by Onyeka Nwelue
The past few weeks have been a combination of explosive concerts of Nigerian artistes in Europe.
On the 4th of April, Nneka performed at Le Bataclan in Paris. On the 5th, Bracket mimed somewhere in Paris, for a group of Africans. Nneka performed for a large audience; in a jampacked hall.
On the 16th of April, Nneka performed at Akvarium Klub in Budapest. On the 17th, Iyanya was supposed to playback in the city of Debrecen. He missed his flight, according to the organisers. It was moved to the 18th, but most of the Nigerians in Budapest who attended Nneka’s concert said they could not afford to waste their money travelling to watch an artiste playback on a CD or mime. They had seen what Nneka did in Budapest. They were blown away. One of them, Itopa Tersoo, a filmmaker and photographer said: “That’s a perfect show.” The other, Kayode Abel, a member of the Hungarian band, Cloud 9, said: “Even Wiz Khalifa’s show here last time can’t come close.”
That’s how fantastic it was!
Many people in Nigeria still don’t know Nneka, a very smart and beautiful young woman who grew up in Warri and even has a hit where Ugborikoko, a suburb in the damps of Delta is mentioned.
Nneka plays the guitar so well. Her other sister, Asa, plays the guitar so well, too. Seun Kuti plays the piano very well and also the saxophone, through which he feeds the world.
I don’t know what instruments Bracket play. Or Iyanya. I have never seen them ‘perform.’ We know that many musicians are vocalists, but this is what I don’t understand: one should not be proud to call himself a musician if he can’t play any musical instrument. You can be happy by being identified as a singer. That way, we don’t argue about your talent. It is logical that every musician should be able to play an instrument. This is arguable. Those who have problems with my argument should be able to back it up with some interesting facts; not referring to older musicians who could not. Either way, a musician should be able to perform musically. Vocals fine, but then again, the superficiality of a true maestro should be explicably exonerated through the realm of his musical talent.
A larger number of Nigerian ‘musicians’ don’t play instruments. They wind up with their rascality on stage, holding onto what comes off as tantrums and expecting people to take them seriously. I have also heard that many ‘producers’ can’t play instruments. They produce their sounds off the computer. That is so brilliant; there is nothing wrong with this, but in a definite sense, this calls for the gratification of the glory, where they are extolled for doing what anyone on the street can do. There is no genius in how music is produced in this part of the world. What is the showmanship then? How do you relate with an audience that is used to artistes like Benjamin Clementine? Maybe, there is something wrong with me, by thinking that every music lover must love the kind of music that I love. Actually, no.
Music is language. It is reflected in the way you make it. Artistes like Sena Dagadu may not particularly play instruments, but her arrangement of notes and musical orchestra will make you understand the need to be able to study the points and strains of music. At a point when supernatural voices like those of Ibeyi are ruling the world, these sisters play the piano and other instruments. Their stage performances are classy.
I have attended more concerts that most of my age mates, taking notes of the setbacks and the successes and whatsoever that comes with them. At Eko Hotel in Lagos recently, Seun Kuti and Femi Kuti – sons of Afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti, saved the night of their show with their beautifully created and synchronized shows; they are masters. They create music differently. They have been able to shine independently. They are not scared to experiment; they are also amazingly talented. Why? Because they can create their own sounds with their brains twitching through the ambience of the instruments they play.
However, the night started really bad when they allowed people like Oritsefemi, Jesse Jagz, Seyi Shay, Lil Kesh, TJan, Black Magic come mime on stage and then run off the hall. I mean, what stopped the organisers from picking one of the artistes to open for these two legends, with a proper band? Why couldn’t someone like Jesse Jagz get on that stage and ‘perform’? Laziness is one of the reasons why they remain where they are.
I came to that concert, with my heart prepared for something more enthralling than what Seun and Femi had done in Europe, but I was completely bandaged to believe that Nigeria has a long way to go.
As soon as those mimers who came to monkey around on stage delivered their 4 minute-pieces, they were hurried out of the hall by their sidekicks.
Jesse Jagz should have just kept mute and not perform. I was enraged, but what can I do?
For Seun and Femi, they did not disappoint me, but I was completely disappointed that, because of sentiments, they would allow these people to spoil my moments for me. I understood what they tried to do. They want to encourage young people; they want to support their talents, but that’s an overly annoying way to support less talented people. All this while, I had been complaining about concerts in Nigeria, where artistes will fill up these concert podiums in Nigeria. Even though Seun and Femi made up everything with their classy performances, I suggest
Onyeka Nwelue is author of Hip-Hop is Only for Children (Hattus, 2015). He is Assistant Professor of African Studies and Literature at the University of Manipur.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.