BY AYENI ADEKUNLE SAMUEL
ON Saturday February 17, Dare Art Alade, son of late entertainer, Modupe Arthur- Alade, finally tied the knots with his Abuja-based lover Deola Ayeni. It was not enough that the couple had gifted singer Sunny Neji sing them out of singlehood; Dare, a performer and recording artiste, sang a special tune dedicated to the love of his life. And it was not just Deola- an interior decorator- that was moved to tears.The entire guests stood and watched in admiration, amazed at the amount of love on display, and the enormity of Dare’s talent. But that was not the first time multitudes would raise their brows and develop goose pimples while listening to Dare sing. The young man’s talent suddenly leaped to the fore in 2004, while he represented Nigeria at the project fame academy in South Africa. Night after night, did we not sit in front of our televisions, watching his performances, and telling whoever cared to listen that he was our homeboy?
The University of Lagos alumnus did us proud at the music reality show, and he secured for himself an assured future as a recording artiste- despite the fact that he came third.
All over the world, since God knows when, talent hunts have been one of the surest ways of jumpstarting a career in show business. Some of today’s highest selling artistes, including Kelly Clarkson, Psquare, Sound Sultan, Lemar and Carrie Underwood are products of Talent hunts- the most popular of them being Idols, a singing reality show founded by Simon Fuller.
The Idols format has been commissioned and produced in 30 world territories, has been enjoyed by over 110 million viewers across the globe, and has generated an incredible 1.5 billion votes. So, when I heard, last December, that Idols was coming to West Africa, and by implication, Nigeria, I gave the producers thumbs up, and battled sleepless nights, waiting for the kick off, and how the show would help further develop our local industry. Now, for the past one week, I have been watching Idols West Africa auditions on MNET, and, I’m afraid, is this what we’ve all been waiting for?
Perhaps some of us are in a bit of a hurry, but, following the show, day after day, it’s easy to get your high blood pressure soared – especially if, like me, you have the love of music encoded in your DNA.
To start with, the credentials of the judges are questionable. If, indeed, Dan Foster, my favourite radio on-air personality was chosen as an international judge, whatever happened to proper music business folks from major international label and media, who can look at contestants from the perspective of international music business, since the winner is to be an international recording star?
True, Dan was born and bred in Baltimore, U.S.A., and he’s a bonafide American, but, let’s face it, the acclaimed broadcaster has become an integral part of the Nigerian scene, and I do not see him bringing any fantastic international concepts, viewpoints or ideas to the table.
It would have been better if he had been chosen based on his job as a radio presenter, someone who can identify a song that’ll become a hit, from a mere snippet.
If I can tolerate Dan, Dede, the Simon Cowell wannabe on the board, is a no no. Before Idols West Africa where he’s struggling desperately to be Africa’s Simon Cowell (Simon is one of the judges for American Idol, along with Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. He’s infamous for his caustic and harsh remarks, though some do find him entertaining), Dede was mostly known as a Fela protZgZe, wannabe and at times, impostor. There’s no doubt, that Mr Mabiakwu understands the colours of good music, having enjoyed the tutelage of afrobeat creator Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. But having him as judge, for the first-ever idols West Africa does a lot to diminish the quality of the show. To have a yet-to-debut artiste with no known body of work, one who feeds shamelessly on Fela’s vast repertoire, sit as judge on a highly rated show as Idols, is like asking a karaoke singer headline a show at the national stadium. Joke, isn’t it? In a continent that parades accomplished music stars like Femi Kuti, Youssou N’doir, Lagbaja, Reggie Rockstone, Sunny Neji, Angelique Kidjo and several others, I wonder who came up with Dede’s name, and more puzzling is the fact that whoever was in charge deemed it fit to give him the job. If the contestants have the likes of Dede to look up to, then I have an idea the kind of career the organisers have in mind for the eventual winner. Well, except Dede has some secret credentials we all are ignorant of.
Abrewa Nana, I like, but then, it seems she came determined to make sure none of the talented girls make it into the show.
The Ghanaian recording artiste knows what time it is, when the subject is music, and I imagine that the continent will get used to her as the show heats up. But she has to tuck her liking for guys into her briefs and give the girls a chance (don’t worry, she confessed on the idols website: ‘I like handsome guys’).
Meanwhile, my head has not stopped aching, since realizing that the judging board is made up of two musicians and a radio presenter.
Having a producer like OJB Jezreel, Cobhams Asuquo, would not have been a bad idea. And we might as well forget about the ‘west Africa’ tag. The organizers are looking for a pop star, that’ll fit easily into the present global scheme.
An African bred pop star that’ll achieve what King Sunny Ade (Island records), Ebenezer Obey (Virgin), Majek Fashek (Tuff Gong) failed to achieve in the nineties. Goodbye Afrobeat. Goodbye Juju, goodbye highlife. The time is pop- o-clock!
Still I do not see the present set of judges capable of selecting the right winner for Idols West Africa. Some of us can’t sing to save our lives, but we can tell a good singer when we see one. We can tell who has potentials too. But no, not the judges- they want every note to be in place… right key… right rendition… and, even, right song… if I have it all so together, why not go looking for a record deal, instead of a reality show? The idea is to identify the contestants with the best voices, looks and potentials, and groom them to become world pop idols.
Thank God the fans will be actively involved. And since it is a pop star we’re looking for, what’s wrong with fans choosing the winner for us?
But then what do we do about the plenty talents the judges have failed to send to Planet One? Especially in Abuja where Nana kept saying No like she was paid to do so.
Did anyone notice when Dede protested? For once, I was almost glad the guy was on the board.
Only 12 contestants were picked in Abuja, as opposed to 45 in Lagos. Dan, Dede and Nana were not only tired, it appeared they were under instruction not to exceed a particular number of winners.
As one observer put it: the judges lifted few spirits, but dampened many that deserved to be lifted. Talking of talents, didn’t we all see many jokers who came there to embarrass themselves and their family?
I have been told that contestants like these, are allowed to participate, for the entertainment they bring, and the humour that’ll come from judges’ ridicule, but, why allow a mad man (there was a rastaman called Kingsley whose audition presents him as nothing but a mad man) wait for six hours to be auditioned?
And why dismiss those who fail to impress with such negative finality as if the judges were God? It’s bad enough that you’re not taking these guys. Why rub it in their faces with such recklessness?
Didn’t someone tell Kabelo and Kenny Ogungbe their faces were not good enough for TV, years before both found fame and fortune on the screen? Words are like swords. They pierce deep into the soul, and most times never heal fully.
I remember executives at Roc A Fella telling Kanye West to fogerrit when he muted the idea of recording a rap album. Now, hasn’t the producer-rapper proved them all wrong by becoming one of the biggest selling rappers of all time, with dozens of awards and a TIME cover story to his name?
Interestingly, some real talents did find favour with the judges. My favourites are, amongst many, Confidence Rufia (goalkeeprer Peter Rufai’s daughter), Ngozi Odukwe (maideena) and Lara George.
Of course, there are many more who will stun viewers when the real contest begins. But I’ ve chosen these three for peculiar reasons. Confidence’s father was a truly skilled Goal keeper who did his country proud before bowing out. It’s interesting to see his young daughter brandish such awesome talent, getting ‘yes’ unanimously from all the judges, and leading the woman I believe is her mother, into blissful ecstasy.
But Ngozi, I am sad for. The talented singer came third during the inaugural Star Quest in 2002. despite rave reviews and widespread support, she drowned into oblivion even as other talent hunt alumni: KC Presh, Klint De Drunk, Raw and Asa (all of Star quest), Sound Sultan, PSquare (Benson& Hedges) forged ahead with their careers. Four years after, in 2006, Ngozi Ibiwario Odukwe (popularly called maideena) entered for the Cross River State sponsored reality show Creative Academy, failing to make any impact.
Many criticized her involvement, advising that she faced her career head-on, instead of looking for a short cut she refused to exploit in 2002. now, Miss Odukwe is back on board a reality talent hunt. Will this be the opportunity of a lifetime she’s been waiting for? Or is the young lady on her way to becoming a career talent hunt participant?
Maideena’s case is even a little more tolerable than Lara George’s. The ex-KUSH member shunned an opportunity to be a judge on Nokia First Chance, to contest for Idols West Africa.
Part of the rules for Idols is that participants must have no existing record contract. Thus, Lara whose debut single Ijoba Orun is heavy on radio, and was to be released early this year by Solomon Arueya’s Westside Music, must either be deceiving the organizers, or she had her label terminate her deal, to allow her participate.
Whatever the case, we deserve an explanation. For, isn’t the entire show supposed to be for wannabes, not singers who have sold hundreds of thousands of albums, won numerous awards, and has a complete album in her pouch?
For Lara, a gospel artiste and professed Christian, can she cross her heart and swear by her holy bible, that she does not have an existing contract with Westside?
For all of us to be silent, in the face of what appears to be a malpractice, would amount to hypocrisy. And I call on journalists, DJs, presenters, and marketers aware of Lara’s deal to come out and speak up. If the label released her to participate in Idols, let them tell us so, please.
It’s unfortunate that Dare is on honeymoon at this time. His experience at Project Fame would have been worth sharing.
The contestants would benefit, the judges too (if we haven’t found a replacement for them!). And, maybe, Mike Majic could ask him to sing us the song he sang for Deola on their wedding day