Nigerian Music Gone Bad
The music industry in Nigeria has witnessed a change in recent times from what used to be to what we have now. This is true when one looks at the music industry towards the end of the last century and especially the turn of this century. The indigenous genres of music like highlife, juju, apala, goje, in Nigeria, have been relegated to the background. It is difficult in this contemporary Nigerian society to see five out of ten people listening to the juju music of King Sunny Ade and Evangelist Ebenezer Obey, the highlife music of Sir Victor Uwaifo, the fuji music of Chief Ayinde Barrister and Kollington Ayinla, or the Afro-juju music of Sir Shona Peters. This is not because they are not good musicians but because these genres of music are no longer in vogue. The genre of music in vogue in Nigeria today is the Nigeria hip-hop. Many of the lyrics coming from the artistes under this genre of music are often without meaning that one begins to wonder where the sense in our music has travelled to.
Gone are the days when you would listen to songs from people like the late Orlando Owoh or Christy Essien Igbokwe and you would have to think deeply about the message they carried. You would listen to many of the songs produced before the turn of the century such as those of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Oliver De Coque and the beauty of their message would attract you that you would sing along with the singer. For example, the horse and the man by the Commander of Juju music, Chief Ebenezer Obey, taught me that there is no way you can please everybody. Therefore, what is best for one is to do one’s best and leave the rest. What about the song of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti that is reflective of the blame game that has enveloped Nigerian politics where political parties blame one another for being corrupt and do nothing about developing the country like other nations around? Many of these songs that have rich lyrical contents are now being classified as old school music even when their messages fit perfectly well into our new school life and society.
Compared to what we have in the past, one of Davido’s popular song goes thus: “Banana fall on you”. This banana in his lyrics is not the one that we eat but rather has a meaning that is embedded in immorality. For the defunct P Square brothers, they are calling people to come and taste their money as part of their testimony. Of course, many youths would also want to make so much money that they would call people to come to a taste of their own money. For Wizkid, he wants to show everybody the money so that they won’t go funny with him. As for Olamide, he is ‘Omo abulesowo'(son of the land seller) and if anybody should mess up, he would put them in their place. Who wouldn’t want to get enough money so as to silence his critics and trespassers by putting them in their place? It is worth saying that Olamide has degenerated in what he now release as songs to be heard by the public since his mother died and there is no hope that he would get better. For 9ice, money is a living thing that he would do anything to get. From my personal judgement about the song, it means the singer would do whatever, fair or foul, to get money in his pocket. Many of these songs abound daily on the radio, on the streets, on university campuses and in the homes and party.
Unfortunately, many youths listen to this and they dance to them with enthusiasm. As it has been proven from age to age, music is powerful and it has a way of exerting itself on the mind of people. Many could not be said in favour of contemporary songs in Nigeria other than to say they are a reflection of declining desire for what is good and the love for the things that are not right that locked their selves in the heart of many. Music mirrors the soul. When the soul is not right, the music coming from it cannot be right either. A man cannot be greater than his words is what my people say.
Even though some of this songs come with nice dancing albeit rigorous, their lyrics are nothing to boast of especially looking at Africans as a place where culture and tradition flow into everything. That culture and tradition are what made old songs stood ahead of contemporary ones. This is not to say old school songs are a million times better than what now have. It is rather to say that when the music of a contemporary music star like Davido or WizKid is juxtaposed with that of King Sunny Ade or Orlando Ekemode, the difference in their lyrical content is readily clear. Lyrics is what makes a song a song. When a song is bedevilled with bad lyrical contents and has no way it could be applied to real life issues except negatively, then such a song is for me a bad song. Unfortunately, most of the youths in Nigeria feed their minds daily with these songs without content. Even radio stations play more of these songs than the good songs either from old schools or the new schools. Our society has not fared better with our youths listening to songs that would make them want to act in an unruly way. What would a youth do when he switched the television on and the first sight is that of his favourite music star smoking a long stick of tobacco and fondling naked girls? And what he would a youth do when he sees his best hip-hop artiste posing with a car that is way beyond his means in a music video or adorning himself with the latest brand of shirts?
Most youths would want to be like their like their musical idol for they tend to represent to believe they both represent the same thing. So our youths continue to live by what is alien to our culture. Well, it could be said listening to many of the songs is a good way to take their minds off the myriads of problems that abound everywhere around them, many of which there is no hope of ever going away from ravaging them.
Apart from entertainment, I believe music should also be something that gives us insight about life from the point of view of a creative mind. The lyrics are supposed to carry life-oriented meanings. But it is with great surprise that money and women body parts such as breasts and buttocks are now elements of musical composition. They are described and alluded to in music with vigour and rigour that shows how morality had grown into oblivion among the youths and we seem helpless in helping the situation. Nigerian women that I was brought up to know are very decent people who respect their bodies and dress to cover their nakedness. But it is very bad that many of our women are now exposing their body shamelessly while dancing to a song they could not even pick out its meaning or have a reflection on. Because most women no longer respect their bodies, most songs have now moved from singing about life issues to singing about women’s facial appearance, their breasts and buttocks. It is surprising that it is only the ladies that open the reverred parts of their bodies in music videos and not the guys. The dressing is supposed to cover our nakedness and not expose them. Most of the immoralities and the many profane words we have in use in the society today are part of the things that poor lyrical contents of our music have done to us. Plato was very right when he said the new style of music should be guided against because with it comes a different lifestyle and culture.
Songs no longer carry the meaning they used to carry when I was growing up. However, this is not to say that there are no singers that still have some elements of quality in their songs. Of course, singers like Asa, Timi Dakolo, 2face, Bez, Darey Art Alade, Brymo, Adekunle Gold, and some others still sing with a sense that has always been found in Nigerian songs. But the problem is the number of youths that want to listen to them. A hip-hop artiste like Terry G after singing “you can only run, run, run till you run mad” came out to tell us that’s what the people wanted. The question then would be to know when our people degenerated to such a state where the type of song they want to listen to is Olamide’s Wo or Lil Kesh’s Iranu abasha.
But one thing is sure. If Sunny Ade was singing Ukwu in his active days, I am sure nobody would have bothered to call him King of Music. And if Chief Ebenezer Obey sang about the bum bum, there’s no way he could have been called Commander of Juju music. With this, I am left without doubt that our grandfathers are more intelligent than we are in terms of the type of songs they feed their minds with.
This is not to say youths should not sing, no. Rather, their lyrical contents should be improved upon. We are Africans, and most of all Nigerians and we are known as people with values and I believe our songs should reflect that. Maybe, just maybe, if our current crops of hip-hop artiste could give us meaningful lyrics, we could have an improved society as their current songs are not doing Nigerian youths any good but rather raises their consciousness about immorality and materialism as their songs no longer reflect our traditional values.
Segun Ogunlade writes from Ibadan. He is a 300L student of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, Ibadan.