For entertainment practitioners, there was more than enough reason to celebrate as Nigeria marked its Diamond Jubilee on October 1, 2020. Though, many hit makers of the ‘60s through the ‘90s had fizzled out of the scene, the last couple of decades have witnessed the rise of young talented artistes who are making waves and keeping the flag flying all over the world.
Rise and fall of highlife
Highlife was more or less Nigeria’s truly national musical genre of the ‘60s/’70s. Devoid of tribal, cultural and political colouration, the music was widely accepted among Nigerians of that era. It was on this note that a highlife band, Victor Olaiya’s All Stars had been invited to headline the state banquet held as part of the country’s independence celebration in 1960.
But as nationally accepted as highlife music was in those days, sadly it couldn’t survive the cultural tsunami that came with the civil war. Reason: most highlife musicians were of Igbo origin and they decided to leave Lagos for the Eastern region at the outbreak of the crisis. Even, by the time the war ended, many of them preferred to stay back in the East; the few that came back to Lagos couldn’t cope with the changes they met on ground.
However, from the ashes of the war had emerged a plethora of new highlife musicians including Oliver De Coque, Oriental Brothers, The Ikenga Brothers International, Prince Nico Mbaga, Eddy Okwedi, Sir Warrior, Osayemore Joseph, Maliki Showman and Bright Chimezie among others. These younger ones shared the limelight with old warlords like Osita Osadebe, Victor Uwaifor and Morocco Maduka, the King of Ekpili music among others.
Sixty years on, the sun seems to have set on some indigenous genres such as apala, waka, sakara, kalangu, and of course, reggae. As of now, the only surviving indigenous idioms are juju, Afrobeat and fuji, which has in its vanguard stars like Wasiu Ayinde Marshal aka K1 De Ultimate, Adewale Ayuba, Wasiu Alabi Pasuma, Abass Akande Obesere, Shefiu Alao, Muri Thunder, Taye Currency and Saheed Osupa etc.
While fuji musicians are thriving, juju veterans like King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and Sir Shina Peters are limited by age and struggling to remain relevant in the industry. The story is not different on the reggae front either. Ortis Wiliki, who alongside Majek Fashek, Ras Kimono and The Mandators dominated the scene in the ‘80s through the ‘90s, recently waxed nostalgic, boasting of his large repertoire of untapped songs.
According to the self-styled “Koleman Revolutionaire”, there is no retirement in his lexicon, because he has over 200 songs yet unreleased. But today, he is missing in action. It appears the reggae icon, now chairman of Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN), has hit gold in another sector: copyright administration.
From hip-hop to Afrobeats
Whatever it is called in Nigeria today, either Afro hip-hop or Afrobeats, hip-hop has never had it so good. In clubs, homes, hotels, on radio and television, including cable platforms across the country, Afro hip-hop has caught on like a wild fire in the harmattan. Songs of stars like Tuface, Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage, D’banj, Yemi Alade including the younger ones such as Burna Boy, Naira Marley, Teni, Zlatan, Joeboy, T-Classic and Fireboy among others have become some sort of national anthem to the youths.
To former Prime Time Africa presenter, Idowu Ogungbe, the rise of Afro hip-pop could be attributed to the interest the youths have shown in the music. “Hip-hop is a global phenomenon. Nigerian youths like their counterparts around the world are opting for hip-hop instead of highlife and Afrobeat. It is not only in Nigeria that this is happening, if you go to Ghana, same thing is happening there. The kids don’t want to listen to highlife and Afrobeat any more. They prefer hip-hop,” he once told this reporter.
An authentic African sound created by Fela, Afrobeat is highly percussive, heavy on instrumentals and rhythmically pulsating. So, since all these African musical elements are equally embedded in Afro hip-hop or Afropop, many believe that the genre is an offshoot of Fela’s Afrobeat. And this informed the appellation, ‘Afrobeats’ now given to the Nigerian version of hip-hop. One needs to listen to Wizkid’s Ojuelegba, Yemi Alade’s Shekere featuring Angelique Kidjo, and Burna Boy’s African Giant album among others to agree more with this position.
In 60 years of Nigeria as a nation, it is gratifying to note that a Nigerian homegrown music, Afrobeats, has not only conquered the African continent, it is also fast making inroads into the global entertainment scene. From the streets of Rabat in Morocco to the exclusive nightclubs of Johannesburg, South Africa, Nigerian Afrobeats is now the rave of the moment. Not only this, apart from being in hot demand all over Africa, Nigerian musicians now do collaboration with global megastars like Drake, Beyonce, Nikki Minaj, and Chris Brown etc.
Pretty Okafor, President, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), is more than excited for what the entertainment industry has been able to achieve in the last 60 years. He said: “The entertainment industry has done better because we have grown in a geometric formula. Musicians get paid more for their jobs; now we can count many millionaires in the entertainment industry.
“Also, Nigeria has represented Africa well on the global index of entertainment, both in music, movies and fashion. We now have more collaboration with our foreign counterparts in the music and movie industry. In fact, we are positioned to take over the world with the speed and ratio we are going, but we need encouragement and more investors to be in the frontier of world entertainment.”
Okafor, nevertheless, enumerated the challenges facing the industry to include piracy, adaptation to new technology, content distribution, unstable government policies and lack of access to loans. Quoting a PWC report, the PMAN helmsman posited that if all these challenges are overcome, the Nigerian entertainment industry could generate annual revenue of over N15 trillion, which will go a long way to sustain the economy.
If Okafor is excited about the achievements recorded so far in the industry, fuji legend, K1 De Ultimate is full of lamentation. According to the musician, “Individual entertainers are working seriously to make the industry a better one but their efforts are not yielding expected results. Business people have hijacked what should have been incentives for the entertainers, and this makes the principal actors in the industry to look like slavwes in their own fields.”
But then, Jim Donnett, Head, Admin/PR, Sony Music West Africa, could not but agree with Okafor on the giant strides made by the Nigerian entertainment industry in the last six decades. In his words: “We’re better off now than we were 60 years ago. Technological revolution has been the bedrock of the vast growth and improvement that we have experienced as an industry in the last 60 years. The process of making, creating music has been simplified, and the operations involved in having to connect the music and its creator to an audience has also been simplified. Anyone and anything is now accessible with the push of a button. It’s amazing!”
Donnett added: “The fact that our local artistes are now being respected by foreigners is a big triumph. So, to now have artistes like Burna Boy, Yemi Alade and Rema listed on the lineup of numerous international festivals; for artistes like Davido, Aramide to get co-signs from a revered platform like the Grammys; Fireboy and Omah Lay holding sway on the world charts for several weeks long, it speaks to the revolution taking place. And that’s triumph!
“But one major challenge is that the system is not fully setup to accommodate only talent. And in some instances where it is, it is not an opportunity open to all. The system is rigged in favour of certain factors. This is usually the case why some artistes end up accepting shabby deals, because their focus at the time is really on ‘blowing’ as opposed to their staying power as a music brand or career longevity.”
Since 1962 when Nigeria rolled out its first feature length movie, ‘Bound for Lagos’, a production of Federal Films, there has never been a dull moment in the industry. Rather, it has been a record of monumental achievements and unparalleled progress.
In 1990, when the nation turned 30, the industry could only boast of a handful of about 110 movies. Most of these films, even though produced on celluloid, were not that super in terms of quality. But in the last 20 years, with access to modern technology and wide marketing platforms including the Internet, cable TV, Showmax, Netflix etc., Nigerian films now count in their thousands.
Today, the Nigerian movie industry, otherwise known as Nollywood, has tremendously improved in quality and content. This is largely due to its exposure to technological innovations including high-tech cameras, quality props and standard post-production equipment.
On the enviable list of award winning, high grossing movies that came out of Nollywood in this millennium are Kunle Afolayan’s Irapada (2006), The Figurine (2009), Phone Swap (2012), October 1 (2014) The CEO (2016), The Bridge (2017) and Mokaliki (2019); Ayo Makun’s 30 Days in Atlanta (2014), A Trip to Jamaica (2016), 10 Days in Sun City (2017), and Merry Men (2018); Mo Abudu’s Fifty (2015), The Wedding Party (2016), The Wedding Party 2 (2017), and Chief Daddy (2018).
Others include Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys (2018), Toyin Abrahams’ The Ghost and the Tout (2018) and Seven and a Half Dates (2018); Omoni Oboli’s Wives on Strike (2016) and Okafor’s Law (2016); Chinny Onwugbenu’s Lion Heart (2018), Funke Akindele’s Your Excellency (2019), Charles Okpaleke’s Living in Bondage: Breaking Free (2019), Chika Ike’s Small Chops (2020), and Samuel Olatunji’s Dear Affy (2020).
Today, Nollywood is acclaimed as the second largest film industry in the world, relegating Bollywood of India to the third position. Not only that, the industry emerges as the second largest employer of labour, contributing N893 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015.
To Emeka Rollas, President, Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN), it’s commendation galore for the Nigerian movie industry. Hear him: “Nollywood has done well over the last 60 years. The industry has produced great talents and performers and we have improved our technical to global standards, while our talents can compete favourably on the global stage. “Although, we are still evolving, there are triumphs with what the industry has done over the past 60 years. Coming from obscure background in terms of production quality to global standard is a great achievement for the industry. However, our major challenges include unconducive working environment, lack of production treaties to help attract joint or co-production with major international studios, and lack of proper funding. Our financial institutions lack proper understanding of the industry, for proper funding and for better productions.”
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Nigerian entertainment industry has recorded some appreciable achievements in the last 60 years, but the question on the lips of most stakeholders is: are we close or far to nirvana?
In the opinion of veteran showbiz journalist-turned evangelist, Ladi Ayodeji, it’s still a long walk to Uhuru. “We are still a long way off from where we ought to be. We ought to be the entertainment powerhouse of Africa by now, but the quality of music and movies we produce are low compared to what is coming out of South Africa and other parts of the continent. I wonder why Mexican films dominate our TV screen today. If we had built on television drama series like Village Headmaster, Masquerade, Cockcrow at Dawn, Samantha, Icheoku etc., we would have been exporting films instead of consuming chunks from abroad as we do now. Above all, the industry needs to be structured properly to attract investment. Imagine if we have infrastructure in place, backed by private sector and foreign investment, Nigeria would be the entertainment headquarters of Africa.”