By Ore Fakorede
Uninspired lyrics, recycled beats and similarly-themed music videos. These are the hallmarks of present-day Nigerian music. Biased toward the desperate need to create dance hits, Nigerian artistes have resorted to applying the Afro-pop formula that all so-called club bangers derive from. Proper songwriting is a lost art, that's if it ever even really existed, and 'musicians' (used for lack of a better term) will wear as many hats as they can—singer, rapper, songwriter, producer, one-man record label—even if they clearly lack the natural aptitude to play any of those roles properly.
Some artistes resist the pressure to blend in, struggling until middling airplay and financial pressures compel them to give in and follow the beaten path to the next shoki
anthem, a quick fix steeped in Auto-Tune and chock-full of elements from several dozen forgettable 'jams' before it. Then the requisite music video is shot and its high-definition frames are filled with curvaceous women objectified in the worst ways, borrowed articles of ostentation (to give off the impression of new-found wealth), and over-the-top dancing that would make an African mother blush with embarrassment. All sound and fury, signifying nothing. Lyricists become singers, excellent vocalists become 'crooners' and they all sleep with their heads in the same direction. Everyone is chasing mass appeal, no one is making actual art.
But maybe there are a few good ones, true creators who would rather starve than make pangolo music. The ones painstaking enough to write and record sixty-four bars of profound rap overflowing with intelligence, and brave enough to defy convention and release that compelling piece of art as a track that has no hook or intermission. The ones who will go to the ends of the earth to find a guitarist skilled enough to play a two-minute solo on a track tucked away on a nineteen-track album the exact way they heard it in their head. The ones who can't perform without a live band, ashamed to be caught singing over their own songs at shows like juvenile participants in a Barney sing-along. The ones who make music so delightfully off the path that it can only be called alternative.
One of such artistes is Bemyoda whom you may not have heard of because Afro-pop has insinuated itself in your ears for too long and maybe even deafened you a little. His Sketch
EP is made of different stuff than the typical Nigerian hit, brimming with the kind of meaning that makes you play a song over and over again till its lyrics reverberate within the walls of your heart. Yes, your heart. And two years away from that vastly underappreciated release, he rises even farther above himself with a new single, Forever
, the first from his upcoming debut album, Stark
. This song is a reason to believe that Nigerian music can be far more than it is. It is a rekindling of the hope that there are more than a few gems standing apart from the crowd of part-time artistes who have made a mockery of the hallowed process of music-making. Maybe their voices have just been drowned out by the noise of mediocrity. Maybe they need amplifiers and massive speakers to be heard, but they will be heard. The world will have to listen, beginning with you. Press play.
Feature image via VEVO