Jazz remains the bedrock for all other music genres, says Olota
Nigerian music industry has continued to experience a lot of changes over the years. From its early highlife flavours of the 1960s and 1970s to the pop and reggae raves of the 1980s and 1990s to its current Naija pop and resurgent highlife, together with its high breed linguistic fusions, Nigerian music has witnessed unparalleled dynamism.
But in all of this shifting of genres to suite the times and tastes, jazz undercurrent seems unmistakable. So claims a jazz exponent, Seun Olota of Seun Olota & Extasi Gang. In explaining the state of jazz music in the country today and its influence on all other music categories, Olota said, “Jazz music will always remain a bedrock for all other music genres. In the U.S., for instance, you find more projection for R&B and hip-hop, but I think when people want to do the main things, particularly in a society that has not lost its song consciousness, you see the jazz music being utilised.”
The saxophonist and band player, who has had the privilege of tasting what music used to be in the country back in the days, expressed his thoughts on Nigerian contemporary music and the way forward so its current good fortune could last.
In a recent chat with The Guardian, Olota, whose musical journey started since 1999, explained that the opportunities that have come his way are evidence that the time and effort he has spent in investing in his craft has not been in vain.
According to him, “Tahe journey has been interesting, fulfilling, explorative and, in some cases, I get opportunities like the Tony Allen’s West African tour. I get invited to play in places like Massa, Cote-D’ivoire, and some other opportunities to perform outside the country.”
His new project titled Homebrew is an advocacy for proper documentation and exposure of African contents, especially in the aspect of music. He is displeased that foreigners do most of the documentations of Africa’s best works in music and the arts, adding, “We are not documenting our own and how did we get to this level where history makes no sense to us? You will find out that the highest documentaries about Fela were all done by people outside.”
In addition to his new project, Olota seeks to create an amplified medium of expression, and sensitization to encourage people with Down syndrome. He intends to encourage people that Down syndrome is nothing to be ashamed of as nobody determines their own biological make-up. He said he has been actively involved with Down syndrome foundations around the country.
“We have so many of them in the arts, in the sports; there was one Solomon Omere, who was the lead character in the last Super Story series; he won silver medal in Paralympics. These are some of the opportunities that are presented to them; they have the can-do spirit.”
Ethics in music in the country has been thrown out the window, Olota volunteers, saying it makes for poor artistic morals. For Olota, the spirit behind music collaborations has been killed in the country and turned to a medium of profit making.
According to him, “Artists now use collaboration to collect money from people. They collect money because they feel they are coming to promote your album or your brand of music for you. Cheap publicity to me is fake.”
Olota emphasised the benefit of standing the test of time, saying that making a great name is not something that can be done overnight in music, “This has been my own drive, my own story, my own history, because some people will look back and will never regret some of the pushes they have given us. I think Africa is beginning to make good progress; we are getting there, and we will get there, especially with the use of technology. In the Nigerian music industry, we cannot overemphasise training; we cannot overemphasise professionalism and we cannot overemphasise documentation.”