Archive for February, 2008

TIME TO SPRAY DOLLARS AND POUNDS

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on February 24, 2008 by ayenithegreat

live and die on stage…soludonairazation

Janet, my little cousin does not like Prof. Soludo right now. She has not met the man. She doesn’t even live in Nigeria, so she’s very unfamiliar with his economic policies and how he’s turning the banking sector around.   

But her wedding is coming up in May. And, because the CBN governor has now banned spraying of Naira notes, Janet is upset, disappointed that she may never get the heaps of Naira notes she’s sure her uncles and aunties and dad’s colleagues would have sprayed her on her wedding day. It’s not that she out-rightly has anything against the ban.  But, as she told me on phone this morning, ‘why couldn’t the ‘guy’ just wait for me to finish my wedding before the ban’? Like D’Banj, she’s asking ‘why me’?   

And I understand her plight. Janet’s elder brother got married in 2005. And it was the proceeds from ‘spraying’ that the newly wedded couple used to furnish their apartment, get a fridge and a Persian rug. At a time when people have become averse to giving quality wedding gifts (I remember having to give out almost all my wedding gifts : most of them were the same things: pots, coolers, buckets, cutlery, and other boring kitchen ware – what happened to the car keys, laptops, iPods, and a return ticket to the Bahamas?), most new couples are making do with returns from spraying. See that bride dancing away wildly? It’s not the music she enjoys that much. She’s most likely been schooled by brides before her: ‘The longer you stay on the dance floor, the more you dance, the more money you make. Okay?’. So when she remembers how much the wedding has gulped, when she remembers that she’s not finished paying for some items, unlike of the groom that’ll just stand there and be consumed by gloom, the bride will bend down and dance. Standing right beside her will be her best friend (for best, read: most trusted) whose job description is: make sure all the money is complete and in order.   

Now, how do you expect all upcoming brides to forgive Soludo? The man has dashed their hopes. He says we should put money in envelopes and give to celebrants. How will anyone know I gave the couple N1Million?   How will the bride know when to stop dancing, when she has no idea how much has been made. What if they get back home, open the envelopes and discover that most are filled with N20 bundles that are not even enough to pay the balance of the groom’s tuxedo…?

And how do you expect the musicians, the drummers and singers who make the music the bride dances to, to ever forgive Soludo? You see, the longer the bride stays on the dance floor, the longer the musicians stay too. Meaning? The more money both bride and musician will make. In fact, it has been proven that the bigger the musician and the more gifted he/she is at praise-singing, the more likely it is for him/her to make more money than the celebrant.   

So it’s not surprising that KSA, one of the all -time greatest beneficiaries of spraying has come out to condemn Soludo’s ban on spraying. The brides and other celebrants can devise a new way of getting money out of their guests (for example selling gele and fabrics, or taking gate fees!). But what will a musician do?  Especially if you’re not a pop star like D’Banj or Psquare- who are the favourite of concert promoters. Since the late nineties, sales and concert patronage have continued to dwindle for juju, highlife and Fuji artistes. But guess what? They’ve not had cause to complain until now. Because, these are the folks that occupy the party scene.

From the high and mighty, to the latest ‘money-miss-road- around the corner, everyone likes to have KSA, Sir Shina Peters, KWAM 1 or Oliver De Coque on the bandstand when they’re having anything that looks like party. And it’s a win-win situation for the musicians. They get paid a couple of millions, and they make a couple of millions more, after praise-singing the top guests at the shindig. Over the years, this has become an art form, with particular musicians noted for being better praise singers than others; and moneybags devising individual styles of spraying. Everyone’s happy: the individual gets recognition, the musician gets sprayed money. Everyone’s happy.   

Except Soludo. In fairness, the CBN Governor is just concerned about the naira. The highly cerebral economist is not happy with how we ‘abuse’, maltreat and devalue what should otherwise have been a national identity. How many of us can squeeze a 10 pound note in our pocket? How many women will keep pounds or dollars in their brassieres? We don’t respect what’s ours- that’s exactly what Prof Soludo is trying to say.  The only thing he needs to know, perhaps, is that moneybags don’t squeeze money. Infact, they only spray crisp notes, usually taken from their expensive wallets. And musicians (or brides) have a way of keeping the money neat and in mint condition. Most times, it is the butchers and market women and conductors – and policemen! – Who have cause to squeeze and ‘rough-handle’ the naira.  

 I think those are the people Soludo and his team should go after. Let’s continue this culture of spraying. An art that has turned many (including KSA and KWAM 1) into millionaires. An art that has saved many brides from going hungry after their wedding extravaganza. An art that some professors from Harvard are already considering doing a dissertation on. An art that can help my cousin Janet make some money during her upcoming wedding.   We need to beg Soludo. Appeal to him and let him understand why he should go after market women, butchers, conductors, Policemen and Okada riders – instead of poor musicians who are just propagating a culture laid down by our ancestral fathers…see, we need to let him understand that praise-singing has been proven as one of the most effective ways of orally preserving family histories, idiosyncrasies and tradition. And spraying is an integral part of praise-singing. What more? Both spraying and praise-singing rely on that indispensable tool called music! Music is so important that even the CBN commercial highlighting the consequences of spraying has Victor Uwaifo’s all-time classic ‘Joromi’ as soundtrack… so?

So if musicians must sing on, then they should be free to recognise the VIPs amongst us. They should sing their praises to high heavens; pour encomiums and adulations on them and their wives, and their next door neighbours. And the VIPs, whose heads would by now, have swollen beyond limits, should be able to appreciate the recognition by spraying some crisp naira notes on the musicians…   

Like KSA has said, Let Soludo amend the ban. Let him ban throwing naia notes in the air. Let him ban stepping on it. Let him ban squeezing, and whatever. But please, let the culture of spraying on the forehead remain. Let. It. Remain!   But if he refuses to amend the ban. I won’t be surprised if the musicians and their glory-seeking patrons find a way out. I won’t be surprised if after all that’s been said, the art of spraying still refuses to die. I have this feeling that people’ll still go ahead and spray. Only, this time, it may be pounds and dollars. Simply bring your naira to the party, and agents will convert them into the pounds or dollar denomination you desire. That way, we can eat our cake and have it: preserve the naira, (which is what Soludo wants) and still spray-and-be-sprayed (which is what we want). That way, anyone can spray, without the fear of Soludo’s six months jail term or fine of N50, 000… 

Advertisements

LET THY KWEENDOM COME!

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on February 20, 2008 by ayenithegreat

smooth and sultry…hmmmsister on the rise…

IT’s a sunny Saturday afternoon in a little upscale bar in Lagos, a city that’ll easy pass as the commercial capital of Africa. For, everything is on sale in Lagos: from fifty year-old cars to garbage, used mobile phones, pirated music and video CDs; and- as many believe- assorted human parts. Many have called the cosmopolitan city the NY of Africa- having a complete brew of the good, the bad and the ugly, but often having the ugly played up by mischief-makers.

  Beneath all these activities, humming in the background, are different textures of music- from the motor parks to commercial buses, itinerant marketers and mighty speakers blaring from cars holed up in the city’s omnipresent traffic. The concoction of these dominant sounds on any Lagos street is as ever present as the incessant black-out the nation’s Power holding company constantly subject residents to.  The sun gets intensely scorching, and the clouds begin to coalesce, preparing to sublime and cause a downpour, but occupants of the Bar Lagous were lost in a passionate discourse: why was it that female artistes in Lagos, and indeed the rest of Nigeria are nowhere to be found, compared to their male counterparts?   The year was 2001. And thousands of kilometers away from Lagos, Kween Onokala, totally unaware of the Lagos meeting, was busy putting finishing touches to the first materials that would establish her as a frontline female performer in an industry whose future would intimately be tied to hers. Several months later, when she touched down at the Muritala Mohammed airport in Lagos, determined to pursue a career in music and make a success of it, pundits who heard of her coming sought her out, heard her materials, and heaved a sigh of relief.   Her first single oluronbi  (which featured Fuji star Pasuma Wonder) immediately established her as a singer-diva to watch out for, just as the song’s video topped charts and impressed her faces on fans’ hearts and souls. The success was a final validation for a venture she embarked on in 1996 – when she decided to plunge into the unstable music industry by signing to perform with Zuma Band (the then resident band at Abuja Sheraton Hotel and Towers). Not that she needed much validation; for, Kween – born Queen Chinyere Onokala in Enugu State, Nigeria- has been singing almost forever.  

It all started when, at age 10, she grabbed the microphone and displayed amazing vocal skills in her mom’s church. The place was Abeokuta, a south-western Nigerian city where her family stayed for a long time. The city is quiet and surrounded by rocks, providing a befitting atmosphere for the aspiring singer to nurture her talent and derive inspiration from nature around her. But it was while at Sheraton, that she got tremendous exposure to the works of India Arie, Erykah Badou, Whitney Houston, and Toni Braxton. Little wonder her music, just like her remote mentors’ aims for the soul, providing a soothing effect and warming up your being – a much needed deviation, in a generation where deep, soulful music is becoming unfashionable.

 ‘Somebody has to make the change; tell people that we can still make good music; have a lot of fun and be very successful. It may be hard, and it may require a lot of sacrifice. But somebody has to do it. I don’t mind being that person’, she says looking calm but determined, to a journalist in Lagos.  But the sacrifice might no be very much. For her singles, Come wiv me and Jebele; preceding her much-awaited debut album have attained fair acceptance across Nigeria, with her videos topping the Nigerian Chart show for several weeks.   ‘I don’t like to join the bandwagon. And I believe the fans can recognize good music when they see it’, she says, while confessing her quest is to make music that’ll match international standards and make foreigners wonder, ‘are you sure she’s from Nigeria?’  Not an easy task. But no longer as daunting as it was when she decided, as an 18 year-old uninitiated crooner, to toe the unusual path. ‘Working with a fantastic crew has made the job easier for me’ she says to a group of visiting journalists from Nigeria, strolling down a street in London’s west end (she stayed here for over three years in a period she says was ‘tough and fun’ at the same time). ‘From Carl Thomas, Blast&Lummie and DJ T, who direct my videos, to my managers at Ruffsounds productions, my stylist and my publicist, everyone sees the dream, and we’re pursuing it together. Her first full-length album is expected in 2008

REST IN PEACE

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on February 17, 2008 by ayenithegreat

keke and dayo - made music biz fashionable again…

Kevin Luciano-Gabriel has made a lot of enemies these past months. He has hurt and has been hurt. He has stepped on many toes and, I guess, many have stepped on his. The Questionmark CEO may not be the best dude around the corner. But we need to give him some credit for giving hitherto unknown talents like Asa, Silver Saddih, T-Base and ruFfman a chance to air their voice. We need to give Obi Asika some credit too. And Solomon Arueya and Carl Racchah and Alec Godwin. Following in the paths of Keke and D-one, these gentlemen, and many more, have sadled themselves with the responsibility of creating an industry out of the chaos that exists right now. Since the collapse of major second generation labels : Ivory, Sony, Sol, Ultima, Felin and others, Kennis, Storm, Questionnmark, Westside, orangootan, Alec’s music and few others have kept the fire burning- pumping in more time, money and energy than they can ever recoup. It’ll be unfair to say these are the best guys for the job, for they continue to make mistakes, they continue to learn on the job. But they possess the most important requirement: guts. Which businessman will invest his money in an ‘industry’ where all the requisite structures are comatose? Tell me, how do you run a proper label or record company in a system where there are no qualified A&R executives, no professional talent scouts and mangers, no distribution network, no units monitoring system…? But thanks to sheer guts and unquenchable passion, labels of today have created such buzz and activity that it’ll be easy to sit back on our chair, wine glass-in-hand, cigarette-in-mouth, and be deceiving ourselves that we have arrived. No folks, we haven’t! Disaster is in the offing, and no one is weeping. No one is losing sleep. Label owners are crying everyday, unhappy with the unit price of CDs. They’re pumping in so much, yet getting back little. They can’t monitor their sales, they can’t monitor their artistes. They can’t even tackle piracy.

A GROUP OF NIGERIAN HITMAKERS

And to make matters worse, artistes are walking away from their contracts, straight into the waiting embrace of Alaba marketers. Why stay with a label for three years without getting a dime, when they can ‘go to bed’ with a marketer and get paid in full?So labels are closing up. Many are in court with their acts. The guys who can help enthrone a proper industry have suddenly become an endangered species! As we continue to fold our arms and allow marketers become overnight music moguls, we may as well begin printing the obituaries of the remaining labels around. Unlike the music marketers association of Nigeria (MMAN, largely responsible for distributing fuji music nationwide) the guys in alaba are not trained to distribute music. They’re mostly pirates-turned-legitimate marketers. They are not stakeholders, and they do not have the interest of the industry at hand. Thye’re simply traders who, if care is not taken, will eventually reduce the music industry to what they turned nollywood into. So, very soon, if we’re not careful, the association of marketers in Alaba can decide to ban Psquare for two years. They may soon start dictating to artistes what kind of songs to sing, who to feature, et cetera.

dbanj and don jazzy… looking for an alternative to alaba

That’s why I like Mo’ Hits’ current initiative. Don Jazzy and the rest of the guys have sealed a deal with UAC foods to distribute their new album CV, nationwide. A very risky venture, if you ask me, ‘cos the pirate-marketers would be too glad to flood the market with counterfeits. But if it will take a couple of twenty-something year-olds to begin to attempt to break the silly monopoly of those crooks in Alaba, then so be it. What remains is for other existing labels to take the bold step; for PMAN to wake up from her slumber and face today’s responsibilities; for record companies to work with financial institutions, as we all set out to enthrone a multi-billion naira industry that can take the world hostage. Let the marketers go back to their electronics and electrical appliances, let them start selling spare parts again.  We’ll all patronize them. And let them be replaced by a distribution network that works. A transparent chain that can be monitored. A system that’ll work hand-in-hand with record labels, not cause disaffection between them and their artistes…See, we’ll still print those obituaries anyway. But this time around, it won’t be ‘rest in peace, oh record label’. Instead, it’ll read: ‘we regret to announce the timely death of Messrs Alaba Marketers, who were murdered en masse, after a prolonged battle with Messrs Record Label… 2000-2008. Survived by: pirates, mass duplicating machines and a host of street hawkers.I don’t know how it’ll take. But it has to happen. It’s the triumph of light over dark; good over evil. If it doesn’t? Too bad. Then we’re all in for a hell of a ride…!

ID CABASA GETS FIRST BABY

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on February 15, 2008 by ayenithegreat

for better for worse

Exactly ten months after tying the knots, ID Cabasa and his wife Siju have been delivered of their fist baby.             And it was an excited Cabasa that shared the news with friends and collagues last week shortly after his wife put to bed.  The talented beatmaker and producer (he’s laced beats for Ruggedman, lord of Ajasa, 9ice, 2shotz, Ego Ogbaro, and the Plantashun Boiz reunion), tied the knots with his girlfriend Siju, an accountant by day and singer by night on Saturday April 7, 2007 at CMS girls’ grammar school, Yaba, lagos.  Born Idowu olumide in the late 70s, Cabasa’s ‘coded tunes’ studios has recently become a mecca of sorts for artistes in search of a hit song, having seen his signature on such songs as ‘ruggedy baba’, ‘make dem talk’, ‘club rugged’, ‘gogngo aso’ and ‘oti ya’.  Along with Jokaynie (who’s responsible for jimmy Jatt’s banger ‘stylee’), Jamix, TY Mix, Mosa, Mr Skillz, Jonah The Monarch, and Don Jazzy, Cabasa belongs to the new school of producers, wrestling with giants like OJB and Cobhams for a space to call their own in the booming music scene.    

HIP HOP WORLD AWARDS 2008 IS HERE!

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on February 11, 2008 by ayenithegreat

hip-hop-awards.jpg

 Smooth Promotions, the organisers of Hip Hop World awards have exclusively revealed to AyeniTheGreat, exciting details about this year’s event which comes up on March 15. In a brief chat with CEO Ayo Animashaun during the week, he disclosed that this year’s edition of the urbane music awards will be ‘bigger than the biggest, better than the best and totally redefinning’, even as he insisted that ‘change has to change’. Animashaun, who founded the awards in 2006, after 11 years of publishing Nigeria’s most authoritative urbane music journal Hip Hop World, is known for daring to achieve the seemingly impossible. Fortunately, it often happens that his ambitious experiments work out. And today, thirteen years after he became a full-time entrepreneur, he has made a couple of remarkable achievements that unmistakable highlight the power of possibilities. One of such is hip hop world awards – an annual music extravaganza that has surpassed all standards in the Nigerian context. Yet, the award keeps attempting to surpass its own standards. This year, although the list of final nominees is yet to be made public, the organisers have assured AyeniTheGreat that winners of major categories will go home with impressive prizes. ‘I can’t tell you what the prizes would be yet. They could be cars, cash or even record deals. But I can assure you that we’re stepping up the game this year’, said Animashaun. For the past teo editions, only the Next Rated category was entitled to a cash prize – and the category is endowed by the Aboderin Family in memory of their late son ‘Jaiye Aboderin. HipHopworld awards 2008 will hold at Planet One, Maryland lagos. It will be the first major awards to hold in 2008- a year already nicknamed ‘the year of awards. KORA, Channel O, Soundcity, Bubbles magazine and hosts of other reputable organisations have all indicated their intention to stage music-related awards in Nigeria during the course of the year.

for a full list of this year’s nominees, please vist www.hiphopworldawards.com

CALL HIM HIS EXCELLENCY, PASTOR SOUL E!

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on February 11, 2008 by ayenithegreat

soul-e-okose.jpg

The legal battle between him and his former label Colossal entertainment is still on. But, Soul E is not about letting anything slow him down. Having won the right to his trade name, the singer has gone ahead to relase a two-part album ‘His Excellency 1 and 2’.  And it doesn’t matter to the gifted singer that critics are scorning the album. He’s already going ahead to shoot a couple of videos as well as embark on an aggressive promo for his new body of work. But unknown to many, apart from regularly appearing in court, and apart from promoting the new album, the 24 year old singer and his wife Queen Ure have something else that occupies ther time these days.  The couple have taken up ministry work. And it’s not a joke. If you’re less busy next Sunday, please find your way to their Omole-Lagos home. That’s where they  host a growing population of followers to Sunday worship. Since christened ‘love villa’, the couple leave their doors open from 9am every Sunday, as they treat guests to music, and bible messages from Soul E. ‘I’ve always said this, I’m an inspirational artiste. My father is a minister of God, and I’’ve been following him to crusades since I was a little boy. It’s just that people don’t know this part of me. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,’ he told AyeniTheGreat in his home last week. Soul E’s father Emmanuel Okose is a reverend, his mother, a pastor while his wife Ure confessed to Glitz Beats she’s had a calling to float a church since she was a worshipper at Kris Okotie’s Household of God church. So it’s no surprise that Soul E is now clutching a microphone and a bible. ‘I’m a singer by profession and a preacher by calling’ he told AyeniTheGreat. Soul E and his wife were reportedly ex-communicated from Okotie’s household of God church last year. And it’s not likely they’ll be knocking on Okotie’s doors for readmittance anytime soon. As at February 3, sources say their church’s membership had swollen to over three scores of worshippers, and many more curios fans have promised to make it there this coming Sunday…   

9ICE GETS HOOKED

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on February 11, 2008 by ayenithegreat

till death do us part…

Things are now looking up for Abolore Akande, the singer known as 9ice.  With his new single ‘gongo aso’ currently burning charts across the country, business has never looked so good for the ethnic singer. And now, before you know it, he would have walked down the aisle with the woman that means the world to him. A source close to him told me during the week that he has given his lover an engagement ring, and that wedding is on the cards. ‘Yes, I’m engaged’, confirms 9ice himself. ‘Her name is Toni Oluwaseun Payne’Sources told AyeniTheGreat that 9ice’s fiancée, Toni Payne is the Los Angeles- based CEO of Toni Payne Line of Cosmetics and Apparel, TP Makeup Artistry, and Publisher of Nigerian Entertainment Magazine. A graduate of Computer Animation and video digital art from California State University, she began her own clothing and accessories retail company in 2003. Her father is from Lagos state while her mother hails from Abeokuta is Ogun state.