African Outlook Online


If Culture Can Die, Why Not Our Music? – 3

If Culture Can Die, Why Not Our Music? – 3



By Femi Akintunde-Johnson, Lagos

When you look at the staying power of redoubtable musicians like King Sunny Ade, Chief Command Ebenezer Obey, Admiral Dele Abiodun, Orlando Julius Ekemode, Majek Fashek, Ras Kimono; and performers/singers like Alhaji Agba Sikiru Ayinde Barrister (late), Kollington Ayinla, Wasiu Ayinde (K1), Onyeka Onwenu, Christy Essien Igbokwe (late), Salawa Abeni, and a number of others.

The most significant common ground is the fact that they have sustained and solidified their relative musical reputations, legacies and relevance in the past 20 years, at least. After those mentioned, the second generation of artistes digging hard and deep into our consciousness include Lagbaja, Adewale Ayuba, Pasuma, Sunny Neji, and a few others.


Most of these artistes, with very few exceptions, were trained professionals, instrumentalists and long-standing band leaders. You see, music business is first a business, then an art-form. These unfading and constant-as-a-northern-star musicians and singers built their bands painstakingly, to run smoothly and professionally, such that even if they are not there as headliners, the bands will sail without losing steam. That was the reason Egypt 80, Fela's band, rallied and sallied from when Fela died (and Femi with his own band could not possibly sustain his father's), until Seun, the last of the musical Anikulapos, was old enough to ascend his father's “throne”. Now, Egypt Band is contesting the grounds, and reclaiming the glory, “gradually, gradually”.


My point is this: any music form (it doesn't matter by what tag it is called) whose joints and sinews are not firmly rooted in a solid band management infrastructure, its end has begun even at the first album. The hottest music of today are recorded on CD's and DVD compilations; sold on the streets and corners; played endlessly on radio and (if they cobble up a video production) on television… and pronto, a star is born. But the cornflakes can only taste sweet for a moment.


The poor artiste does not bother that he has begun the burial ceremony of his musical talents and relevance with his excitement to “get out there and be appreciated.” He cares only that he can enter the studio without any inkling of how to play any instruments; beg or bribe a studio rat to pretend as his producer; lay his voice to beats he has never heard, or lifted from pirated beat-making software. Yeah! He's got a great feeling “this thing” will blast. He runs to the profiteer-marketer otherwise known as pirate; begging him to slot his “single” (if not the entire tracks) into one of the pirate's numerous “Hottest Hits In Da House!” collections.


If the pirate is reluctant, unsure that the untested “hit” being canvassed by the aspiring star would catch the unquenchable thirst of the Hit-loving Nigerian music freaks, the young man flings himself up, amusing the pirate with his readiness to pay ‘something’ so as to get just a song on the “compilations”. And yes, he pays the pirate to help him 'pirate' his own work (no contracts; no indemnity; complete 'dash'). Frankly, he doesn't catch the macabre irony. He just wants his chance to be a star.


Shocked? He has just begun. If he's “lucky”, you begin to hear the song on the radio… he makes the rounds, getting in the faces of notable DJs. If need be, running errands for them. He joins a posse (a group of creative malcontents), showing up at shows on the apron strings of more accomplished, more pirated “superstars.” He gets photographed… interviewed, and ghost-written…and viola…a new star is born. He starts getting shows, concerts and “mouth-watering” deals. His ‘star’ goes ballistic! Mission accomplished. Essentially, the end of his story.


His sense of importance is exploded by unquestioned and pedestrian media adulation; uncritical fawning of fans and admirers. And the singer/pretender-musician loses the plot. He forgets the reason he is blessed with the raw talents: to make the world more tolerable, and sustain a profitable and pleasure-giving posterity for himself, his family and community. He does not ask about Pa Fatai Rolling Dollar (86), Commander Ebenezer Obey (70)… how they came back after long hiatus. What makes them still tick…?


Today’s ‘’superstar’’ does not care about old stories…he does not bother with ‘long stories’ of some expired leading lights… he completely forgets or conveniently ignores that time and chance happen to us all…and there is a clue to prolonging the ‘’good times’’ and emblazoning your name in the hearts of your people forever…I mean for ever!


To Be Continued…


Femi Akintunde-Johnson, Writer, Journalist & Author, can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.