by Onyeka Nwelue
Over the years, I have followed the growth of Nigeria’s music industry. In that span, I have also tried to understand its failings. I know there is no structure in place, even though they pretend there is, it’s all part of the act they put up. The musicians in the industry live very false lifestyles and the most annoying thing is the arrogance they possess especially as they are clueless about takes and sequences in music.
“Now every single person that sets out to sing in Nigeria has a record ‘label’, I laugh out loud.”
For instance, they say Duncan Mighty is a wonderful musician. How is that? I know his song; ‘Obianuju’ is beautiful- everybody loves ‘Obianuju’ because when you hear the beat, your legs starts to shake but it ends there, it really does. All his other tracks sound the same, this sort of style is ‘tantamount to bastardising’ everything. If he was that good, why hasn’t he being nominated for a major award yet. You ponder! You wonder! Why? People might easily blame it on Lagos politics but no, sometimes, one needs to understand that Nigerian musicians have a long way to go. Twitter doesn’t help the matter; it’s filled with praise singers and ‘yes sirs’. It is there on Twitter that they get their arses licked by ‘fans’ who only tell them what they want to hear.
Who needs the truth, anyway, isn’t it very bitter?
Now every single person that sets out to sing in Nigeria has a record ‘label’, I laugh out loud. ‘Musician A’ records a beautiful song in the studio, he listens to it alone and then, maybe, he gets some of his friends to listen to it too, to boost his ego- they scream, ‘Classic!’ He is enveloped with pride and ego so he records more and more and then wham! He has an album, ready to be launched at Eko Hotel. He knows that fantastic man that puts up almost all the album launch concerts at Eko Hotel so he contracts him to place a billboard, with his picture on it, just before Silverbird Galleria. The world has taken note of him. He is good to go!
What next? He struggles to remix one of his songs with an African-American musician- Kanye West or perhaps Snoop Dogg, wow, clap for yourself, you have arrived! You really have arrived!
‘Musician A’ rushes to Los Angeles or is it New York now to shoot a make shift video with his Canon 7D! Quickly edits it and uploads free on YouTube- It’s that easy. Then the bloggers in Nigeria (who are always looking for what to write about) start screaming: “’Musician A’ featuring Snoop Dogg in blah blah blah.” Nigerians start commenting and telling the musician that if he can do a song with that African-American musician, he has arrived!
And wait, there’s more, just when you thought it was all over, they sign the owner of the record label to another record label? Jesus Christ, how is that? Nigeria doesn’t have a record label. The same way our publishing industry is pretending to exist, is same way the music industry is struggling to cover up its mess. The fantasy has been created and everyone is living in it. No one has allowed us to know the truth.
2Face Idibia has a record label. 9ice does. Don Jazzy does. 2Shortz does. Banky W does. Everybody does. So, who signs who? Even the fantasies created by Kennis Music and Storm Records have waned. We know what has transpired. We know that everyone is living in a hallucinatory realm. There is just one wind that will blow open the arse of the chicken!
If these little things keep parading themselves as record labels, how are we going to create an empire like Sony Music or Virgin Music? Why don’t we just do music and release them and stop distracting ourselves with the business of music management? Why don’t we just focus on the lyrics and let others handle the bags of money we will be gathering if the music is good? Why don’t we focus on the beats in the studio, while we allow professionals organise our European tour and treat us like kings? Why don’t we let our dreams come true on their own, without lying about them? Why don’t we try and be transparent?
Onyeka Nwelue is author of The Abyssinian Boy (DADA Books, 2009)