O’Rael charts new path for Nigeria’s music industry
The last few years have seen a huge leap for Nigerian music industry in terms of breaking into mainstream global audience. With the help and reach technology is offering, alongside other factors, the Afrobeats, a collective name for contemporary Nigerian music as against Fela’s Afrobeat, is gaining a lot of traction. And it continues to attract Nigeria’s Diaspora community to the country’s cultural offering.
The success of returnees such as, Tiwa Savage, arguably, is another significant factor that will continue to drive interest in and patronage for the current music genre. U.K.-based Nigerian music artiste, Israel Onoriode, whose stage name is Real O’Rael, agrees to the growing acceptance of the genre. He visited Rutam House, Isolo, Lagos head office of The Guardian when he was in the country late last year to record some unique sounds. Real O’Rael is planning an international collaboration between Nigerian and artistes of African descent abroad.
“It is interesting how the Afrobeats has really found its way around the world, especially the blacks living all over the world and in other African countries. It’s almost like it’s the most known genre.”With a background in the art, including a degree in theatre arts and having acted in couple of Nollywood film productions in Nigeria like The Blood Brothers, The Brave Soldier’, Real O’Rael believes the Afrobeats, in spite of its giant strides, should be offering more than what is currently obtainable and pelting the airwaves.
He says, “what they do these days is commendable, but it’s usually and mostly rhythm and dance, huge beats to move people to dance. We’re a happy group of people; we find time to be happy despite everything happening around us.”It is easy for Real O’Rael to criticise what these artistes are playing. What can he offer differently that is missing from the current sound?
According to him, “I do 50s, 60s’ soul music – Afrobeats – is almost like the most known genre. But everyone is doing this now and it has become a routine. So, I thought if I could come back and marry a little bit of cultural, country, and soul music I could bring out something different because everybody seems to be looking for a new path. I think my path will carve a new thing out because Nigerian artistes have ‘exhausted’ all and we need to start afresh.”
Most of the songs being released by contemporary singers have been described as lacking substance. For Real O’Rael, most of the releases are “for the moment” beats, which serve a short time purpose of distracting the listeners from the troubles in the country.He observes, “the music is kind of tilting away from intellectualism because most artistes sing in order for us to dance and forget our sorrows; this is their major goal. Nobody sits to compose lyrical poems; they just make rhythms to make us dance and sing what will make us happy at that moment.
“These youngsters tend to dwell on vulgar language and I’d love to say it’s tilting away from intellectualism and going towards ‘at the moment’ happiness, mocking our situation and trying to make us enjoy it which is what is happening. But if you listen to some songs away from these ‘dance-dance’ songs, you see the construction, the way they used their lyrical poems, their poetic language to bring out their stories, but these songs are not loud out there.
“So, I will try to bring in mine here. It’d be a little bit slow and one will still be able to sway” to it.Real O’Rael’s conviction in his new offering to the Nigerian music space is propelled by the recognition of the evolution of trends.He quips, “We started with highlife and you know highlife belongs to the Ghanaians. But you know, when we start, we own it. Nigerian mentality and that era took highlife to another level. Fela, after studying abroad, came back, sang an induced highlife, which later became known as Afrobeat. It is evolving, waiting for where to go. So, I just feel when I introduce mine, it’d be the next path for everyone.”
Someone who intends to effect some change in the industry cannot miss the rise in the use of the indigenous languages in the contemporary music industry. For Real O’Rael, the language creates credibility with the listeners.
“The first song I sang here was released in Igbo and you know the Igbo. When they enjoy something, they drag you in to enjoy it with them; this was how they promoted it. If you listen to regular genres, they use Igbo slangs, Igbo words.”
For someone who has had a taste of creative life in the country and outside it, Real O’Rael believes he is a bridge between his home country and artistes of his place of residence, the U.K. He plans to hold a music fest to connect the blacks resident in the U.K. with the culture of Nigeria. He opined that Africans on the motherland have not done much to reach out to their fellow blacks in other continents and who left the motherland because of slavery.
“I intend to start something,” he disclosed, “a Black Festival, not African Music Festival, where you have different styles of music. It’d also be held in the U.K., but I want to start from my own country, Nigeria.“I believe we’ve not done enough here and those people (blacks scattered all over the world) are left hanging in the sense that they don’t know history. Our people here in Africa are still struggling to make things all right and it is quite difficult for us to create that open arm for our people on the other side. And because it’s a little bit difficult, people here are running out, and the west (Europeans) is coming here to obtain properties. I told some of the people crying over there about slavery, that if care is not taken, the west will acquire all the properties and leave the real owners at their mercy.”