Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Flogging A (Hopefully) Dead Horse...

It is indeed a fine time to be a critic…

Wow! After reading Reuben Abati’s article on nationality and the face of our emerging music landscape and Banky W’s rejoinder to the said article, I can only conclude that for once I am really proud of the jolt it has given the entire Naija (or is it Nigerian?) entertainment industry to carry out some much-needed soul-searching.

When many of us FaceBook-ers saw the notifications on our FB Wall, little did we know that an earthquake was in the making.

For those of you not in the know, Reuben Abati’s piece is in summary, a tongue-lashing of the younger generation of Nigerian entertainers (and we the audiences alike) written in the context of comparisons of past and present music, their respective proponents, the re-mixing of the national anthem and the current style of abbreviated nomenclature which in Mr. Abati’s view represents an alarming loss of national identity.

Banky W’s equally sarcastic yet respectful response on the other hand, which strives to make a case for the younger generation challenges several notions as proposed by Mr. Abati by drawing parallels with the music greats of old as well as highlighting the survivalist entrepreneurial attributes of the present generation and the shortcomings of the much-longed-for “Golden Age”.

As a slight deviation from the very serious issues being treated here, having written the last two paragraphs myself without duly consulting an encyclopedia, thesaurus or concordance, I have indeed proven that I happen to be far more enlightened then Mr. Abati would give my generation credit for and just as polished as Mr. Banky clearly show he is. In short, I am indeed proud of myself. Gbam!

In all honesty I had earlier written a highly intellectual rejoinder to all these rejoinders challenging all Mr. Abati’s assumptions, supporting his valid points and generally proving to him that I know who Lord Lugard and his consort, Flora Shaw were. On the other hand, I also disputed a few of Banky’s sweeping statements supporting a generation of musicians, most of whom - in my opinion - don’t know a musical notation flat from a flat tire.

However, after reading both articles plus the million and one responses that have accompanied both, to tell the truth I am tired of all the bullshitting (pardon my French). I now regret to announce that I have scrapped my intellectual masterpiece.

After reading Tosyn Bucknor’s own post on the issue, I am all very much tempted to pitch camp with her (a very small camp tent for that matter) and say “Warraheck???” What is all this noise about anyway?

As far as I am concerned, half of these reactions to both articles stem from musicians who were annoyed with their perceived misrepresentation (or the wrong spelling of their names or that of their corporate sponsors) in Mr. Abati’s piece. The other half are probably pissed-off that Mr. Abati neglected to mention them.

Rant as we might, we cannot deny some fundamental facts these issues have raised. Mr. Abati was right when he said, “Music is about sense, sound, shape and skills. But there is an on-going deficit in all other aspects except sound. So much sound is being produced in Nigeria, but there is very little sense, shape and skills.”

Banky W was also right when he said, “Far be it from us to claim that we are perfect and flawless in our art... we know that we are still growing and have lots of areas to improve, but the truth of the matter is we have worked very hard to create the industry we have now.”

And Tosyn Bucknor was very, very, very correct when she said “You know what’s worse than someone trying to get your attention? Giving it to them. Which is what I’ve seen a lot of my dear friends and acquaintances do lately.”

And then she said “I see Nigerian artistes who basically have to fend for themselves because structures that should have been put in place where eroded a long time ago! And I applaud the artistes who find this article annoying. Me, I just don’t get why they are paying it this much attention.”

But she hit the hammer squarest on the head when she said “Do they pay us attention when as their fans, we complain that everyone is using the same beat? Has anyone of them listened to us when we say we are tired of ‘Moet’, ‘Bentley’, ‘Maga’ and other words in their lyrics? When last did they show they care, that in spite of the fact that we cringe when we listen to some of the music they churn out, we still support them wholeheartedly?”

Let me guess: Banky’s article will be a favourite with his contemporary artistes who no doubt have linked it into online posterity, clipped out printed copies to pin up on their walls or distribute like fliers at a concert venues and written their own supporting rejoinders to the rejoinders of his rejoinder.

Reuben Abati’s write-up will continuously come under fire till maybe next week when people will tire of it and look for something else to talk (or sing about). Undoubtedly it will spurn a new generation of critics who have now found the courage to say what they’ve been afraid to say all this while about the Naija entertainment industry. Tosyn Bucknor’s (and probably mine as well, who knows) may not come under any fire whatsoever but will be forgotten just as soon.

Like I always say: having a voice is one thing. Saying the right things with that voice is another.

Before the state of my sanity is called into question, let me state here that Abati has never been one to shy away from the truth (or his perception of what truth is) or been known to call a spade a common gardening tool. It isn’t easy to earn my respect but he has earned it and rightly too. However I must agree with the mob on this one. Mr. Abati’s article though finely written indirectly ends up poking out the eye in the process of trying to remove the splinter.

And who knows, maybe poking out that eye has ironically made us see all the better.

While many of the younger generation are still busy celebrating this demonstration of our new-found voice, a few seemed so stunned by the discovery that they do have a voice, so much so that they end up abusing the privilege. I must admit that it was very disheartening seeing people attack Mr. Abati’s character rather that focus squarely on the issues contained in his message.

I am afraid that eventually I have ended up substituting one boringly intellectual post for another. In closing therefore, let me borrow a few lines from my previously scrapped post in which I wrote concerning the loss of national identity which is the bigger issue here and not music:

What is the loss of National Identity? Is it definable in the decaying moral, economic, political and musical fabrics of the present times? Was there indeed a national identity in the first place? Or is what we are seeing now the fall-out of judgements impaired by a cool evening breeze and a romantic moment between Lord Lugard and Flora Shaw?

In all honesty, the loss of national identity started way before Mr. Abati’s time and will go on past Mr. Banky’s generation into the next unless we start realising why we are Nigerians and not how we came to be Nigerians. For like it or not, we are Nigerians. This country is going down in all sectors, not just music and we collectively, old, young, dying and unborn have to pull it up by the bootstraps. I must confess that I do not really know how to do this but surely, throwing generational stones isn’t one of them.

I love Nigeria. I love the youth of Naija. I am proud of Nija, 9ja, Gidi or any other contrivances of nomenclature future generations may come to know this national entity by.

For like I have come to know, as the current re-branding exercise will undoubtedly show, it is not the name by which we call anything that makes it worthwhile.

It is the heart that counts…


akaBagucci said...

Perhaps -- you and I are aligned on this one... I found the Abati – Banky war of words intriguing… I typically have found Abati’s writing better researched than this one.

At the risk of being slaughtered, perhaps Abati’s fumble was in finding the wrong root causes to the right questions. It is true, that we lack a truly Nigerian ethos; but the use of terms like Naija, Naij and co have actually rallied a generation of youths to a semblance of nationalism in my opinion.

BSNC said...

i read the article and the response on someone's blog... Banky hit the nail on the wall..

Naughty Eyes said...

@ akaBagucci: True word. You can add that somewhere in my post and it would rhyme well with its style. Great minds...

@ BSNC: I rest my case...


Hmmm. I found it hard to read Abati's article and harder still to read the many responses last week. I have taken my time and avoided as much of the 'war of words' as possible.

That being said, my take on the Abati article is not that his concerns were unfounded, but that in discussing the very important issues he raised, he was utterly and completely dismissive of youth and youth culture. That is not necessarily surprising, unfortunately, given the general Nigerian attitude towards young people who are to be seen but not heard, but must still rise to the occasion when the time presents itself. There is simply a generational divide, but it doesn't need to be as wide as some think. We just all need to talk about it, respectfully.

As to Nigerian music, yes, some of it is not up to the standard I would like, but rather than throw the baby out with the bath water, how about pointing out those who are doing well, and encouraging them? It will set a standard for others to attain. And one cannot ignore what could be interpreted as a dismissive tone towards blogging in his article. Personally, I chose not to touch that one as I needed to keep my response as brief as possible but I would be interested in seeing someone else's take on it.

I wish the best to Abati, and everyone, in general. I just hope that we can find a way to respectfully discuss the issues of pertinence to Nigeria so as to figure out a way forward. Whether the issues involve music, the national anthem, nation ownership or nicknames.

Nice post, my broda.