What Happened To Live Music?

by Adepoju Paul Olusegun

I’m a Christian. Like other believers, I live my days with the expectation that very soon, our savior will appear in heaven to take us home. But on a fateful Sunday night in December 2008, I had a reason to beg Jesus Christ to delay his coming until a later date. The reason is simple; I wanted to dance to some cool Nigerian hip hop vibes.

Before you get carried away with the rationale behind my choice of music, you should know that I have an understanding and loving God who allows me to listen to hip hop music as long as they don’t pollute my minds or blur my sense of moral judgment. On this fateful night however, I had a real test of my faith as I was caught between staying indoors after a glorious morning service, or crowning the successes of the early morning service with an all night rendezvous while swaggering and gyrating to live music from Nigerian top musicians who were brought to Owerri on the bills of Glo Rock n’ Rule Concert.

Like most Nigerian events, the show started way behind the advertised 5pm kick off as Nigerian music aficionados like me had to loiter around till some minutes after 7pm when Basketmouth came on stage as the compére.

Being my first live show of this magnitude, I expected to see Nigerian musicians dazzle. I expected Sammie Okposo, despite the numerous infidelity accusations topped only my the legendary 2Face, to lead us in praises that will leave us in awe of his dexterity and masterly proficiency at praises; I hoped to see and hear Stereoman dish out his hit tracks like Sample, ekwe, with the same unimaginably unique voice we listen to over the radio and TV; and the Mo’Hit All Stars I expected to leave my tongues drooped after mesmerizing the teeming D’banj fans club with their renditions that had become more popular than our national anthems. I wanted to unwind to fall in love, m’ogbona felifeli, booty call, and suddenly, such that I would have to go to the clinic on Monday. Not as a medical student, but as a famished hip hop lover.

To cut the story short, my hopes and expectations of the events were dashed as they all performed far below my high expectations. From the up and coming ones to the globally acclaimed superstars, they set aside their roles as singers, and mimed throughout the night, giving DJ Jimmy Jatt a busy day shuffling discs and mix tapes. So, like other lovers of hip hop music, I ask: what has happened to live music?

Before the Nollywood boom, lack of encouraging remuneration from event organizers and the exorbitant cost of renting musical equipment were responsible for artistes’ preference of miming and occasional chants like kokolets (D’banj), na so and nothing dey happen (2Face), throw your hands up and two fingers in the air (other artistes). With the current lucrative nature of the industry, especially the music arm, one cannot but ask what is wrong this time?

9ice, sometimes ago, was at the Zain- organized birthday concert for Dr. Nelson Mandela at Hyde’s Park, London. With the mindset of what obtains here where artistes can hop from event to another armed with nothing but a CD, he got entwined as he was compelled to sing live on stage. After seeing the video on Youtube, I had to modify my views of his talent and that of other acclaimed Nigerian musicians who are now the continent’s most heard and aired voices.

Before we castigate hip hop as the culprit, the reason for miming, I recently saw a video of Lil Wayne, Plies, Rick Ross, Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Lil Jon and Ludacris where they performed at a show in New York. There were drums, piano, guitar, back up singers, and instrumentalists. There wasn’t any voice enhancement as Americans and other nationals present at the event heard the superstars sing without studio effects. Miming is therefore simply Nigerian.

Our singers are unable to recreate their mastery in the studio on stage due to either laziness or being pretenders. They therefore turn to miming to cover up their shortcomings and the fans who sometimes cough out thousands of Naira to see their favorite artistes perform are carried away with the mere sight of entertaining D’banj, blackening Wande Coal, and fertile 2Face (for the ladies). Miming is not the only cover up.

Some of them like P-square, Dip and others dance to thrill their audience, while others like D’banj, Stereoman, Wande Coal, Ikechukwu, Shank, DJ Zee (Fokasibe), Ruggedman, 9ice and 50 cent-phobic Eedris Abdulkareem, just to mention a few, had become strippers although some ought to put on extra layers of cloth to cover up stheir anatomical deficiencies.

Wande Coal, for example, while performing at the Glo Rock n Rule Concert in Owerri, decided to take his T-shirt off, like D’banj, only to reveal an expanding area of eczema in his torso region. The eczema was more evident against his strongly darkened coal black complexion. Quite a gorily ugly view!

The event ended around 2am with me regretting my attendance which I saw as a colossal waste of time. It was this time that God decided to punish me as I had nowhere to go to except the Smirnoff sponsored after party at a hotel around Concorde. Like other temporary homeless music lovers, I trekked from Wetheral Road where the concert was help to Concorde Hotel area where the after party was held. That wasn’t all as I had to sleep at the pool side because of the unimaginable atrocities that were perpetrated on the dance hall- alcoholism, inguinal explorations, etc.

As far as hip hop music is concerned, live music is regrettably long gone, as auto tune is now the order of the day. For lovers of good music like me, we want more from D’banj jumping around on the stage while grabbing and massaging his third leg, we expect P-square to be more musicians than dancers; and Welu Welu crooner, Sammie Okposo, and 2Face should be able to show all that they are actually talented and their voices are really real. Until they are able to do these, Gospel concerts will continue to be our major provider of live music, and the medium to retrace our steps back to spirituality, sanity, morality and dignity.

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