

Legendary artiste 2face Idibia is well known for his socio-political songs like E Be Like Say. Same with Sound Sultan with 2010, Jagbajantis, Ghengen. Even Blackface after the break-up of his group Plantashun Boys dedicated a large part of his debut solo album Ghetto Child  to detailing the sufferings and police brutality experienced on the streets.

There are several instances in the United States following the sad killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner when American artistes readily associated themselves with the masses taking to their social media pages, joining the protests on the streets and through their music. They all took a stand to express the grief of their nation.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen new stars emerge onto the mainstream. Artistes like Wizkid, Davido, Olamide, Tekno, Mr Eazi and Reekado Banks fly the flag of the new Nigerian sound and judging by the times we are passing through as a nation, one would shudder to imagine their music is in any way a reflection of the mood of the nation.

Songs like If, Fall, Come Closer, Pana, Leg Over are all club bangers and radio hits but on some occassion, the masses need their biggest acts to feel their pulse and speak for them. Lucky Dube once said, ‘I write the music about my people’s fears, people’s joys and everything’.

Leading up to the 2015 general elections, artistes were seen everywhere on various campaign trails, openly aligning with one party or another. Not that anything is wrong with political affiliations really, but you can’t be loud for a party and be quiet for the people- especially as the people made you a success before the eyes of the party.

The nation and its people have been beleaguered with different issues of late; from ethnic intolerance, rise in insecurity, fallen standards of living as the recession bites harder; to people losing jobs and depression becoming a reality as more people now press the suicide button. Yet the leading names in Nigerian music have largely turned a blind eye to this.

Nigerian music has always been deeply political. Fela remains immortal today through the messages in his music and he passed the baton not just to his sons Femi and Seun but also to everyone inspired by the Abami Eda. The likes of Lagbaja and Dede are standout examples.

Artistes like Morell with his Borno song, Kahli Abdu’s State of Emergency, Ill Bliss’ A Different Kind of War-  just to mention a few- have tried to lend their voice to the cause but they are not the ones that get played on the radio or get the most views on Youtube, so their messages only land on a few ears.

Music does not have to be entirely moral but it has always served as a form of protest. It in the days of slavery, it was a tool for awareness during South African apartheid era as well as being a voice against police brutality and inequality by rappers and a medium to stir up a conversation and get people talking in America.

There is no justifiable reason why mainstream artistes fail to see the need to address issues through their music. Some claim that they prefer to bring comfort with their dance anthems- an action Fela aptly describes as Suffering and Smiling. Others say it is largely because no matter how many songs they sing, nothing changes; whilst some explain it as a disconnect created by money: the bigger you get as an artiste, the less you can relate with the sufferings of the people.

Our elite artistes simply do not care anymore or they are too afraid to take a stand because of what they stand to lose, and would rather criticize anyone who dared-  like they did when 2face sought to hold a rally not too long ago.

Music transcends barriers like cultures, language, religion and tribal differences. At some point, music must also reflect the socio-cultural happenings of its environment.

Nigerian artistes need to begin to understand that the easiest way to leave a lasting legacy is by the impact their message make in the lives of the audience.

The likes of Bob Marley, Lucky Dube, N.W.A, Fela will forever be remembered, not just as artistes but for being the voice of the people through their music.

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