ENDANGERED SPECIES?

Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye will be 62 on September 22.

 

The tireless performer and band-leader has enjoyed a career than spans over four decades. And as you read, he’s most probably getting his band boys together, in preparation for this weekend’s engagements. Attempting to tell the story of Sunny’s life, is attempting to tell the story of juju music. From an unsure enthusiast, to naïve guitarist and band member, KSA has grown to become a successful band leader. And he’s not just the most successful Juju musician of all time; he has earned a reputation as one of the most renowned artistes to emerge from Africa. He’s got stints with major records labels, a global fan base, and two Grammy nominations to show for it.

 

KSA has had it good. Most of his contemporaries have since faded away. Some died young. Some gave up the art, while others failed to find favour with fans. Since his 1967 debut (Alaanu l’Oluwa), KSA has, with each passing song and album, continued to hypnotize us until he overwhelmed us and took us all prisoners. Now, he has become such an oracle that it’s certain he’ll never leave the scene except death comes calling.

 

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the genre the veteran represents – Juju.

 

If Tunde Nightingale, Ayinde Bakare, Julius Araba, I.K. Dairo and other pioneers were to look back and assess the situation, they’ll be happy for Sunny and Ebenezer Obey and Shina Peters. But they’ll shed some tears when they see the situation of a genre they helped found. Truth be told, Juju is dying. Long abandoned by her caretakers, ignored by fans and bullied by younger, stronger genres, the once-upon-a-tine cherished art-form appears to be in a coma, and the possibility of her resuscitation is very uncertain.

 

There’s been Dayo Kujore, Wale Thompson, Dele Taiwo and Yinka Best. And we’ve seen less prominent apostles like Tunde Samson, Mega 99 and Segun Blessing. But since KSA and Obey, the only other act that made any meaningful impact on the growth and evolution of Juju, is certainly Shina Peters. The radical change he effected on the genre is similar to what Wasiu Ayinde wrought on Fuji music.

 

But while KWAM 1 has been able to inspire a generation of Fuji stars – like Pasuma, Saheed Osupa, Sule Malaika and Abass Obesere- who are now leading the genre into the future, no Juju musician has shown any remarkable promise since Shina Peters.

 

To make matters worse, today’s music fans are not very patient. Instead of waiting for a messiah who’ll save Juju and other traditional genres from extinction, they’re tuning to something else – pop.

 

So while we’re crying that Juju music is dying, that highlife is going extinct and that Fuji is growing at snail speed, a new artform is gaining ground; enlisting our young ones in their millions, and providing them with the kind of lifestyle they’ve always craved. Take a look around you. Ask the average youth around what time it is, and they’ll gladly tell you it’s ‘pop-o-clock’. There’s no juju or highlife in their dictionary. There’s no agidigbo or ikpokrikpo. Who cares about some local, ‘primitive’ form when there’s hip hop, R&B, Soul and dancehall to bounce to?

 

To the casual observer, it may appear easy to figure out: Juju, highlife and other traditional genres are simply endangered species, going out of fashion; giving way to more hip, more vibrant forms the young ones can identify with. But looked at deeply, couldn’t it be that it’s today’s pop-centric musicians, and their legion of fans that stand the risk of going ‘extinct’ in the emerging global village? Thanks to sporadic technological advancements, the whole world is shrinking into one little hut. What relevance, what influence we have as a people depend on what we bring o the table. And, as we continue to shun our own original artforms for borrowed creations, isn’t it obvious we’ll sooner than later, lose our identity and end up being lumped up with the crowd?

 

We may feel sorry now for the dozens of juju musicians battling hard to get their music heard. We may look at highlife aficionados and laugh behind their backs. We may look at Fuji evangelists and tell all who care to listen that they’re ‘just wasting their time’. We may plot all the graphs in the world and employ all the statistics available to show that these genres are endangered species; with no place in the present or future of our music. But if we don’t begin to encourage our music makers to look more inwards and imbibe elements from these pure, traditional forms, then it may just be our future as a people who have a history, a story, a culture, that’s endangered.

 

Maybe we should start by making traditional Nigerian music compulsory for primary and secondary school students. Maybe there should be some incentives from government, radio and TV stations for artistes who incorporate some level of local elements into urbane music.

 

Who knows, we may still create that hybrid music of Nigerian origin that’ll spread like a virus into homes and hearts across the world. Yes it is possible!

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4 Responses to “ENDANGERED SPECIES?”

  1. ayeni i disagree with u.. juju can never die unless you journalists kill it,,
    write more stories on them and feature them in most of your concerts,,
    i think people like WALE THOMPSON still has a lot to offer if given d right exposure and support,….

  2. Ayeni, i also disagree with you. First and foremost, i do respect that you have some points as a writer, but who are we to push the blames on?
    When you say juju music is dying, you should really look into the music industries in Nigeria and understand how juju musicians of nowadays are being degraded. For example, when musical awards are taken place in nigeria, juju misic are never mentioned or categorised. Why? Look at other countries when awards are taken place all forms and types of music are classified and categorised i.e pop, hip-hop, jaz, r&b, soul, rock e.t.c. Why is it that in Nigeria where a NIGERIAN music award is meant to take place, juju music are never listed never awarded, never mentioned, never categorised least to talk about a juju musician being nominated for an award. This happened in lagos last november 2008 and this as always happened .
    You suggest juju music being introduced to schools, its a good idea thats if nigerian media supports and pushes it forward. We do know that t.v stations, news papers magazines, radio station e.tc are what we are talking about here but most T.V stations in nigeria rejects indigenious music and guess what OUR JUJU MUSIC are part of these categories as most tv station states. They rather accept hip-hops and raps which is not really us. So am saying confidently that Nigerian media is also contributing to the negative situation in the juju music industry.
    Very few pressmen like MR SOJI OMOTAYO, appriciate the quality juju music we have now. I suggest you need to meet him and let him tell you more about the fresh talents behind juju music nowadays or take a more closer look and maybe you will see.
    You as a writer, haven looked at your writings from 2006 till date as you’ve listed i never seem to come across any juju activities that are taken place in Nigeria, most of what i read in your colum is hip-hop, rap, ragga etc, What contributions are you making toward juju music rising to the top. Did you attend SEGUN BLESSING’S latest album lunching? I know you would not have categorised him as one of the less prominent apostiles. You need to watch out for hislatest release in the market and encourage the media to allow the mases view this talent on tv and through other media sourses. Then maybe you will see a change in atitude towards juju music
    JUJU MUSIC WILL NEVER DIE. LETS ENCOURAGE THE TALENTS BEHIND IT WITH POSITIVE MEDIA APPROACH.

  3. Yisau Habeeb Babatunde Says:

    I indeed pity the present generation of Nigerian youths. I Know for sure they are gropping in the dark, because the future looks very bleak. A certain foreign culture called “Hip Hop” has taken over our entire landscape, raping our children every day with no end in sight.

    Whilst growing up, we had musicians, bandleaders; who were the real propergators of Afro-pop that held the west spell bound and won many converts into African Music. In succession, the west embraced them. Fela was signed to Arista and Sunny Ade was signed to Island as a replacement for the deceased Bob Marley. I Bet this generation did’nt even know that Suuny Ade first album “Juju Music” charted on the American bill board album chart. It’s second album “Syncro System” was nominated for a grammy in the ethnic/folk music category. for all these accolades, Sunny Ade sang in Yoruba Language and fela sang in pigdin English. Many a vast member of this generation Sonny Okosun,Bongos Ikwe, Dan Maraya of Jos, Onyeka Onwenu,Ebenezer Obey,Ayinde Barrister, Kollington Ayinla,Wasiu Ayinde, Oliver De Coque etc. all made music that represented their ethnic lineage and world view. the fans adored them.

    Who do we blame? I will blame the media for not talking sense into these kids. I will blame them for always propagating this hip thing every day on the T.V., radio and in the broad sheets. It like there has been a deliberate gang up with some puff daddy wannabee, with the media to give all other music genre especially the traditional genre a final coup de grace. the music is like being forced down peoples throat. The content of all these music is disgusting to say the least. The lyric are lewd, 419 and baseless content.

    The only way out is for the media to make a concerted effort at promoting our local music. All these crap called Hip Hop will get us a temporary recognition but in the long run, will get us no where. Not even a grammy nomination. These Europeans and Americans are no fools, and they are no mediocres.They Know This Hip Hop as Played By our Youth is mediocre and cheap, and at best can only get them some air Plays on. MTV Base and Channel O.

    My advise for the Youth is to get an education musically and beging to groom themselves and build on the foundation left By Fela,Suuny Ade e’tal. Sunny Ade was able to get world recognition, at least getting nominated for grammy twice by being original. They Should listen to words of wisdom from the elderly as expressed by Dr. Ruben Abati and not castigate any critic of their art-form. Bank W and the rest of the crew should listen to the elderly.

  4. am impressed banky west is my star and i will for ever be his fan

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