For Bantu, Everybody Get Agenda In Nigeria
The very first sounds you hear on this album are awakening, especially in this restive time Nigeria currently faces.
“Plenty plenty body for open sea; Mediterranean na cemetery. Africa future dey die o,” the voice laments from Water Cemetery, the opening song of Bantu’s 7th studio album dubbed Everybody Get Agenda.
In this latest 10-track offering from the 13-man band, Bantu vividly x-rays Nigeria’s perennial socio-political problems, in the most relatable manner; and while the album preaches that change is possible, listening to it would tell you why.
In a perfect blend of Afrofunk, Afrobeat, Highlife, Hip/hop, Jazz and Soul, Bantu’s musical brushstrokes portray Nigeria’s political landscape as a marketplace of different agendas.
“Dem go plunder our treasure, quadruple their salaries. Dem go mock our suffering, laugh our pain,” the second song, Killers and Looters, stretches the mood of the album further with its narrative on politicians engaging in money laundering.
Other woke songs like Cash and Carry continue to poke passionate fingers at the eyeballs of corrupt leaders, with strong activism-laden lyrics like “Dem murder Bola Ige. Blow up Dele Giwa. Play us like Barca, make we no remember. Prosperity worship na our motto. Prayer and fasting should never replace sweat. Loyalty na cash and carry. Rejection na mortuary. Everybody get agenda.”
Bantu further takes us to the classrooms of Nigeria’s reality, with the song Yeye Theory where he enlists Afrobeat Veteran Seun Kuti to condemn the miseducation of Africans by the colonial government.
Lyrics like “Dem go reinvent another yeye theory, just to keep us in slavery,” shed light on many extant issues within Nigeria’s education curricula, foremost of which is the exemption of History as a subject from primary and secondary schools.
Other songs such as Big Lie, Jagun Jagun, Disrupt the Programme, Man know man, Animal Carnival, Me, Myself and I, collectively strengthen the plot of the album, which is aptly summarised in its title Everybody Get Agenda. Big Lie speaks out against sycophancy and gullibility to politically doctored narratives; Jagun Jagun (Warrior) and Disrupt the Programme both stir the revolutionary (Warrior) spirit of Nigerians to revolt against bad governance; Man Know Man, Animal Carnival and Me, Myself and I collectively lay the perfect finishing to the infamous narratives on Everybody Get Agenda, solemnly and humorously reflecting on the difficult survival state of the average Nigerian.
A perfect harvest of the realities of the common man, Everybody Get Agenda had only one agenda: to create a progressive consciousness among Nigerians, drawing its inspiration from the country’s commercial and cultural capital, Lagos.
In a chat with the leader of the band, Ade Bantu, he tells Guardian Music, “One of the main inspirations behind the melodies is Lagos. The city is full of chaos, beauty, hope, desire, fear, joy and so much more. Lagos rubs off you as a musician consciously and subconsciously.
“I (also) have no choice than to be vocal about the very disturbing realities of Nigeria. It would be near criminal to not talk about corruption, the criminalisation of poverty, the growing threats to freedom of speech, insecurity, the reemergence of authoritarian rule etc. I want our people to understand that nothing will change as long as we do not stand up for our rights, go out into the streets and hold our officeholders accountable.”
Beginning the birthing of the album in 2018, the labour period of the album was both delicate and deliberate, as the musicians chronicled the realities with evidently careful detail.
“Production started mid-2018. We (13-band members) all met in our rehearsal studio and chipped in our various ideas. Over time, they evolved into melodies, beats, horn lines etc. We then arranged and structured them out into songs before going into the studio to record them. There are no egos involved when we compose. Our sole objective is to serve the music. When you approach songwriting from that mindset, magic happens,” Ade Bantu explains.
Rooting its sounds strongly in the iconic Afrobeat genre, Bantu’s every day Get Agenda sounds more like a refined Fela Kuti album, although it bears multiple elements of Jazz, Soul and even Hip-Hop. The band envisions Afrobeat as an enduring genre, and one they would keep as the heartbeat of their sounds. They also emphasise the importance of band-created sounds over computer-generated sounds, in creating niche sounds for musicians.
“Afrobeat has a bright future; Femi and Seun Kuti have kept their father’s legacy up and alive. They have both managed to forge their own distinct identities while promoting the core Afrobeat sound. You also have a new generation of young artists, who cite Fela as their inspiration; they sample his music and melodies in his song and are so able to awaken an interest in Afrobeat amongst their peers. What is most important though is that a lot of young artists are beginning to understand that you need to work with a band, if you want to have a lasting and enduring career that is also part of the legacy of not only Afrobeat but Highlife, Juju, Fuji, Afro-funk and other musical styles.”
While emphasising its desire to revive the live music culture in Nigeria, the 24-year-old band expressed that it is also liberal enough to work with emerging Nigerian artistes.
“We want to share and also learn from other musicians because there is no way you can grow and evolve personally and musically if you are not open and attentive to what is happening around you. With our concert series and music festival called Afropolitan Vibes, which has been running for about seven years, in Lagos, we have been able to collaborate with over 160 musical acts from all genres and musical styles. We have had everyone from Burna Boy, Yemi Alade, Salawa Abeni, Victor Olaya to Teni grace our stage.”
The band, which also doubles as a musical educator, continues to believe that, while Nigeria still grapples with the same problems, despite the large discography of activism-centred music in its soundscape, there is still hope for development.
“The average Nigerian is open to change and want to see things improve. The problem is our leadership, the looting class and their allies who continue to mock our suffering and laugh at our pain. But they know the tide is changing. Nigerians are becoming more vocal and aware of their rights, no matter how much they try to stifle or intimate us, we will continue to confront oppressors and demand social and economic justice.”
Toasting to its enduring familial bond amid its members, the band expressed that with Everybody Get Agenda, it desires for “people to rediscover the beauty of hand-made music. It is also music with a message that will hopefully inspire our listeners to stand up against the current status quo.”
They also revealed that they have a music documentary film in the works dubbed ‘Elders Corner’, where they recorded music alongside legends such as Ebenezer Obey, Jimi Solanke and Paulson Kalu.
When you close curtains on listening to the album, which also is laden with an intense replay value – owed largely to its sound harmony and relatability – the message imbued in the projects rings clear through your mind: It is all different strokes for different folks, but with the Nigerian polity, there is a consistent plague of selfish and corrupt vendettas that can only be swept away by the brooms of a revolution.