By Joey Akan
I have talked to artists who have raised their nose in the air the moment our conversation left creativity for the sake of it and delved into the business of commodifying your music in Nigeria. For many creatives who are idealists, the very thought of not making a song based on vibes – but rather, from a big-picture view where the art is treated as an evangelist converting talent into cash – is preposterous.
I am a cultural evangelist for good music and the business that
Nigeria as a music market is diverse, with lots of audiences spread across geographical locations and demographic divisions. But the highest earners at every point in the past 10 years, have been the people who can connect to the highest amount of listeners. They speak the language of the masses and offer them entertainment which inspires them mostly to dance. Check out every year since 2010 and name the top 3 musicians by December, and you would discover great artists who offered entertainment first as a commodity, before caring about the finer points of the music. Also, these winners are the ones that the critics mostly hate for making a special type of music: Bangers.
Let’s not get it twisted. Bangers are amazing. They are ‘sweet’. They hit you like a great friend, hugging and rocking your body, through heavy beats which inspire you to react to the music. With each timed intricate step you take, or every twist and whine you do to stay ‘on-beat’, you are catapulted to a higher state where you are happier, and the world feels a little rosier at that moment. Bangers are the reason why Nigeria is regarded as a hub for African music. Every time we export our music, we find willing ears and hearts across the world, waiting to connect to our rhythm and drumming. People rock with Afrobeats because it soaks them in the elevating powers of our bangers.
Then why are Nigerian intellectuals and ‘core’ creatives averse to the very concept of it? Well, because they value technique over vibe. And while a technique is important for the creation of anything that matters, we also have to understand that music is an effort at creativity, which is itself, a force of nature that is in constant flux. Creativity as a concept is synonymous with change. And if people can alter the mix of their elements to create a product that skips traditional requirements, but connect on a stronger level with their listeners, isn’t that a triumph for creativity?
There’s an argument to be had here that bangers are sonic fluff, and creating an ecosystem that is banger-centric will push artists that make inventive sounds far away from mainstream consciousness that the general consuming public will lose absolute interest in helping sustain these creatives by patronizing them.
But those aren’t fact. They are fears. And this specific fear is limiting. Why suffer and persecute a winning sound because it doesn’t fit some archaic rule? Why obstruct the happiness of the majority because some dead guy told everyone that music must have sensible lyrics? Who makes this stuff up? They are humans right? If yes, why aren’t you, a human, seeking to tear the rules to fit your audience? Why are you relinquishing your power?
Bangers sustain the Nigerian music industry. And for all your complaints about the lack of lyrics, it continues to thrive in countless spaces that accept it for its lyrical poverty. Take away bangers, and what we will have left is a drought of everything nice, and an expanse of land filled with tuneless music, broken artistic dreams and failed attempts to fly. Bangers are the reason why we have any pride in this music. Afrobeats is bang on the money. It’s the pulse of the people. It fulfils a noble need for the populace, feeds its evangelist, and offers longevity of rulership that no other genre on this continent has ever enjoyed. Oya, gbe body e!