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Does Nigerian music need saving? A case for Total Music’s revivalism



By Chinedu Chidi

When famed German composer and pianist, Beethoven described music as a “higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy” and as “the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents”, he may well have laid out a profound exposition of the depth and reaches of the art, one that is unrestricted by time or distance, by creed or colour, by status or zone. He envisioned a limitless art form. Today, we speak not only of its internal freedoms, but of its transcendent liberating force coursing through entertainment, education, politics, the economy, technology, and social change. Music has become a life form meandering like the bellows of an accordion into the many circles that define life as we know it.

In Nigeria, the music industry has grown in leaps and bounds. With over $2 billion in revenue annually, over 30 million monthly listeners worldwide, over 500 music producers, over 1000 record labels, over 50 radio stations amplifying its rhythms and sounds, and multiple digital music distribution platforms, Nigerian music has become the stuff of dreams, if only commercially.

Sadly, the fine art of the classical, orchestral and live performance genre, with its accompanying socially valuable messaging, is dying. The rapid rise of studio-recorded music, with its massive commercial success, has sadly provided an alternative to total music, one that substantively accommodates a wide array of ‘real’ instruments, trained voice, and electrifying theatre. It is perhaps the appeal of total music that inspired Victor Hugo to bellow, “Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent”.

This challenge is one that is not only unique to Nigeria or Africa, but a universal one. In Sasha Frere-Jones’ piece, “Do Recordings Kill Music?”, she cited a profound quote from Richard Kostelanetz’s interview with John Cage, thus: “I’ve always said that a record is not faithful to the nature of music.” David Grubbs, a professor at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College, she reports, “takes up a specific belief of Cage’s: that recordings can injure the ability of an audience member to experience a performance in real time. In theoretical terms, the recording reifies a specific moment, potentially interfering with a composition’s ability to live and change and breathe by fixing a single iteration as the ‘authoritative’ version”. Perhaps, nothing captures the triumphantly seductive and absorbing force of the authentic live performance than Robert Ashley’s description of Alvin Lucier’s 1969 piece, “Vespers” as referenced by Grubbs. Ashley wrote of “Vespers”: “No number of microphones and loudspeakers can reproduce the relationship between the sounds and the space in which the sounds create the musical experience.” This reminds one of Mozart’s delicate refrain that “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

This dying art form was once the force that rocked the bowels of mother Africa, from the Sahara to the Mediterranean. From Fela and Makeba to N’Dour, Salif Keita, Amr Diab, Sangare, Mapfumo, Kidjo, Mtukudzi and Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the glory days of message-laden total music may, but for the flickers embodied by the likes of the eternal Kidjo and the heirs to the Fela dynasty, be well and truly over.

But there appears to be a rebirth glistening in the hallways of MUSON Diploma School, a core component of the MUSON School of Music. The MTN MUSON Music Scholars Program, conceived in 2006, a partnership between MTN Foundation and the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON) School of Music, powers the diploma school. The partnership involves a 2-year Diploma in Music at the MUSON Diploma School. All the students admitted to the Diploma course receive MTNF Scholarships comprising annual scholarships worth N250,000 to cover tuition, books and transportation over a 2-year period. The graduating students are awarded an internationally recognized Diploma in Music. The scholarship is an open opportunity one. It allows applications from all musically talented youth through an open and fair process.

The school is home to the award-winning MUSON Diploma Choir directed by Sir Emeka Nwokedi, and the MUSON School Orchestra & Concert Bands. It has been able to produce outstanding Jazz ensembles such as the all-female GIRLZ RULE Band, the 5YZ MEN and The Theosolites.

At MUSON, MTN Scholars take advanced training in music with majors in voice or any of the instrument forms of: Piano, Organ, Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet, Trombone, Percussion, and Classical Guitar. “Students are also required to take 2 terms of an instrument minor other than their major instrumental family. All voice students must pass grade 2 piano, instrumentalists must pass vocal techniques and all students must belong to the choir. Orchestra is required for all string majors. All wind and percussion majors must belong to band. Others who may not be majors are welcome to audition for the orchestra band”, the school says. They also take part in high-level musical productions which provide the perfect opportunity to exhibit their talents and skills. At the end of their programme, the music scholars have the opportunity to showcase the result of their advanced training through performances at the annual Donors Appreciation Concert. This speaks to the neat integration of sound and rhythm, of theatre and messaging; the total music.

MUSON has been at the heart of developing and preserving the purest form of music in Nigeria, and helping to export same to the rest of Africa and the world. Created in 1989 by a group of friends, namely Mr. Louis Mbanefo (SAN), Mr. Akintola Williams (late), Chief Ayo Rosiji (late), Mrs. Francesca Emanuel (late) and Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi (late), the school was designed to promote, as Mr. Mbanefo, who is Chairman of the school, aptly captures, “the performance, understanding and enjoyment of serious music”. The dream, he notes, has continued to be realized, producing internationally reputed graduates and changing the dynamics of music in Nigeria and Africa. “The school has produced over 400 Diploma graduates, many of whom have continued their musical education in Europe, South Africa and America and attained international recognition. Most of our alumni have made and are making very impressive contributions to the musical life in Nigeria and indeed, the world.  They have raised considerably the standard of singing and musical performance in churches, in schools and at social events.  Indeed, many churches and musical societies throughout Nigeria are borrowing from the templates established by MUSON”, he proudly reveals.

As the proud owner of Nigeria’s “only professional Symphony Orchestra” and a choir of international renown, the school boasts a rich platform for empowering young Nigerian artistes and instrumentalists, especially in the dying art of classical and orchestral music performance.

Accredited by the Federal Government to award Diplomas in Music since 2002, the MUSON Diploma School grants all MTNF MUSON graduates diplomas which are equal to those awarded by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in the United Kingdom.

If the MUSON Diploma School is to continue to plot the course for Nigeria’s music salvation and become the sure hope of total music’s triumph for all of Africa, then it must display resilience, which its parent body— The Musical Society of Nigeria— chose as its Festival of Arts theme during the celebration of its 40th anniversary earlier this year. It must be resilient in the face of the onslaught of crass commercialism. It must be defiantly resilient if it must realize its goal of producing “well-rounded, thoroughly educated musicians…comparable to those found in a Conservatoire”.

And in its resilience, it must remember that lodged in the soul of this art, in its purest form, are the currents of humanity.

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New artists should learn the Art of Sacrifice – Maysol




Businessman and Show Promoter, OluwaMayowa Solarin, the founder of Maysol Entertainment, recently celebrated his 10th anniversary in the music business. As someone who has worked with top talents such as Olamide’s Younger Brother & Ybnl Nation’s Official DJ EniMoney, Sean Tizzle, Lil Kesh, Demmie Vee, Dremo, Mayorkun, Small Doctor, Pepenazzi, and others, he emphasized the importance of artists and their labels maintaining strong and respectful relationships.

Solarin highlighted the need for artists to carefully consider the contracts they sign and to honor their commitments to their labels. He stressed the significant financial investment required for promoting music and urged artists to show appreciation and make necessary sacrifices. Solarin also voiced concern about a growing trend of artists publicly criticizing their labels after their contracts expire, warning that this could deter potential investors from supporting new talent.

“Music business Requires a lot of funds and promoting music now is not small money. The recording, distribution, media rounds, and video, all cost lots of money. So for someone to invest his resources and time in all that it takes grace. So artists should remain grateful and they should also make sacrifices.”

The graduate of History & International Relations from Olabisi Onabanjo University also noted that the issue of Artiste calling out their labels after their contract expires is gradually becoming a trend that will make other intending investors run away. He emphasized the need for artists to understand that every penny a label invests in promoting their work is aimed at making a profit. He suggested that artists seek legal advice to fully understand their contracts and ensure they fulfill their obligations to prevent unnecessary disputes.

“Artists calling their promoters and label bosses out is becoming a dangerous trend that will make talents wallow and waste away. This trend if not curtailed, will chance away investors in the music business because most artists pay their labels back with evil and also pay them back with unkind words. I have examples but I won’t call names here. They should desist from it. This will make our industry lack sponsors and investors if they keep towing the path of paying back kind gestures with evil.”

“We must understand that every penny a label spends in promoting your work is an investment and nobody does a business without the aim of making a profit. So artists coming out to say their label shortchanged them is alarming. They should get lawyers to interpret their contracts and also not fail to deliver on their side. This will save lots of issues and also make the industry more structured.”

Looking forward, Maysol expressed his commitment to working with more talent and creating a more structured industry that protects both artists and investors, ultimately reducing conflicts and fostering a healthier music ecosystem. (more…)

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AFRIMA: Beat S’Africa to hosting rights, stakeholders tell Tinubu, Musawa





…insists one edition must be held in Abuja, Jos, Kaduna

A culture and creative industry advocacy group, Arewa Creative Industry Heritage Vanguard, has called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the Minister of Art, Culture, and Creative Economy, Hanatu Musawa, to lead efforts in securing the hosting rights for the next two editions of the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA)offered by the African Union Commission to Nigeria and South Africa as reported in the media recently. They want to ensure that at least one edition of the prestigious event takes place in the northern region of Nigeria of Kaduna, Jos or Abuja due to years of deliberate marginalization and deprivation of international events of this nature.

According to Dr Shehu Samadi, the President of the Vanguard, speaking from Kaduna, they have learned that the African Union (AU) invited the governments of Nigeria and South Africa to submit bids for the hosting rights for the next editions of the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA). As such, they are imploring and advising President Tinubu not to allow South Africa to beat Nigeria to the hosting rights as this will have implications on the national psyche of Nigerians and the development of the music industry. It called on the Honorable Minister of Art, Culture and Creative Economy, Hanatu Musawa to update Nigerians on the progress made thus far in securing the AFRIMA hosting rights, for Nigerians to know how and where to assist in achieving this common objective.

The group, which comprises cultural enthusiasts, music industry stakeholders, and advocates for Northern Nigeria’s music heritage, recognizes the significance of AFRIMA in promoting African music and fostering cultural exchange across the continent and with the rest of the world. Therefore, they believe it is essential for Nigeria, especially the Northern region, to play a central role in hosting the event and showcasing the country’s rich creativity and cultural diversity from its point of expertise and cultural expression.

Samadi emphasized three significant reasons why President Tinubu should champion the course of securing the hosting rights. The group recalls with nostalgia how President Tinubu in 2015, in person received a 23.9 karat gold plated AFRIMA trophy as the pillar of Art and Culture in Africa presented by the African Union commission.” This should motivate the President to intensify efforts to secure the hosting rightshaving experience the creative power and the global influence of AFRIMA personally.

The second reason is that as the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, President Tinubu can utilize the opportunity of hosting a large-scale event like this to further his commitment towards promoting unity, economic development, and cultural diversity in the region and on the continent. Although an event of AFRIMA’s scale can cause significant ripples across the continent and around the world, Nigeria stands a chance of benefiting the most, and we in the North hope to tap into the inherent benefits as against the past practice of marginalization where such international events are preserved for the exclusive experience of the southern part of Nigeria..”

Thirdly, the Nigerian Music industry has witnessed astronomical global growth with little or no input from successive governments. Hosting an AFRIMA by this government provides an appropriate platform for the Tinubu Administration to establish itself as a creative industry supporting the government as well as engendering a positive perception and image for Nigeria to attract tourism and foreign direct investment.

“Fourth, we believe that Northern Nigeria has the potential to become a tourism hub, and hosting events like this can help mitigate the effect of insecurity in our region. We are eager to host an event like this because we strongly believe that it could be used to address the issues that have plagued our region, including terrorism and banditry. By promoting peace and tranquillity, our youth can embrace hope and prosperity as well promote the budding music talents in the region who require inspiration and pragmatic motivation” he said.

The group is advocating for the cities of Abuja, Jos and Kaduna to be considered as host cities for at least one of the two editions of AFRIMA. The group believes that these cities are strategically located, culturally significant, and have vibrant music scenes, making them ideal venues for the event.

The group expresses concern over what they perceive as a pattern of neglect in the hosting of key musical events, and they call for greater inclusivity and representation for the Northern region. They note that in recent years, there has been a growing sentiment among stakeholders in the Northern music industry that the region is often overlooked when it comes to hosting major international events.

Samadi said: “Despite boasting a wealth of cultural heritage and a thriving music industry, Northern Nigeria has frequently found itself sidelined in favour of other regions when it comes to hosting events of national and international significance. This is unfortunate.

“We strongly believe that hosting AFRIMA in Abuja, Jos and Kaduna would not only stimulate economic growth and promote tourism in the region but address this feeling of discrimination against us.

“In addition to the big music superstars from this part of the country, Abuja, Jos and Kaduna have the infrastructure, capacity, and cultural significance to host AFRIMA successfully. It is time for Northern Nigeria to be given the recognition it deserves on the continental stage.”

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Kanwulia’s Lagos Amerikana Who’s That Girl Tour Climaxes at LIJF 2024 Showcase




Kanwulia’s Lagos Amerikana Who’s That Girl Tour reached its climax at the LIJF 2024 Showcase. The event showcased Kanwulia’s incredible talent and captivated the audience with her unique blend of Nigerian and American influences. With her remarkable performance, Kanwulia solidified her status as a rising star in the music industry.

In a harmonious blend of soulful tunes and vibrant rhythms, Kanwulia’s Amerikana Who’s That Girl!? Lagos Tour reached its climax at the prestigious Lagos International Jazz Festival 2024 Showcase. Hosted at the Live Lounge Victoria Island, Lagos, the event stood as a beacon of musical excellence and cultural fusion.

Spanning nearly a fortnight, Kanwulia’s tour swept through Lagos, captivating audiences with her dynamic performances and infectious energy. From the lively media rendezvous at The Rhodes BBQ in Alausa, Ikeja, where she received her PMAN Work License Card from PMAN Lagos Governor and legendary African Female Drummer, Aralola Olamuyiwa, to the mesmerizing jazz ambiance of Scotch Bonnet Jazz, and the scenic waterfront setting of The Bay Lounge Lekki, her presence resonated at every stop.

Highlights of the tour included an engaging appearance at the Umutu Jazz Immersion Show and a poignant tribute appearance at Freedom Park in honor of the late arts and culture luminary, Jimi Solanke.

Official meet and greets with music industry icons like Pretty Okafor, the current PMAN National President, and Collins Enebeli, affectionately known as Mavin Grandpa and father to Ace Nigerian producer Don Jazzy further enriched the tour experience.

At the LIJF 2024 showcase, serving as the tour’s grand finale, Kanwulia commanded the stage as the headliner, delivering a captivating performance that enthralled the audience. Other acts in the event lineup included the talented 10Strings All Stars Band and an array of guest acts like Ire, Chiamaka, Akan, Alessandra from Panama, as well as inioluwa, Champion and Prince Charles. Special appearances by renowned DJ Jimbo and the Jazzahead Bremen Germany-bound AFRO4 superband added to the night’s allure.

Packaged by the innovative minds at Inspiro Productions with support from the dynamic Volkano Productions crew, the tour and its LIJF 2024 Showcase underscored the transformative power of music and the enduring impact of Kanwulia’s musical prowess.

As the final chords echoed, it was clear that Kanwulia’s tour had forged a lasting connection between music, culture, and community.

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