Nigeria: A season of music collaborations

A season of music collaborations_opt

Collaborations are not new developments in world music history. Popular artistes are usually “hot cakes” and some artistes don’t mind sharing the limelight with others on the ride to stardom.

You’d recall a time when Wyclef Jean was the most sought-after artiste in different parts of the world, from America to Africa. Akon was in so much demand that the strains of continuous work left some tell-tale fine lines on his forehead in music videos.

Beyonce, as soon as she cut her teeth with her girl-group, Destiny’s Child, also enjoyed making hits with Jay-Z, Sean Paul, Shakira and the entire world is speculating that there is some cold war between her and Rihanna that is stalling a much-awaited collabo.

That sort of public speculation was the same reason why Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey worked together to record the faith-strengthening classic, When You Believe. R.Kelly’s collabo with young Aaliyah also generated some well-founded gossip around the relationship between the two, which had been described as “a little more than professional.”

That was the nature of the rumours heralding the launch of Onyeka Onwenu’s collabo with King Sunny Ade in their smash hits of the 80s, Wait for Me and Choices. Inspite of the strong moral messages in the songs, conservative Nigerians frowned at what seemed to be a display of affection between the two in the music videos and so, for some years in the Nigerian music industry, collaborations were swept under the carpet. 

The search for the key to unlock selling potentials by Nigerian artistes once again led to the rediscovery of the concept of collaborations and creative energy began to brew like some rich beer.

Now, many Nigerian artistes reached monumental heights in their music career beginning with collabos. Waje, the velvet-voiced singer, broke the chilly atmosphere left behind by the Ego and Lagbaja tag team when she sang the hook in P-Square’s all-time club-banger, Do Me.

Criticism

Olamide, Tiwa Savage, Chidimma, Omawunmi, D’banj, Flavour, Wizkid, J.Martins, Timaya, Tuface and many other artistes bit the cake of collaborations and endorsements have since trailed their success stories on the hits made. 

One criticism against collaborations is that when one of the artistes is not at a live performance, the song is watered down. But these days, the chorus from the audience is usually louder than the DJ’s spins so no one really notices that the other artiste is not there on stage, singing his part.

What really inspired this piece is the rate at which Nigerian artistes pursue international collaborations, sometimes, without a song in mind to sing. Some of the reasons for collaborations in the past have been quite noble. 

You’d recall the collaboration between British vocalist, Paul Simon and the four-time Grammy Award-winning, all male choral South-African group, Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1986 that paved way for many international releases like Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes and You Can Call Me Al.

The collaboration was a child of history and necessity. The South-African group served as cultural ambassadors at the time when the policy of apartheid was imposed on South Africa by the minority whites who formed the ruling class. 

Thus, Paul Simon’s collaborative effort with the group fostered international peace and served as a formidable platform to propagate the seed of humanity as well as the beauty in cultural diversity, towards the abolishing of racial discrimination.

Today, Nigerian society is belaboured with lingering problems of insecurity, unemployment and corrruption. Terrorism is an international concern and music can be a tool of advocacy against the global menace. 

Recently, D’banj and his African All Stars collaboration, Cocoa Na Chocolate celebrates the African spirit and aims at tackling poverty amongst other things. 

The song by 18 artistes, from 11 African countries, rendered in 10 languages, is driven at revolutionising agriculture with the slogan “Do Agric, It Pays.” 

Nineteen of the top recording artistes from across Africa, including Femi Kuti from Nigeria, DR Congo’s Fally Ipupa, Cote d’Ivoire’s Tiken Jah Fakoly, Kenya’s Juliani, and South Africa’s Judith Sephum featured on that noble collaboration. 

Perhaps, the mother of all collaborations is the USA for Africa’s 1985 charity single, We Are the World, written by the legendary music icon, Michael Jackson. It brought all the American music giants of the time together to deal with problems peculiar to Africa. 

It impacted so much that a remake of the song was done by another generation of artistes, 25forHaiti, when Haiti was hit by earthquakes in 2010.

Recently, Davido took his “omo baba olowo syndrome” to meet South Africa’s award winning duo of the Khona fame, Mafikizolo, in singing the single, Tchelete (Goodlife). In the lyrics, Davido beckons at a woman to shake her body if she wants his money. A counter-argument is raised by Mafikizolo, asking him to learn to treat a lady right.

Well, the imagery Davido is painting with his lyrics is a typical day at the strip club while the Mafikizolo lady is singing about respect for womanhood. Who does that at the strip club? That is another debate on counter-productive lyricism.

Subject Matter

Our music portfolio of collaborations show those with ordinary day-to-day subject matter. P-Square and Rick Ross’ Onyinye did little to celebrate African beauty, at least, in the way Tony Tetuila and Tic Tac did with Fe Nfe Ne Fe, that is if singing about a woman’s bosom is any good. 

D’banj and Snoop Doggy Dog’s Mr Endowed was a comedy of sorts, if you understand Yoruba and the meaning of “Baba Aja” on an international passport. 

Tuface and T.Pain’s Rainbow just expresses a different shade of love song while Davido and Akon’s Damiduro remix sounds like an attempt to compete with P-square. One cannot exhaust the list of collaborations. 

While writing this, Wizkid is somewhere in the studio recording a song with the world-famous singer-songwriter, Rihanna, and Twitter is animated with discussions on what they are cooking.

In all these, the Nigerian female artistes seem to be lagging behind or exercising caution so as not to record meaningless songs or make songs that will never earn nominations in music awards. 

The point here is that, our artistes should not be carried away by the glamour of collaborations with foreign acts but should be prepared to offer good substance in lyrical composition for future’s sake.

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