In spite of the bold
strides being made by the nation’s artistes in the entertainment sector, some critics have continued to harp on the hollow nature of the lyrics in their songs which they described as meaningless.
They posited that the lyrical contents of their songs have made their output from the studios to be ephemeral with no enduring moral values to draw from them.
According to the critics, contemporary Nigerian Pop and Hip Hop music relies heavily on beats and not the exposition of any meaning or teachings, hence they are full of gibberish.
One of the musicians frequently berated for this is Terry G, whose different monikers ranging from “Intellectual Madman”, “Ginjah Ginjah” and “Swagger Swagger” among others, ostensibly point to the direction of his type of music.
A few years back, he released a track called, “Free Madness”, a song with absolutely no meaning whatsoever but which went on to be one of the major hits of that year and is still well received by listeners.
Terry G at various interviews denied ever intentionally recording such nonsense, but he still went on to record the Part 2 and Part 3 of the track which had relative success compared to the first one.
In his younger days, he was a member of his church’s choir and was adept at a number of instruments which made him a consummate musician.
When confronted some time ago on the perceived lack of intelligence in his music, he responded: “I have been in this industry for a while now but never had much success with playing what you call good music until I tried focusing more on the beat, that was when the success came.
“Nigerian music listeners at the moment are not fully ready for much meaning in our songs.
“Look at a situation where you are in the club and just wanting to dance, what sense do you want to make then?”
Another artiste who tried to make real music and sang meaningfully was Iyanya, the winner of the inaugural edition of the music talent show — MTN Project Fame.
Observers say that Iyanya tried his best to retain most of what he learnt during the show in his music, and even went for the few shows he got with his personal saxophonist and instrumentalists but didn’t have much success.
His luck came when he stumbled on the song, “Kukere”, and with the aid of young producer, D’tunes, went on to record what many regarded as the song of the year in 2012.
“Kukere” even came with its own unique dance step which went a long way in sustaining the popularity of the track and Iyanya then went to shows with a Kukere dancer instead of a saxophonist.
While these arguments stand, another school of thought points to the success of Soul singers like Asa and Bez, and even the previous success of African China whose songs were club hits but still made sense to the people.
Asa is regarded as one of the greatest musicians from Nigeria at the moment and she doesn’t even have a dance track.
She tours the world most of the year and commands a higher performance fee than most of the Pop stars who only sing to dance.
The blind producer, Cobhams Asuquo, who is widely regarded as one of the best in the country and only produces Soul music, and from whose stables — Cobhams Asuquo Music Production (CAMP) — Bez emerged.
Singer cum writer, Etcetera, recently pointed to the senselessness of the lyrics of Nigerian musicians as one of the reasons why most could not make a successful crossover to politics when they tried to.
“We are known as the dancing generation because of the lyrical content of our songs.
“To say in your interviews that you are running for office because you want to change the system is a lie from the pit of hell,” he wrote on his blog.
A number of other industry personalities have all recognised the position of beats and the relative meaninglessness of records in Nigeria at the moment.
A popular Lagos DJ, X-Gee, noted that lyrics are not criteria for music appreciation in Nigeria at the moment.
“Once the music has a bumpy beat, the rest is history and you will notice that most of the lyrically-conscious artists are not anywhere close to limelight or even getting award nominations.
“From radio down to clubs and events, it’s all about beats at the moment in Nigeria,” he said.
DJ Quest, a renowned showbiz personality acknowledged that meaningful lyrics goes a long way in music but pointed out that Nigerian musicians have adopted the culture of putting the beats above the lyrics and it has worked for some artists so far.
Lawyer and boss of Chocolate City Records, Audu Maikori, says that lyrics don’t really matter for Africans and Nigerians.
“I don’t think that will change for a while yet, it has always been about the beats since the olden days,” he said.
Obi Asika, whose label, Storm Records, had the likes of Naeto C, Sasha, Darey and GT the Guitarman at one point said: “Music everywhere is melody and lyrics and sometimes melody is enough.
“Attention spans are short these days and since people work so much in Nigeria, they use music to escape, hence party music.”
A producer, Dokta Frabz, also posited that Africans are more rhythm-driven and that dance was always the first impression in music.
“In Nigeria, we have embraced mediocrity for so long in many areas of life and music has not escaped it,” he said.
Young and contemporary Nigerian artists have continued to produce hit tracks without seemingly making much sense in their lyrics but the people are happy and dancing.
Most songs come along with a dance step and from “Yahooze”, “Alanta” and “Galala” to ‘Skelewu”, “Shoki” and “Etigi”, we have a season of dance in Nigeria which has even been exported to foreign countries.
From what is happing in the industry, it is evident that while it is good to have good lyrics along with beautiful beats in our music, most Nigerians are happy to dance to the good beats churned out daily by our musicians.
And this will yet continue until we can have both together more regularly.
Chilee Agunanna writes for NAN.