*Sigh. Nigeria, Nigeria. And Nigerian music. Love/hate relationship again. I love the old school stuff, and some new stuff, but everything else just frustrates me.. Wande Coal's new song goes like this "You bad, you want it, you bad, you want it, you bad, you want it, you know you want it cos you bad." 0_0 And people are jamming this song like it's the "A Milli" of 2009. Really, y'all? Here's what I have to say in this whole issue..
1) One things Nigerians do that annoys the hell out of me is they give props to anything that's Nigerian regardless of quality or content. They act like they're all patriotic and shit, refusing to listen to any criticism aimed at their heroes - the people who are ruling the Nigerian music industry today. But people, know this: saying that these people are awesome when they're not doesn't help anybody. All it does is allows for more people with names like Fragrance to make bad songs with bad videos and even worse lyrics like "Shake, shake, like an earthquake" to poison our airwaves and hurt my eardrums. Please. Stop. Now. Give praise where praise is due, and don't just throw it at the feet of people who don't deserve it.
2) What the hell happened to artistry? Another consequence of (1) is that musicians don't challenge themselves anymore. They make crap songs with crap lyrics and don't bother to make them any better because they know that they'll still sell. Throw 3 of those so-called rappers into a cipher with any random US rapper and he'll murder them all easily. D'Banj is claiming to be the African Michael Jackson, and you guys don't even call him out on that. He might be Nigeria's King of Pop, but he CAN'T be Africa's Michael Jackson, and I'll give you one reason why: P-Square's Do Me was 50 times more successful than D'Banj in Africa as a whole. I have Indian people from Tanzania, and American college kids who spent last summer in Ghana or Kenya jamming to that song, and if you ask, most of them have never even heard of D'Banj. You guys should feel bad - these people are exploiting your unwavering fandom to make themselves rich. Y'all shouldn't stand for that, especially not in this economy. Demand quality for your naira!!!
3) There's no more social commentary. We could all jam to Fela's beats, but his songs always came with a message. It's not like we've gotten any better. There's still corruption, poverty, crime, intolerance, etc. But instead of using music as a tool to inspire change, we use it as a means of escape, singing about flossing and cars and ice. Not only is this simply imitating American music, because God knows like 90% of us can't afford to floss like that, it can potentially be destructive. It glorifies crime (Olu Maintan, Mr. "Yahoozee", I'm looking at you). A kid wakes up and says, I want to make money, instead of, I want to improve my country. So he'll do anything to get money, including stealing, bribing, and using juju on his enemies. Vicious cycle. And y'all are simply feeding into it, instead of trying to break it. The only social commentary I've heard has come from African musicians in Diaspora - Keziah Jones, Nneka, etc. Do non-expatriate Nigerians just not care?
4) I understand the need for balance in music: we need songs for pure entertainment as well as songs to make us think. But frankly, I'd rather save my brain cells than let them die while listening to Gbedu Hour on TruSpot Radio. And I'd rather listen to funky instrumentals with minimal lyrics than songs chock full of lyrics that don't mean anything.
5) The one think I like about Nigerian music is that it's still Nigerian. It's HEAVILY influenced by Western music, (signs of the trend that Nigerians like being Nigerian but don't like things that are "too" Nigerian - another post) but it still has that Nigerian flavour that makes it unique to us. Unfortunately, it makes it hard to play Nigerian music at parties over here (one such occasion when they tried to do it resulted in the party stopping for like 5 whole minutes as I, one other Nigerian and a Ghanaian danced and sang along. Fail.) but that's okay.
6) I had a conversation with an American dude a couple of years ago - can you believe that this dude knew more about Fela and African music than I did? I was SO ashamed, I vowed to go and listen to all the African music I could find. There's so much good African music out there that we Nigerians miss because we're too busy kissing the asses of our own bad artists. Go and listen to some good music, you people. For your own sake. You MUST listen to Angelique Kidjo, Youssou N'Dour, and Miriam Makeba. Then Brenda Fassie, Amadou and Miriam, and Cesaria Evora. Then Cheb Khaled and Oumou Sangare. Your life will be forever changed.
Lastly, here are my top Nigerian artists in no particular order:
1) Asa - the only prominent female artist out there. And she doesn't try to fit into the basic, dull formula of most of today's artists. Love her.
2) Sasha - female MCs represent!!! (Weird MC is cool too, but she hasn't come out with a good song in years. Where is she?)
3) 9ice - can do uptempo tracks and slower stuff and sounds good on both. Unique sound. Props.
4) Naeto C - "Ringtone" is my song :) Plus he can actually rap some.
5) 2Face - though his last album was crap, his first album is dear to my heart. Plus Plantashum Boiz were the ish back in the day.
6) Styl-Plus - they can SING! and their harmonies are ridiculous. 3rd album sucked tho.
7) Fela Kuti - Nigerians, if you do not own any music by this man, you should be ashamed to call yourself a Nigerian. Go buy some. NOW. (Femi is included here by extension).
8)M.I.'s production team - M.I. has some decent flows, BUT I think I like his music more for the backing track than the lyrics. He has potential though.
9) Kush - sad these people aren't around anymore. "Let's Live Together" is still my jam.
10) Amplifyd Crew - heard these people broke up. Too bad. They made good music.
11) ElDee - and by extension, Trybesmen as a whole. Good stuff. Now THEY can rap.
12) Modenine - decent rapper. good music. I really like "Cry" with that chick, Nnena.
13-ish) P-Square - I add them only because of their entertainment factor. They are true performers and know how to make a good party song.
14) Falz Falana - adding him here because I know Nosa will want to mention him. Good rapper. Hilarious songs too.
15) ASHTHOMAS - Google them. Their album "The Ascension" is some of the best modern Nigerian music existing today. Simi See Trouble is revolutionary. They're the shit. Period.