Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lyrically speaking...

2008 was a high for Nigerian music and artistes; I wonder what’s going to be thumping this year, and ask Nigeria’s critically-acclaimed music authority Ayeni Adekunle his thoughts on music, beats, awards, lyrics, and the bang and eruption of our acts.

I like the graffiti on Ayeni’s dark jacket, a tattooed embellishment with sudden glitters. He holds a smile and a cup of tea that he watches over with caution. Ayeni’s thoughts on music is fair, without unnecessary prejudice; a trait that eludes the many jaundiced-eye reporting of our time.
So naturally, I ask the first question on flawed information.
‘So MI’s CD raked thousands of sales in only thirty minutes?’ this was rhetorical, of course.

‘Come on Joy, don’t tell me you believe that.’

I shrug.

‘It isn’t as simple as it sounds,” Ayeni says, “vendors coming to pick CDs in the market doesn’t necessarily translate to money in the bank. It has to get to the buyers…”

‘ah, but I thought…” my words trail off.

I was a top fan of music in 2008, a lot of surprises and experimentation that worked. Ayeni agrees, taking me back to prophesy he made in January 2008.
“It was an article in ThisDay and I stated that 2008 was going to be a year of music.”
9ice had dropped Gongo Aso in October 2007, Asa had also released her songs - two remarkable albums free of bogus claims, faux or needless airs.
“I love Asa,” I say.
“Oh yes, she’s a good one,” Ayeni agrees, “she brandishes high hands and everybody from carpenters to mechanics, shoe makers, and bankers, all love her music; that means you can still do good high-profile music and still capture the Nigerian fans, the larger audience who we think are apathetic to first-class materials. 9ice proved the same point – local music doesn’t have to be pedestrian. ”

I remember my introduction to 9ice’s Gongo Aso in 2007; he’s style was novel, puff of air with a difference. And with his lead, 2008 emerged with a new wave sweeping through the entire industry.
Timaya was part of that current.

“Timaya proved us all wrong. He made us believe that no matter where you are, whether Port Harcourt or Bayelsa state, if you make good music you can still conquer Lagos,” Ayeni states.

No doubt, Lagos is the music nerve-centre, and Timaya was on everyone’s music list even without having a single video!

“Without a video Timaya took over the clubs! We already knew who he was before the video he featured with 2shots was aired,” Ayeni says.

Indeed 2008 was a year of redefinition, one that will unveil its intent in the new year.

We talk about MTV AFRICA MUSIC AWARD which held its debut in Nigeria. Of course, it is a general consensus that when an MTV comes to town, it brings with it bags of largesse, one that contains high-class professionalism, expertise, flair, and high-speed, better quality production and performance. But what did we get?

“It was a big disappointment,” Ayeni frowns, “Everyone can tell that they squandered all of 6 million dollars. It was a let down. This is a body that has a global reputation; they have held events all over the world. We are supposed to be learning from them, but they come to Nigeria and can’t even get their sound system right, they have no clue who the respected music shakers are in this part, and they couldn’t even get something as simple as categorization right!”

This categorization would have something to do with 9ice winning best Hip Hop act – a genre he obviously shouldn’t be labelled under. But he won it, winning acts like Nas – one of the world’s best lyricists, and Lil Wayne - the hottest Hip Hop act of the moment. “Ridiculous,” I cackle.

“They also had P-square, Alicia Keys and Rihanna in the same category. They had no reserved seats for people like Dele Momodu or Ben Bruce, but had six reserved seats for Munachi Abi.”

I intend to ask if the rest of Munachi’s reserved seats were for her crown, the tail of her evening gown, a boyfriend, a best friend, and um… her best sibling, but I go ahead and ask about a more sober question.

“Who was your favourite artiste for 2008?”

“It would be 9ice. Young people these days suffer from a very dangerous complex, we think anything foreign is better than ours. We wear foreign labels, listen to foreign music, we speak in tongues. We don’t even speak our dialect. 9ice got everybody speaking his dialect, we love him for that. I was happy that someone in my own time can teach young people how not to dump your culture, language, or lifestyle; for me it was a revolution. Dbanj, I am not particularly a fan of his music, but Dbanj is teaching young artistes the act of entrepreneurship. You see, I grew up in a home where no one will do anything for you, I grew up in a polygamous home, where you have to know where you are going to and what you are doing, so I can liken it with the music industry in Nigeria. The structures are not there, there are no labels, no managers, so as an artiste you need to learn to be an entrepreneur. So for me Dbanj is using the attention he has now to build an empire for himself. He’s definitely still on our radar!
In 2008, for the first time ever, he had a sitting governor and a past governor attend his album launch. He is building his brand, importing his own line of phone, packaging water, therefore expanding his brand; and that is the future! Dbanj teaches his colleagues and young people that it is not all about playing shows and doing hit songs, you need to establish yourself so that when your reign is over, when the fans put you in a corner and embrace another act, you will still be in the business of money-making. As I was driving down I was listening to Blackky’s song, ‘Rosie’. When Blackky was the reigning king nobody would have thought there will come a time when his songs will be trite. When Michael Jackson did ‘Thriller’, who would have imagined it would all be over? So no matter what you are, some day some kid will come and kick you away; what will you fall back on then, especially at a time when most artistes do not have the grace to trade? So they need to establish themselves as entrepreneurs. For that, Dbanj earns my respect. I will also give a lot of respect to Asa, who made high music fashionable again.”

It dawns on me that apart from Asa, every other female act seems pale. But I am quick to mention to Ayeni that I do not consider Ashionye a musician.

“Ashionye might not have found the right way to express her talent. She is trying to be a …”

“Beyonce!” I interrupt, bursting into uncontrollable laughter

“Yes, and it is obviously not working for her,” Ayeni continues. “She has a little bit of talent, she has more talent than Omotola, more talent than Goldie.”

I ask his predictions for 2009, and tell him how soulful Dare Art Alade’s new single ‘Not the girl’ is; but the song is like de ja vu, it sounds too familiar.

“It is written by Cobhams and Dare…” he mentions.

And I remember Cobhams must have done a rendition on it the year I received a LEAP Africa award at the Agip Hall in Muson.

“Almost all the artistes out there are not always sure what will sell, so you need to balance your song with a little bit of raggae, and a little bit of this and that. As far as I am concern that is for the immature. If you are going to see an Aretha Franklin show you know what to expect, if you are going to see a Jay Z show you know what to expect. This year, I hope many of them come into their own and be recognised for their genre. After a couple of hit and miss, someone like Dare is trying to build his brand and his kind of music, it is risky but that’s the way to go,” Ayeni states.

I chuckle as I mention the whole brouhaha between Modenine and Ruggedman. But seriously, I ask if truly Ruggedman is a rapper or just a ‘beefer’ – complaining about wack emcees… But hasn’t his nemesis arrived, spiting a lot more venom than he can ever imagine?

“He can rap,” Ayeni states, “he is an ok rapper; but everybody has their own limitations. Modenine is the hardest working rapper on this continent. I do not like Modenine as a person; I think he is very arrogant. Modenine also has a lot of personality issues. Rugged man is a regular guy, if he comes in you will flow with him like a regular guy; but you can not hide the fact that Modenine is hard working, he hons his skills with the diligence of a bee. That was what attracted every body to Nas; at a point in which people are saying rappers are never-do-wells, Nas came and brought up intellectual issues on astronomy, medicine, metaphysics, literature, and the world was loving it. That is what Modenine has. He works really hard and he is a better lyricist than Rugged man, but that does not mean Rugged Man is not a good artiste; but at the end of the day how will history books remember them? Rugged man will be remembered as the guy who saved rap music in Nigeria. He saved us from the likes of Eedris Abdulkareem; but having said that, he needs to reinvent himself. Modenine is the guy who says you can do art for the love of art. Modenine will not compromise his quality, he will not say because he needs to sell he will experiment with stuff. He is proud of his art and he knows what he can do!”

And then I giggle all the way to my office miming the lyrics – ‘I’m the shit-man, you are the shit packer.”


tobenna said...

You wrote this well Isi.
I like the way you narrated this instead of the typical question:reply format.

Is Ayeni the same fella that writes using the pen name 'Ayeni the great'?
Sounds like Rugged man trying to make a point :P
Ach. Just re-read your introduction. He is definitely critically acclaimed.

Every artiste must be falling over themselves now trying to please Ayeni the great!

tobenna said...

I hope Eko Dialogue has passed the 1000 mark at least?

princesa said...

Loved this interview and i agree with some of the views too.

princesa said...

Loved this interview and i agree with some of the views too.

Kenn-Knotty said...

Am getting all charged up after sending the first comment, and may easily trade a red blood cell to re-read this interview. Isi, keep it up! Kenn says so.

bArOquE said...

it didnt quite sound like an interview to me, so i'd say, "that was quite a dialogue, nice one"...however, i give major props to TY Bello, i think her album was a job very well done...i dont know about Timaya, its all one & the same song...& who the hell is Ashionye?...btw, how is my Isi doing?

Isi said...

tobenna. longest time! hows wifey? Eko Dialogue has reached its 700 mark o! although i've given out copies to shops, so it's hard to say if they are doing as well as i am :-)
i guess i should be a marketer, eh?

thanks y'all for dropping by!

Shubby Doo said...

isi - firstly i bought eko dialogue from u at christmas time (but using my real name)...i’m sorry I did it anonymously to my persona on blogville (but maybe if you think back maybe u will put 2 and 2 together) but I want u to know that i really enjoyed it sweetie

secondly i like this post...

i loved 9ice for the very reason that tracks like street credibility made me so proud to be nigeria...it went deeper than that...i was stood proud as a yoruba person...

i also have to give a shout out to Dbanj...his latest album is on constant replay in my car...

people will always like the america music scene but it has taken many decades for it to get to where it has...it is no the most creative/inventive industry wrt to music genre…but although I find it very formulae america has somehow managed to become the industry standard for music...so many have tried and failed to break america despite being very successful elsewhere

i think we are beginning to recognised our own...trust me even if we are taking our sweet time about it in Nigeria the world is definitely beginning to recognise them!!!

Writefreak said...

This is definitely an education on Naija music, well done Isi
I love 9ice too btw...he rocks!