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For art music, composers, scholars gather in Lagos

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor, Production Editor 14 August 2016   |   3:01 am
MUSON Symphony Orchestra after a performance

MUSON Symphony Orchestra after a performance

From August 15 to 19, Lagos will once again swing to the rhythm of African sounds, as the Association of Nigerian Musicologists (ANM) holds its 14th international conference titled, Nigerian Indigenous Music and the Changing Times.

Scheduled for the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos, Akoka, the event will attract scholars, music enthusiasts, policy makers and other stakeholders in the music industry from Nigeria and beyond.

The Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Lagos State, Steve Ayorinde will deliver keynote paper, and lead paper presentation is by Prof. Tunji Vidal, former Dean of Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. There will be panel presentations, workshops, musical performances and awards to be given to Dr. D.K. Olukoya, General Overseer of Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministry, Dr. Tee Mac Itsueli and Mr. Femi Esho for their contributions to music studies and industry in Nigeria.

Dr. Stephen Olusoji, renowned classical music composer, said art music composition, music therapy, gender issues, pop music, socio-political change, movies, techniques for teaching music in the 21st century, sustainable development, globalisation, economy, technology, and their relationships with Nigerian indigenous music will form the sub-themes of the conference.

However, scant finances hamstring hopes of having a wonderful conference. In the words of Olusoji, head of the organising committee, who is also the current acting Head of the Creative Arts Department, University of Lagos, “it’s been quite tasking for the local organising committee to source for funds to host the conference due to the worsening economic situation of the country.”

The university administration provided assistance and logistics as well as other private organisations and individuals.

Since the last two decades or more, art music, previously on the rise in the country’s music curricula, has suffered and very few young Nigerians are training in art musicianship or stagecraft. “These days, fewer and fewer people want to study or practice art music,” lamented Tunji Sotimirin, an actor and lecturer in the university, in an interview with The Guardian.

Sotimirin, a member of the organising committee, said young Nigerians, after their routines in talent shows, never remember art music, because of the money they make.

Compared to instant fame and wealth that come with talent shows, art music lacks the commercial motivation that this ‘now’ generation wants.

When Kunle Ogunrombi, better known as K-Peace, won the 5th season of the Etisalat-sponsored Nigerian Idol, he smiled home with a brand new SUV, cash prize of N7.5 million and a mouth-watering recording deal with Universal Music Company.

Since 2010, Etisalat-Sponsored Nigeria Idol has discovered some of Nigeria’s talented artistes including Yeka Onka (2011), Mercy Chinwo (2012), Moses Adigwe (2013) and Evelle Zibilli (2014), all of who have regularly graced numerous entertainment and musical events nationwide.

While Jeffery Akoh, who emerged winner of the eight edition of MTN Project Fame West Africa, received the grand prize of N5 million, an SUV and a recording contract. Past winners of MTN Project Fame West Africa like Iyanya and Chidinma are hot in the Nigerian music scene.

Recently, on July 31, to be precise, A’rese Emokpae, a 28 year-old stage actress, who has appeared in various theatre acts and musicals, emerged winner of the first edition of The Voice Nigeria, she walked away with a recording contract with Universal, an SUV from Africa Magic worth N7 million and a four-day all expense paid trip for two to Abu Dhabi, courtesy Etihad Airways.

She edged out competitors like Chike, Brenda, Cornel, Patrick, Viveeyan, Nonso Bassey and Dewe to come out tops. In fact, Mojisola Kadiri, one of the contestants, insisted that the show was an opportunity to learn.

The Guardian gathered that at public functions or shows, the commercial artistes collect big money, with the duo of P’Square topping the list, as the highest paid hip-hop acts. The duo are said to charge between N9 and N10 million for shows within Nigeria.

D’banj comes second on the list with a charge between N6 and N7 million to grace any event in the country. Before the split from Mo’Hit, D’banj topped the list with charges between N7 and N8 million, then, P’square was N5 million. Tuface is the third highest paid artiste on the list. Although, his fee is not consistent, he is said to be charging between N5 and N6 million. Tuface, because of his love and passion for the art, easily adjust fees and not always keen like other acts on their particular amount.

Wizkid is the fourth on the list with a gracing fee of N4 to N5 million. Artistes like Omawumi, who actually is the highest paid female star, Flavour, Timaya and Olamide charge N3 million. Others in this category are Darey Art Alade, Duncan Mighty, and Chocolate Music artistes, M.I and Ice-Prince.

The likes of Iyanya, Davido, Wande Coal and Tiwa Savage are in the league of artistes that go for N2.5 million, while D’Prince, Dr. Sid and one time highest earning artiste, 9ice collect N2 million respectively. Naeto C and Waje are said to be in the category of N1.5 million.

For commercial music artiste, chances that they get corporate sponsorship are very high compared to art music. Merely looking at the artistes that have sealed endorsement deals with corporate organisations, you could tell whom the odds favours.

The focus of the conference is to draw attention to the usefulness and functionality of Nigerian /African indigenous music. Delegates are expected from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin Republic, Tanzania, South Africa, U.S.A and others.

But Olusoji insists that classical, serious or academic music is gradually being appreciated in Nigeria with the efforts of associations and organisations such as, ANM, the Musical Society of Nigeria (Muson), MTN and others. “They are helping in the reorientation of the mindset on art music. Younger people are embracing it and studying it in various institutions and conservatories in Nigeria and beyond. It may not be economically buoyant and rewarding as popular music, but it’s future is certainly not bleak,” he revealed.

Since the invasion of the continent by European missionaries and colonialists, external legacies have prevailed over the African ways of live, including its music.

The cultural heritage of Africans began to dwindle at this point, and the notions about African music were presented worthless. The claim of the earliest European writers about African music was that African music was distinctive for its ‘primitiveness’; that Africans have poser in imitating, but very little in inventing.

The curriculum of the missionaries was geared towards literary education, as they focused on the arts including, music, drama, and poetry among others, in their efforts to evangelise to the ‘natives’.

In this way, the awareness for formal music education was raised through the inclusion of music in the school curriculum. The music education of this period as introduced by the missionaries was really meant to serve the interest of the Western European missionaries rather than African interests. Hence, the curriculum was fashioned after European music system. This curriculum emphasised more of Western hymns, school music and art music.

Western musical concerts became more popular in Lagos. It became a symbol of enlightened social personality, especially opera. The educated Lagosians whether white or black with excitement would then demonstrate his love for this western art at the expense of the cultural heritage of the land. It was really an exhibition of large attachment to Victorian culture, a good example of comprehensive love for things European.

The church complemented the activities of private bodies in the organisation of European musical activities mainly through its mission schools. These schools also provided training for African musicians, who later became the pioneers of indigenous Nigerian church music.

It was T.K. Ekundayo Phillips who made the most significant contributions to the growth of Nigerian church music in the first part of this century. As organist and choirmaster of Christ Church Cathedral, the premier church in the Lagos Anglican Diocese, the responsibility fell on him more than any other person to encourage the growth of indigenous music in the church.

The predominant emphasis on Western, rather than African system of music education in Nigerian secondary schools has continued till now. The same system produced musicologists and teachers like Fela Sowande, Wilberforce Echezona, Akin Euba, Ayo Bankole, Laz Ekwueme and Sam Akpabot, pioneers of modern Nigerian music education.

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