Music, which I call any pleasing or interesting sounds, is a fundamental part of the society. The origin of music is as old as the origin of man himself. Music means different things to different people. For some people it is something that lifts their spirit. To some others, music brings out the vibe in them, for some they listen to music because they want to be entertained and for others, it is an avenue to learn new slangs that can be used in everyday life. Music like movies have genres such as juju, apala, fuji, highlife, country, goje, rap, soul, blues, neo-soul, rock, pop etc.
The music industry in Nigeria has witnessed a change in recent times. When I say change, I mean a change from what it used to be to what we have now. I cannot tell if the change is good or bad, just as some people cannot tell whether APC’s change is good or bad for there are divergent views on that. But one thing is sure – the indigenous genres of music in Nigeria has been relegated to the background in recent years. It will be difficult for you in this contemporary Nigeria to see five out of ten middle-aged men or women listen to the Juju music of King Sunny Ade or the Highlife music of Sir Victor Uwaifo. This is not because they are not good musicians but because their genre of music is no longer in vogue. The genre of music in Nigeria today is the one I call Nigeria hip-hop. Nigeria hip-hop have gained a lot of grounds among the youths in the last ten years that many youths want to be a hip-hop artiste. At ceremonies, parties and even in shops that sells musical tapes along the streets, they play hip-hop music 80% of the time.
Anyway, don’t let me leave the leprosy and labour over the yaws. Materialism among Nigerian youths seems to have been on the increase since hip-hop music took the centre stage in the Nigeria music industry. Musical videos are being produced to almost every hip-hop song that is released. The artiste appear so rich in their videos that many times their dressing do not even go in line with what they are singing about. What I am mean is that many of them dress unnecessarily rich for a video that should have been kept very simple. They wear big shoes, clothes, 2 Chainz’s type of chain and all. They parade many big cars in their videos; many which you and I know that they cannot afford in the real sense. Now, youths are watching these videos and many of them are enthralled by the ‘dress sense’ of the artistes. Before you know it, they are already dressing like that artiste they admire. Some save money to buy the type of shoes and clothes that they see their favourite artistes wear. When ‘TM shirt’ was in vogue back then, three of my friends saw an hip-hop artiste wear it on stage and before I knew it, they bought theirs and were flaunting it as if it is the end of the world.
The lyrics of many popular songs are not helping matters either. Some of them are so materialistic in nature that one begins to wonder where the sense in our music has travelled to. Gone are the days when you will listen to songs from people like the late Orlando Owoh or Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and you will have to think deeply about the message of the song. You will listen to songs and the beauty of their message will get you enchanted that you begin to 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 and that just when you thought you have given life your best shot by doing everything you can in your own best way, you will hear criticism from people that couldn’t have done more. Therefore, what is best for one is to do one’s best and leave the rest. What about the song by Orlando Owoh( of blessed memory) that talked about the two women that are married to the same man? One tried to kill the child of the other by food poisoning but ends up killing her own child. This has made me realise that when you throw a stone inside the market, it will hit one your very own and also that people living in glass house should not throw stones. Wickedness does not pay! What about the song of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti ‘Abami Eda’ that is reflective of the blame game that has enveloped Nigerian politics and how Nigerian politicians blame one another. The lyrics is something like this: “You be rogue, I no be rogue; you be robber, I no be robber”. This also reminds me of the song ‘Seun Rere’ by late Christie Igbokwe. Of course, these are just few of the songs we listened to back then and you have an idea of how much they talked about the society. Many of these songs that have rich lyrical contents are now being classified as old music even when their contents fits perfectly well into our new school life and society.
Compared to what we have in the past, have a look at these lyrics by some leading Nigerian hip-hop artistes. Adekunle Gold have this to say in his song titled ‘Pick Up’-
“Baba God o pick up the call. Emi na fe wa range o (I want to ride a Range rover car); Dangote o lo ri meji ( Dangote has only one head); Na beg I dey beg o, Olorun orun(God of heaven).
What about this one by Davido ‘Omo Baba Olowo’? The lyrics goes like this: “mo fe lowo ju daddy mi o, mo fe lowo ju baba mi (I want to be richer than my daddy). When I was checking this song by Davido, I concluded that the song is enough to push a youth to want to gather enough materially so as to impress people more than his father ever does when in the real sense he should be impressing himself. P Square brothers are even calling people to come and taste of 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 and also taste of their own money. Wizkid’s own lyrics is that he wants to show everybody the money so that they won’t go funny with him. You need to see how he was throwing dollars around in the video. As for Olamide, he is ‘Omo abulesowo'(son of the land seller) and if anybody should fuck up, he will 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?
Money, money, money, money, which its love the Bible calls the root of all evils is now one of the major themes of our songs. Isn’t it amazing that our society is now being run by men with money and not by those with integrity and good character? I mean, are the like of Dino Melaye, Buruji Kashamu, and the like of the hip hop artiste the best we can get as leaders? Men who are supposed to impress themselves are now trying to impress people with their money instead of their character. Now I remember one of my egbons whose reason for watching Olamide, Ice Prince Zamani and Lil Kesh’s videos is for him to stay updated on fashion and new slangs such as who you epp, ibile la wa, etc. Or why do you think that guy is always dressing to impress people, especially girls in the class, with big shoes and big clothes? Of course, he must have seen Olamide or Ice Prince Zamani dressed like that in one of their musical videos.
Apart from entertainment, I think music should also be something that gives us insight about life from the point of view of a creative mind (I believe song writing is creativity). The lyrics, I think, are supposed to carry life-oriented meanings. When I complained to a friend about the poor lyrical contents of many of the current songs in Nigeria, he said he only listen to most songs produced under the hip-hop genre because of their beats and then I saw him playing ‘run mad’ by Terry G on his phone. Abeg, if you have listened to that song before, what’s in the beat or the lyrics that should interest someone that is sound in mind? It just doesn’t add up.
It is with great surprise that women body parts are now elements of musical composition and they are described and made reference to in music with vigour and rigour without even minding at all. Nigerian women are brought up to be decent, they respect their body and dress to cover their nakedness. But I am afraid that some of these women I know are now exposing their breasts and buttocks while they are dancing to a song they cannot even pick out its meaning and have a reflection on. Because most women no longer respect their body, most songs have now moved from singing about life issues to singing about women’s facial appearance, breast and buttocks. I used to wonder why it is only the ladies that open their bodies in musical videos and not the guys. I mean, we dress 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. You switch on your television set expecting to see nice musical videos, but what do you get? Musicians smoking in musical videos. And you say youths will not copy them? Plato was right when he said people should guide against new music 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 elements of quality in their songs. Of course, singers like Asa, Timi Dakolo, 2face, Bez, Darey Art Alade, Brymo, and some others still sing with sense that has always been found in Nigerian songs. But the problem a number of youths do not want to listen to people like Asa or TY Bello or Brymo songs when they do not include phrases such as ‘ skiborobooskibo yeba oshe’ or ‘iranu abasha’ or better still ‘all the ladies shake all your bum bum’.
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 sings about bum bum, there is no way he could have been called Commander of Juju music. What about Sir Victor Uwaifo? If he had been singing you can only run and run until you run mad, nobody would have bothered to label him maestro of highlife 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.
I am not saying youths should not sing. But all I am saying is that lyrical contents should be improved upon. We are Africans, and most of all Nigerians, 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 life-meaning 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.