If I told you the way you consumed Nigerian music is toxic, would you believe me?
It’s true, you are a part of what sickens your stars. You are not the cure to their problems. You are the disease. In the wake of public cases of celebrity depression and attempted suicides, a lot of people are still shocked that popular musicians who seem to have it all, don’t have it all together.
Don’t get me wrong, we love our Nigerian musicians. Imagine yourself at a party and all you heard for two hours was popular music around the world, at some point, you would hear your ancestors call in your veins, looking for the all too familiar “kom-kom-kom komkom” sound that forms the basic structure of our music.
This emotional connection is a positive one, with happiness and gratuitous joy leading us to our musicians. That source of joy are their talents, their creatives and their music. Somehow we forget that it was the art that drew us in and we make false gods of the artists, juxtaposing them to form a shrine upon which we worship the musicians.
We were fans once, but we grew into followers. Graduating through levels of fandom, until we became enough to push our love for the music to our neighbours, our state, our continent, and beyond the shores of it. “Afrobeats To The World!” Today, African music is loved across multiple continents, propelled by the will power of Nigerians, and validated by the high standard of the art that we cherish and evangelize for. We won, we have won, and are winning.
But sadly that is where it ends. We take them high, we climb the mountain, but we don’t get to the summit. We can’t take our musicians, our artists, idols and pop culture gods to the peak of the mountain where they can truly dominate the world. We are short of breath, of money, and of the commercial numbers.
While we are large in numbers, our musicians can’t depend solely on us. They have to court other people, our foreign Afropop converts, who would partake in the unique ways of our sound culture. We Nigerians, need other people to make our gods more powerful. We need their money, goodwill and systems to push our music gods over the finish line. Wizkid is the most prominent artist out of Africa, Drake is the biggest out of the US. Are they mates? Do they bag the same bags? Aren’t they kings of their zones? Why can’t they relatively make the same?
It’s simple, it boils down to the commercial strength of their kingdoms. We don’t spend enough resources to consume the music legally, and put food in the musicians’ pockets. We barely do enough to sustain our creative pantheon. Our music gods require other people for true power.
Interestingly, we are the most demanding and act like we own the artist. Yet, we don’t pay for the art. We make incessant requests for their creative blood. We expose them to insane amounts of ridicule. We steal from our deities, rob their altars when they go to sleep with every illegal download, Whatsapp and bluetooth file transfer. We make them bleed. We cannibalize our own.
The Nigerian music followership is a blessing, but it comes loaded with a self-inflicted curse. We might look like the cure, but we are inadvertently a bigger disease. That’s why we don’t have enough juice in the tank. Afrobeats have to cross over for it to have and sustain a seat at the highest tables. We lack final source.
These new converts don’t just come with open hearts for veneration. They have business in their eyes. They can optimise our processes, help build new structures, and even give us a better blueprint and investment to propel our gods to their people. They want to make them bigger products to their people for profit. That’s why the major labels are here. To seek to make our music better, and our gods bigger.
Universal Music for example are here for this. Major labels are here because you subconsciously asked for them. With every foreign promotion, every party organised, and DJ set, we have pushed to them for acceptance and investment. And that’s why we need them, just as they need us too to diversify their art, supply new gods and make a ton of money.
So when you see Wizkid and Davido signing deals with Sony, just know they are doing it for themselves and for you. When Universal puts pen to paper on Tekno, Mr Eazi, Larry Gaga and Burna Boy (publishing), we called them to do it. We made that happen.
That’s why we celebrate the day our stars sign these deals. We drink to their success, clink glasses with smiles and hearty yells of “congratulations!” We see this as success. We embrace it in our hearts and pray that our musicians are made foreign gods. We want the foreign people to worship our gods. We believe it validates us, gives us power and makes us proud. We want foreign validation and money.
It is clear to us finally. Sorry dear Nigerian, ‘Afrobeats to the world’ will need more than your tweet and puny streaming numbers. We aren’t truly enough for us!