The Changing Tunes of Nigerian Music by Hikmat Ibrahim

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Lyrics are simply words that make up a song, often consisting of verses and choruses.

The Nigerian music industry has undoubtedly achieved overwhelming success in many areas and it is arguably one of Nigeria’s biggest job creating sectors today as it creates opportunities for complementary services like music/movie production, event management, DJ services, equipment purchase/leasing, marketing etc.

The issue, however is in the product being sold. Majority of Nigerian musicians now dish out foul lyrics. The tune is different and so are the lyrics. Dance-able beats, catchy phrases, signature dances and a whole lot of sex-and-money-appeal, appear to increasingly define Nigerian music in recent time. Is this trend capable of corrupting our values?

Today, content doesn’t sell in music, ‘beats’ do. Nigerian artistes do not give attention to the lyrical content of their songs and most people do not listen to the lyrics either. They only dance alongside to the beats of the song. The song is good if the beat is catchy and rhythmic. Musical lyrics nowadays have deteriorated to the extent that good and meaningful lyrics are hard to come by. It appears the easiest way to sell a song in the industry today is to be meaningless and portray women as sexual objects, making women look like pleasure givers. Musicians today are competing really hard to outdo one another in the shameless game. Every nonsense now makes sense as long as the beat is danceable!

So why the fuss about it eh? One of the functional and strategic appeal to the mind is music. With music, a worried soul is uplifted and a wrinkled face can wear a smile. Lyrics can set the mind thinking about the future or reflecting on the past. Music can both be emotional and functional depending on the feeling the originator is trying to portray. Many songs have helped in promoting an idea, especially in the corporate world, where advertisers employ the power of music in promoting product and services for greater patronage.

Subliminal messages are sent to us through the music we listen to as weak and simple messages. For this reason, many in the music industry have argued they have no effect and do not matter. Psychologists on the other hand fear that these “suggestions” accompanied by music filter through into our subconscious minds very easily because we are distracted by other things such as the beats or video images or distractions from our activities while listening to the music and the messages do not get processed by our conscious mind. Eventually, the more we listen to it, it begins to fuel our beliefs.

Music can be used to curb corruption, promote love and peaceful coexistence and it can also be used to teach morals in our society. For example, the lyrics of Onyeka Onwenu’s One Love:

“Somebody tell me, Oh why do we fight it,

One love can set us free, If we just let it be,

Take heart in a brand new day

Cause love is all we need; To chase the past away

You need never worry; If we just let it be…..”

This song preaches the need to show love even when it hurts the most, regardless of tribe and religion or race. Music should be driven by motivation, culture, value, function and education. This was the case in the lyrics of Mike Okri’s Time na money:

“Use your time well

No waka waka

No gossip gossip

Money no dey come from heaven

Do better thing money go come…..”

This song has inspired a couple of successful people we have today. Even with the lyrics in vernacular, it discourages procrastination and galvanizes one into action and taking of decisions. The song promotes the dignity in labour rather than life on the fast lane.

No doubt, our pop music is gradually losing its values and morals, and the young generation are not making any effort towards averting that. This can be traced to a rapid decline in the value system of the society. It has been discovered that most of all these artistes even use the content of their music to throw invectives at each other. Some of the catchy phrases of lyrics in the industry today are, “My money and your money no be mate”, “shake up your bum bum”, “I go chook you shukushuku”, “who you epp”, “I dey kill mosquito well well”, and the likes of “won to gba penalty lo throwing”, “pass the agbara”, “don’t tell me nonsense” and a lot more, the list is endless.

To some extent, we can’t really blame these artistes because their music is a reflection of society. It has gotten to a stage that if you don’t follow the pattern of music today, you won’t go far in the industry and people would not patronize your music. Imagine you put so much effort into a production and it all goes to waste, nonetheless our morals and values shouldn’t be neglected. Even in this generation, there are still songs of this caliber but which covey a positive meaning. Consider for instance, artistes like Aduke, African China, Fela, Asa, Cohbams Asuquo, Lara George and the like. The lyrical content of their songs are meaningful, positive and portray different aspects of life. In some way, they create positive vibes with their songs, it’s pleasant to the ear and still have amazing rhythms you can flow with.

Where/when did we go wrong? Hey, but who am I and what do I know about good music?

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