LOOKING BEYOND THE HIP HOP CULTURE
THE beat goes on. Say what you like, hip hop is still reigning supreme as the nation's dominant musical culture. But remember that, like the fads that came before it, it is a passing phase which will disappear from the surface of the scene as soon as its relevance wears out. And today's adherents will be consigned to history, unless they are genuine musicians.
Unfortunately, its survival period will be determined by America where it came from in the first place. But while it lasts, we need to find a way of developing it so it can stretch into tomorrow. We've got to pay attention to, and develop other forms of popular music which are now on the brink of extinction.
The year 2010 however experienced a gradual departure from the imitative approach to hip hop. Its Africanisation is beginning to evolve; and this is a step in the right direction. But it does not totally make it a Nigerian or African musical culture. The culture remains foreign while the structure and philosophy of the music are alien.
One of the most popular forms of music in the world today is Afrobeat. And perhaps because it originated from Nigeria, it is not popular in the country. And this should not be. It should be the other way round. If it was widely embraced, accepted and promoted on the airwaves in Nigeria, it would be popular all over Africa.
It is true that lack of the knowledge of jazz, which is a pre-requisite for performance is a contributing factor, but even the three exponents who are touring the world all through the years as a result of mass acceptance are not patronised at home. How many multi-national companies include Femi Kuti, Lagbaja and Seun Kuti in the line-up of artistes in their yearly concerts? They prefer to import musicians from America - without adherence to the law of reciprocal exchange?
The hip hop culture is dominating now, but this is not a reason why other forms of music such as juju, highlife, fuji, apala, awurebe, goge, dadakuada among many others should not exist side by side with it.
I am often amazed at the plethora of record releases that end up in the homes of the musicians and their friends because they do not stand the chance of being promoted. One such release for example is Stepping out by Saxtee, the group, led by a well trained musician whose lyrics, melodic inventiveness and saxophone playing are remarkable. From the album, the song Moni ife re meaning I love you, is currently enjoying international recognition and acceptance, but despite all the wonderful musical elements that recommend the music, it is not enjoying airplay in his own country. Deejays would rather tie up airplay with monetary rewards which are renewable periodically. This is sad! There are numerous other cases where musicians find themselves in this same predicament.
The fault is not wholly that of the deejays, but the system which has abandoned the traditional values and have put money on them as replacement. If today's broadcasters were made to understand that the promotion of a nation's musical culture is a national service, a civil responsibility which they must perform as citizens of Nigeria, they would not be demanding monetary rewards for airing peoples' music.
The practice portends great danger for the survival of Nigeria's musical culture. The implication of what these broadcasters are doing is that mediocrity is being enthroned. The wrong type of music is being promoted.
The true musicians who have confidence in themselves will not offer money for airplay. Rather, it is mediocres whose work are substandard that would pay anything to be heard. In order to promote the true music of the country, the quality of the music in terms of originality and musicianship should be the major determining factors.
It is unfortunate that there is no viable Musicians Union in the country. The Peforming Musicians Association of Nigeria is a lame dock and a body of musicians without set objectives. The only publicity the association gets in the papers and the electronic media is in-fighting, litigation and the war of words. How sad?
Otherwise, the association is in a position to hold meetings with the government on the one hand, and broadcasters on the other. With the government, they should be compelling the authorities to articulate a definite cultural policy that would eliminate the importation of musicians from abroad except with their approval. With broadcasters, they need to discuss the need for the promotion of music other than hip hop or the fad of the moment. They need to play Nigerian music.
However, one big contribution which multi-national promoters of music can make towards this whole muddle is to begin to feature Nigerian music acts such as Femi Kuti, Lagbaja, Seun Kuti, Adewale Ayuba, Obesere, Pasuma and others in their shows so that the young target audiences can be exposed to the music of these musicians.
Unknown to this generation of hip hoppers, the music all began from the grassroots. And a young star like TuFace Idibia is beginning to realize this fact. In order to improve today's hip hop and even look beyond it, they should press for the airing on the FM stations, such indigenous forms as goge, apala, sakara, awurebe, dadakuada, among others which will continue to serve as sources of inspiration.
The traditional exponents of these music forms such as Mamman Shatta, Haruna Isola, Yusuf Olatunji, Dauda Epo Akara, Ligali Maikaiba and others are no more. But if we go into the villages, we would still find followers of these music forms who are struggling to reach out, but cannot because there is no encouragement.
A case in point is Musiliu Haruna Isola, the son of the Apala music icon who is currently despondent for lack of patronage.