It was the summer of 2009, and Wande Coal’s Mushin To Mohits album had just debuted. Hits like Bumper to Bumper, You Bad, and Ololufe were constantly blazing in the sound system in my car. In addition to that, MI‘s Talk About and Illegal Music was the talk of the hip-hop world, Jesse Jagz’s Wetin Dey was all over the place, 2face was still hot, Asa’s album was gold, Mo-hits were firing on all cylinders, Terry G’s free madness was on steroids and the general feeling then was that Nigerian music was seriously about to take to a whole new level. Creative juices were flowing, and every new song was refreshing and unique in its own way.
Fast forward to 2014, and I can barely scrap together 7 Nigerian songs this year alone that get me excited. Every week in my weekly music review, I randomly select a few songs to review, and in the process go through about 5-7 songs to choose from, and more times than not, I can’t even get past the first minute of some songs.
So what happened to Nigerian Music and the Industry?
One theory, after talking to a few folks in the industry, is that there is just is an over saturation of music right now. So much so that it’s so hard to even sift out good music these days, and if you’re not linked with the major players in the industry, your “good” music will never be heard. You add the fact that almost everyone these days is into music or personally knows someone into music, then you see how there’s a crowd of musicians with only a few to offer anything. And in some cases, the few that have anything different to offer never really get see the time of day. This leads to another reason that was thrown out there to me.
In today’s industry those that scratch the backs of the DJs, Radio peeps, Bloggers etc are those whose songs get heard. The other thousands of musicians are pretty much sh*t out of luck unless you’re just lucky. In some ways it mirrors how Nigeria works as a society. Those who have connects get the gigs, and the others, no matter how hardworking, are left to hope on luck. It’s like a cycle; You settle (in cash or kind) one of the above mentioned, they put it out, hype, and everyone else pretty much picks it up. This leads to the next thing that I feel has had a major factor in this.
In theory, a music blogger should blog. i.e write his/her thoughts on a song, post if worthy, and/or critic albums, songs, etc. But today in the Nigerian blog world? That’s certainly not the case. There are thousands of blogs (mainly entertainment) out there all doing the same exact thing when a song comes out in the name of traffic. “Hit Song! Banger! Hottest Song This Year! Download NOW!” We’re not excluded from this as Jaguda.com is guilty of doing the same thing.
But really a lot of us have missed the boat. Either due to our relationships with artists or in search of traffic, we end up not reviewing songs or criticizing correctly. We end up buttering up a song we know is wack, afraid to speak ours minds, or hyping a song on social media because we were paid or he/she is our person. However when it’s all said and done, we’re not doing ourselves or the industry any favors. If we don’t critic well, the music never grows, stays stale, and keeps being the recycled garbage a lot of songs are today.
This theory is shared by not only me, but some other bloggers (current and retired)
A lot of Nigerian award shows these days are a big joke. We wont name names but one look at nominee lists of most award shows and you realize that it’s all a big popularity contest. Whoever is the most popular that year gets the nomination/wins, and those who are not don’t even get mentioned no matter how great their music is. How can our music improve if we keep dashing awards to those who don’t deserve it just so you can keep relationships, build hype for your show etc?
The other thing is where is the diversity in nominations? We seem to lump up categories into hip-hop, RnB, Afro-Pop and Gospel. Is that all Nigerian music has to offer? Certainly not. Barely any research/analysis is done into these nomination lists, and it all comes down to popularity for the year. I mean in one case a group that had a hit single 3-4 years ago was nominated in Best New Act category for 2014. And this is an award show that is actually taken pretty seriously by artists. That just tells you everything.
Lack of Structure
This possibly could be the ultimate reason why we are where we are today. There isn’t any structure when it comes to the Nigerian music industry. The pattern of “blowing” these days is as follows: record a song, pay all the people you need to push it, hope it strikes gold, hype yourself, get an endorsement, get shows, rinse and repeat.
The 2 major ways of getting money as an artist in Nigeria right now is pretty much shows, and endorsements. So if you’re not hot, you’re not really making it financially (generally speaking). It’s the reason why there always seems to be some controversy about someone, hype about meeting Obama, hype about tweeting 50 cents, and all kinds of nonsense. Everyone wants to be hot one way or another, and that has seriously killed creativity. Everyone is going for what is selling now so as to join the hot gang, forgetting that what is hot today can be dead tomorrow.
Record sales? Please… Royalties? Please respect yourself. What is called the Nigerian music is like a big market place where everyone is trying to grab anything they can. For those in the hot circle, the money comes too easily because of their name. Why break your back reinventing the wheel when you can do the same song in a different language and get more shows and more endorsements. Mediocrity somehow still pays.
Popular blogger Taynement, of Taynement.com summed it very well in her tweet:
Endorsements/money/lack of creativity/shortcuts/no competition/uselessness/no music structure “@aribabaJ: What happened to Naija music?
— Taynement (@taynement) July 15, 2014
Fans & Artists
Finally fans and artists have to take some kind of responsibility. Fans because we are so used to mediocre stuff that we jump on every mediocre song that comes around, or defend our favorite artist even when we know the song is wack.
Artists should please separate themselves from the norm. Artists are called artists for a reason. They are supposed to create art, and not create a photocopy. Even some of the big name Artists that made their name being unique have now resorted to doing the same generic music with no real innovation. And when you dare say you don’t like their song?… You get hit with the hater tag.
For me it’s to a point where I have maybe 5-7 songs released this year I genuinely like enough to search for, and I find myself going back to songs/albums released in 2009-2011 or just hopping myself back to American music. It doesn’t mean there aren’t good Nigerian records anymore, they’ve just become harder and harder to come by.
Think I’m alone in my feelings of the Nigerian music industry? One simple question on twitter about this topic and here are some of the answers I got:
The media nd the Fans are major factor“.. They prefer Terry G to Brymo @aribabaJ: What happened to Naija music? ””
— Esere Lamar (@Esecarez) July 15, 2014
Bum-bum, Elelelele, Ginger o..“@aribabaJ: What happened to Naija music? ”
— & Co. (@AfroVII) July 15, 2014
Lack of creativity, the govt, mediocre artists nd fans,”@aribabaJ: What happened to Naija music? ?
— Esere Lamar (@Esecarez) July 15, 2014
Mediocrity happened!!! “@aribabaJ: What happened to Naija music? ”
— TheQuietOne (@lereboy) July 15, 2014
“@aribabaJ: What happened to Naija music? ” << lol.. I’ve been asking this question for 3 years.
— Deji (@DJMightyMike) July 15, 2014
@aribabaJ I ask myself that question everyday…..In terms of quality it has gone down south
— TOMISIN (@tomy_tee) July 15, 2014
Now the question is, How do we solve this crisis?
By Aribaba [followbutton username=”aribabaj” count=”true” lang=”en” theme=”light”]