How Not To Rewrite Nigeria’s Music History
For a lot of millennials born at the onset of the internet explosion, especially those whose sense of Nigeria’s past is shaped by social media, an accuracy of the past, the little they know of it, is sometimes shaky.
And for Generation Z’ers and those before them, who were schooled by grandparents and parents, through traditional lores and history, the need to educate errant ‘children of nowadays’ is a task that must be undertaken.
The reason is not far-fetched. Allowing those with a distorted sense of history rewrite the very history they do not understand is tantamount to burying the past under the dust of ignorance.
So when famed culture critic and journalist Molara Wood recently corrected the notion that Wizkid is the first Nigerian music act to sell out shows in the United Kingdom, her message on Twitter was clear- “the ignorant kill their own god.”
Wood’s poignant, yet realistic statement, reflects how the popularity of Afrobeats, itself welcomed by the bastardisation of Fela’s Afrobeat, has limited young people’s appreciation of the Nigerian music legend that put the country’s name on the map of world music before the present band of music stars.
“It was impossible in [the] UK a few years ago for a Naija act to headline a festival”, a Nigerian @moelahjr living in the UK tweeted on March 27, along with a poster of The Ends Festival featuring Wizkid as one of the headliners.
That the tweet was retweeted 726 times and got 280 likes showed that many agreed with his sentiment. That is why Wood’s three-tweet thread was (and is still important).
Before Wizkid, Davido and Olumide became a few of the biggest exports Nigeria gave to the world, I.K Dairo, King Sunny Ade, Ayinde Barrister and Fela Kuti headlined festivals and played in multiple cities in single tours.
While Fela’s oeuvre and lifestyle are still influential in present-day Nigeria – perhaps because of the accessibility foisted on his music by the Nigerian Pidgin – King Sunny Ade’s impact and records have gone largely underappreciated.
KSA Syncro System fetched him a Grammy nomination in 1983, seven years before Wizkid was born, nine before the birth of Davido and three years after Tiwa Savage was born. That made KSA the first ever Nigerian to be nominated for the award.
That album was named among “Albums of the Year for 1983” by a British publication NME.
More importantly, KSA is credited by the New York Times with “starting the World Beat movement in the United States.”
Like the Yoruba people would say, it is easy to boast of the mightiness of your father’s farm if you have not seen anything bigger than it. To claim that the likes of Wizkid and others in his category were the best thing to ever happen to Nigerian music is rewriting the history upside down. That’s not to discount their importance in expanding the frontiers of Nigeria’s soft power in Africa and beyond.
The new generation might be selling out concert venues. But before them, others, in spite of the language barrier, did that, too.
The records are there for all to see – no amount of social media ignorance can erase them.