Judges Set The Tone As Search For Next Nigerian Idol Begins
In 2011 when Onyekachi Onwuka dazzled the judges including Jeffrey Daniel, Audu Maikori and Yinka Davies, with her golden voice, aspiring musicians across Africa saw the Nigerian Idol reality TV show for what it truly is – a beacon of hope.
Yeka Onka, as she was fondly called, walked home with a sum of N7.5m, a recording contract with Sony Music, as well as an all-expense paid vacation to South Africa. It was a big deal, at the time, when Nigerian music was still struggling for attention from an audience that had a strong apathy for Nigerian, and by extension, African music.
Yet, hinging on the successes of the regional West African Idol, where superstar singer Timi Dakolo emerged winner in 2007, the Nigerian Idol brought back the zeal, the hunger and appreciation for Nigerian music, which was lost in the winds of the ‘70s, and ‘80s.
Now, after six successful editions, spanning over 11 years, the franchise has not only reversed the lacklustre appeal with Nigerian music; it has become one of the biggest talent discovery platforms on the continent.
Last year, viewers from across Africa witnessed, with enthusiasm, how the Bayelsa native Kingdom Kroseide stole the hearts of the audience with his enchanting vocals, masterful delivery and jaw-dropping charisma to become the winner of the Nigerian Idol Season 6. With three times the original winning prize (N30 million), as well as other mouth-watering fringe benefits, the competition has now become the El Doraldo for all budding musicians on the continent.
As the seventh edition of the show premieres next month, the million-dollar question on everyone’s lips is, what does it take, other than luck, talent and self-confidence to navigate the hurdles and become a subsequent winner on the show?
For the veteran music executive, Obi Asika, who is returning as a judge on the show, the most critical factor remains the ability to handle pressure.
In a chat with Guardian Music, the music promoter explained, “Some people fall away because they weren’t prepared or they couldn’t deliver their performances when it counts; they get nervous or afraid. There are thousands of reasons why people fall out, and one of it is managing pressure; it is a key element to being successful. I think it is sometimes beyond being a great singer; some people think that they can really sing, but when they come out on stage, they see that they really can’t.”
For this year’s edition, the auditions, which were held in December 2021, saw over 10,000 aspiring singers from across the country. After what was a painstaking pruning process, the judges comprising Asika, as well as the newest faces on the show (D’banj and Simi) were able to harmonise their choices to 10 stellar individuals.
For Asika, this was more than a game of luck. “I could tell you that we have a great pool of talent – bringing them down from the numbers they gave us to 10 was just unbelievably hard. We argued forever. There were some people left behind. So, yeah it is intense, because the talent level is high. I am a big fan of a couple of them, but there are some special talents.”
Stretching the discourse further, an excited D’banj also admitted that among all the features required by contestants that self-confidence remains a primary factor.
D’Banj, who expressed his optimism in being a judge on the show, explained that “Usually, we’ve realised in the industry that it’s not the best singer that makes the best star or it’s not the best talent that makes the best performance,” adding that for a singer to emerge winner he or she should possess the “whole package.”
Mirroring Asika’s definition of “the whole package,” it means that the contestants need to “have their own authentic sound and their own unique perspective. I am looking for the full package – looks, performance and voices.”
On her debut into the show, an elated Simi agrees that self-confidence for her is a root criterion for a winning contestant.
“You just have to be confident and be talented. I think some things do not just happen – people don’t give room for cheats. Personally, I know if I go on this show, I would have flopped in my audition, because I used to have backstage fright when I was much younger. I think if I can see that they (the contestants) really want enough, and they are actually good at what they are doing, you know, I will tell them yes – unless my yes has finished.”
As the African music industry continues to thrive in the centrestage of the global musicdom, the judges also opined that shows like the Nigerian Idols are critical for the industry to enhance and sustain its current successes.
According to Asika, “First, this is the biggest discovery platform in Africa. Season 6 had over a 100 million votes. There are over 54 countries watching you. All kinds of people are watching you, discovering your talent. On the other hand, it is great for the industry to see new talents coming through.”
Although, he was quick to add, “All talents coming out of Nigerian Idols aren’t necessarily going to be stars. There is a transition from reality shows to becoming talents; it is not a guarantee. That is why over the years, we don’t have guaranteed people becoming stars. The winner now has to work with people who can guide them and give them the tools to be successful. That is one of the reasons I am on the show. My company is already looking after Kingdom who won the last edition. And they are taking him through that process of artiste development.”
On his part, D’banj explained that the show primarily gives the much needed “hope” for aspiring musicians, many of which have the potential to become the continent’s next Grammy-winning artiste.
“I was talking to my fellow judge, and the first thing we realized was that we have so many talents and this is across all creative platforms in Nigeria. So, we have to build a platform for people to showcase these talents. Anything that we can do, and I think talent is the main thing. Amongst other shows I’ve looked at, there have been shows that I can say that there have been stars like Timi Dakolo, my sister Omawunmi, among others. And you could see that from there, they have been able to give other people hope. So, many people want to be influencers and superstars, and what we can do is give them a chance for that. I am excited and I am looking forward to the talents.”
Simi also corroborated that it is important to have “a platform for upcoming artistes, as you know the industry is very saturated. So, it’s nice to be able to have a platform where they are able to showcase their talents. This way, they are able to jump into other opportunities.”
As the race to discover the next Nigerian Idol begins, the judges are enthusiastic about the excitement, fun and intrigues to be discovered on the show.
While Asika is unperturbed by any looming backlash, because he is confident about “giving people objective assessment,” and even when he is saying no, “it is because I am trying to help you get better,” he believes that the show will remain packed with momentum until the very end.
Simi, on her part, notes that her strategy would be to always “say what’s on my mind, and try my best to be kind, to be honest and it’s not to break the spirit (of the contestants). So, I’m going to be able to find balance.”
She adds that her final tips to the contestants, and to all other aspiring superstars would be to “not let anyone dream for you and also be open to constructive criticism, because you never know what you are missing. Also, everybody has an opinion about something, but you have to filter. Nobody is right about everything. So, as long as you trust your instincts, and you believe in what you are doing, you will make mistakes and you will get better.”
On his part, D’banj, who is notorious for his infectious groove promised Africans that he will remain true to himself throughout the show.
“Expect lifestyle bangers; I am ready for them. They should expect to see me; they should expect to be entertained. They should expect to get everything they’ve always known D’banj for. This is an opportunity for us to see, so that’s why I am excited about the show,” he said enthusiastically.
So, as all eyes remain glued to their screens for the next few weeks, awaiting of the intrigues, the drama and the glam that comes with the show, anticipation is high on who would succeed the legacies of Yeka Onka, Mercy Chinwo, Moses Adigwe, Evelle, K-peace, and Kingdom Kroseide, to become the next Nigerian Idol.