Music is a culturally influenced phenomenon. Since the days of yore, all sorts of music has been a reflective and conscious effort to portray the culture of the artist, and the sounds that shaped him or her. Taking away culture from music is taking away music.
Hip Hop as a genre emerged as a form of societal protest, against racism, against the ill-conceived notion that black men were only gangbangers and nuisances. In America, Hip Hop was met with a particular gusto, because it beautifully borrowed from the culture of the streets. If they’ll call us criminals, at least we can be creative about it? We can document our stories in our own language and surely we can sell it? Last year, a study revealed Hip Hop to be the most popular genre in America. Afro Beats as a sound emerged from Africa, the craziness of everyday life was depicted in the drums, the flutes, the guitars.
Music sells culture, which brings me to the point of this piece.
Flavour N’abania kicked off with Ashewo, a remix of a highlife tune. He tapped into the wealth of the Igbo culture, using live instrumentation to his benefit. He’s been the linchpin ever since. Phyno the rapper with beautiful eyes came along, with his fury filled delivery, his heavy vocals. He was accepted but not quite as he is now, as he’s forged a musical and personal relationship with Flavour. The result is Gbo Gam Gbo, an Ogene influenced sound, you hear the wooden stick hitting the local drum, you hear the flutes, the masquerades dancing and you taste the Palm wine. You feel Igbo when listening to such records.
Kcee rather recently, tapped into this, which revealed the cultural as a selling point that shouldn’t be undermined. 2baba in almost all his songs relates to the Idoma in him. His language is beautiful and I sing word-for-word, the closing parts of his song Thank You, Lord. Timaya adequately appropriates the Southern energy in his music. The dance steps, the festivities, the hustling spirit. The likes of Olamide and Pasuma have been able to sell the Yoruba culture to an outside audience. They make O wa’ nbe sexy. Yet, there’s a notable exclusion.
The Hausa Culture. I am sure that if I visit Bornu or Sokoto or Kaduna, I’ll become a humble worshipper kissing the leg of Hausa music. The Hausa sound is rich and full of energy and resembles the Indian so much. If India has been able to sell theirs through movies, I wonder why there is a deficit of the Northern influenced sounds in the capital city of music in Africa, which is Lagos.
A breakthrough occurred sometime last year, when the Vector-organized posse King Kong remix featured Classiq, a promising Hausa rapper. Immediately he came on, that sound behind his energetic vocals changed. It changed to the Hausa sound, however short it was. Classiq rapped with a sureness, a tenacity that showed his will to shatter new market.
However, the reverse has been the case. Whether it is a lack of music, or good-enough music, or lack of a major label’s backing, we’ve hardly heard of Classiq ever since and it pains to realize that we don’t remember the sound. In this age of supply that exceeds demand, the attention span is really short.
The Hausa Culture in Lagos doesn’t have a linchpin, an anchor. It doesn’t have the Flavour that Igbo culture has, or the Olamide that the Yoruba do and it is going to make it hard for a Hausa influenced musician to make it big in Lagos, to the massive audience. However, this shouldn’t be a hindrance but a challenge. We need more Vectors. More CEOs willing to sign artistes. We need more blogs and journals and print media dedicated to promoting culturally influenced music. We need all hands on deck.