[The Music Blog] Wizkid is not a Young Fela

Because we love to look for the next Legend or “New X”, we sometimes demand a lot of things from younger people, placing them in boxes and hoping they will fulfil our innermost desires.

Wizkid is the biggest Nigerian and African musician right now. This is as a result of several years of carefully strategised moves. He has worked with Chris Brown, he is buddies with Skepta, he has worked with the talented Drake, he has hung out with TY Dolla Sign and it is rumoured that he has unreleased work coming out with Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. Everything he has done is well planned and while there is space for luck, Wizkid and his team have been very purposeful about his moves for him to have gotten to the place he is right now.

This morning, I got into an argument with my roommate. My roommate Israel is a genius in his knowledge of music and is a filmmaker that you will be seeing a lot of work from. We have a lot of arguments about music and often find a middle ground but this time, he found fault in my reply to the tweet above. I do not think Wizkid and Fela should be placed in the same sentence.

There were a couple of shots from the unreleased video of “Come Closer” by Wizkid featuring Drake where placed side by side, Wizkid looked like the legendary Fela. Placed side by side, he looks like he might have the same vibe, but side by side comparisons don’t form deep and correct arguments.

Wizkid is everything incredible about Nigerian music and even Nigeria right now but is not a young Fela by any mile. Musically, they are different and a few fashion similarities do not make two people similar or get the tag of “Young Fela”.

Fela was a force of nature, a phenomenon and a music legend! Today, there is Antibalas (A band you should check out) and Newen Afrobeat from Chile doing the music of Fela – The Afrobeat music he made popular. Wizkid, however, does a rather everchanging version of Afropop. Currently, the closest to Fela’s sound is Burna Boy and D’Banj in short bursts. A total differentiation in sounds does not entirely mean people can’t be compared. Say there was a young masked man that played the saxophone and this masked man was born in 1990 but made music like Suuru Lere about the current regime and we called the man Lagbaja, we can say Lagbaja is a young Fela without their sounds being so similar.

Fela did a different type of music. He sang against oppressive governments at a time where it was the hardest thing to do. His music became a tool. His music was a catalyst for change. The military government in Nigeria was harsh, cruel, brutal, repressive and tyrannical. The government was unable to stand criticism and went after anybody that said a word against them. Fela became the Nigerian god he is today for breaking all of the norms – He was sent to London in 1958 to study medicine but decided to study music instead at the Trinity College of Music. Despite his privilege, he shouted for everybody from concerts outside Nigeria to bars and stages in Lagos.

Wizkid hasn’t done any of that. It will be unfair to ask Wizkid that he takes time off making good music and providing party jams to do the work Fela started. He is not an activist. What he is instead is a brilliant artiste that will bridge so many musical gaps as well as die a legend.

There is no such thing as a Young Fela Israel! If there is, he definitely isn’t Wizkid. In time, Wizkid will make his own history and pass on his own legacy!

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