I was a guest speaker at a Rotary Club function about a fortnight ago where speaking on the subject of the state of our music industry, I had the opportunity sharing some thoughts with those present.
Like a curious student, a gentleman asked: “What are Ghanaian musicians doing about Nigerian music since it is taking over the music industry here?”
Immediately, I thought of the billboards that advertised the last Ghana Meets Naija concert and how Wiz Kid was placed in the centre frame while R2bees, Edem and myself flanked him like supporting artistes.
Also, I thought of how P Square’s Beautiful Onyinye was played so much in clubs and on radio and television, more than contemporary Ghanaian music.
And then it pricked my mind that the quality of a Ghanaian artiste these days is measured in the amount of impact he or she makes internationally, especially in Nigeria.
Yes, it is true that popular Nigerian music has virtually colonised Ghanaian and even African music. It is true that Nigerians compete for the same attention and airtime space in Ghana, which Ghanaian musicians do not get in Nigeria.
Reasons for this are countless but paramount of them is that few Ghanaian songs are designed to cross our borders.
There are two basic answers that well-known people give when they are asked questions. One is to tell the truth or offer an answer that is only appropriate for public relations.
For a brief moment, I didn’t know what type of answer to give but I decided to opt for the truth.
My answer was simple: Ghanaian musicians must not do anything about the current situation, because it is a good thing.
Nigerians are our cousins, we have similar cultures and eat similar foods, such as the same types of music, we look alike and we are both ex- colonies of Britain. In a sense, Ghana is a smaller version of Nigeria, or Nigeria is a bigger version of Ghana.
I don’t see why Nigerian music shouldn’t be loved, played and performed in this country. After all, about 20 or more years ago Nana Ampadu, Amakye Dede, Abrekyireba Kofi Sammy and other highlife acts were highly patronised in Nigeria.
So if the reverse is happening, why do we have to get bored with that?
Sometime back, this music xenophobia was in a social form. The Ghanaian government, through the Aliens Compliance Order, repatriated Nigerians out of this country. When the Nigerians reciprocated in a similar manner, it raised eyebrows.
Let us not forget that the Nigerians have a national agenda to spread their culture through music. They invest adequately in their entertainment industry and they respect and support artistic talent.
It is funny how a Ga father might say ‘NO’ to an Ashanti marriage for his daughter because of distance, but when the daughter brings an American, everybody in the family is happy.
One major cause of disunity in Africa is the fallacy of separateness.
Ghanaians are worried about the influx of Nigerian music but nobody is worried about the continuous dominance of American music on the minds of our youth and general influence on our culture.
It is because of American hip-hop that our young ones are walking around with sagging trousers that show their underpants.
It is because of American music that my four-year-old son says ‘sh*t’ and ‘f*ck’; arguably this same American music is contributing to ‘sakawa’ through the hiphop concept of get rich or die trying.
So back to Nigerian music, I believe that it must play on. I believe that we should research, learn and understand how they have colonised Africa through their music. We must collaborate at the individual and music union level.
Ghanaian musicians should learn to compete positively in this capitalist environment and get our music to be played, heard and loved in Nigeria the same way we love theirs here.
Nigeria is the biggest extension we can find not only for our music but for a total cultural exchange.
If we have to be wary of any form of music, it should be an American music. I strongly believe we should let Nigerian music play here!
By Okyeame Kwame