BY Kareem Shamsudeen
Music is an ancient phenomenon. It has its roots in history and it is as old as man himself. Music is the reflection of the societal customs and traditions. In the classical times, music is an indispensable aspect of the society; it performs variegate functions which include but not limited to worship, sports, festivals, plays etc. Even in the Holy Scriptures, music is not left out. In the Bible for example, one can see how music is used extensively in the worship of God; it also functions as mind healing medicine, when King Saul would require young David to play the lyre to him. In other scriptures as well, music is of paramount importance.
As Henry Wordworth posits, ‘music is the universally language of mankind’; this is true as music is the most common chain that connects people of different customs, traditions, beliefs together. It is a symbol of understanding. It is rare that music is not employed in any aspect of the society: should we talk about war’s songs which instill courage in the hearts of soldiers, or songs that celebrate the history of a race; songs of birth and death, songs of plays, songs of worship, songs of gregariousness and so forth. One can confidently posit that music is phenomenal!
In particular, music is not left out in the African context. It showcases nativity and loyalty to the race. If one listens to African songs (songs that celebrate Africanism), one will hear the lyrics of loyalty to the black race, the beauty of Africa, the portrayal of African’s customs and even responses against the myopic assessment of Africans by the Europeans amongst others. Music is ingrained in folk tales, in the admonishments to children etc. In Africa, music is one of the channels African views, conventions, belief systems are projected to the world. Music breeds cultured individuals and also strengthen the race. It is used to preach against oppression and dictatorship; it is didactic and all encompassing.
In Nigeria, music has tremendous influence on the society, defined in relations to other things. For example, if you ask a Yoruba indigene questions relating to his traditions, you should not be surprised if the answers come with the lyrical sweetness of Yoruba songs. Ask indigenes of other tribes too, and the feedback will be similar. This is because music is seen as an essential ingredient of the society as it reflects the desires, choices and wishes of the people. If one should talk about culturally conscious music, then one should listen to the post-independence songs and the songs of late twentieth century– and to a lesser extent, songs of contemporary times. In the Nigerian society, music instills brotherhood, it fosters solidarity and cooperation. It arouses teamwork, creative collaboration and moral uprightness. I will still cite the Yoruba as an example. The song, bata mi adun ko ko ka, ti mo ba kawe mi…. (Education will give me prestige) is used to tell the young the importance of education. Also, Iya ni wura iye biye, iya kose fowo ra…. (Mother is an invaluable gold; she cannot be priced) is a song that fosters the love for one’s mother and one’s parents in the hearts of evolving generation, because just as music, the role of Parenthood cannot be over-emphasized. Music then, bred the sense of reasoning and responsibility.
It is saddening that the music of our contemporary time has lost its substance. It has now become empty with no didactics. Music no longer perform its required functions, and musicians are no longer concerned about passing pertinent information in their songs. Music is now becoming worthless. No wonder the older generation on listening to the contemporary music will shake their heads in pity and ask, ‘where is this generation going to?’ Music has become barbaric, uncivilized, crude– and too ordinary. Music that at a time instills patriotism fell off the track, those that portray chastity and purity are long forgotten, jettisoned (no longer sung) or worst still replaced with those that reduce the meaning of human existence. Even, songs that portray Africanism and the Nigerian belief system have peregrinated away from the cosmopolis. It is indeed, tragic!
Nowadays, it is not rare to see musicians portray immorality in their songs and corrupt the minds of the evolving generation. These songs corrupt the society and choke the atmosphere with moral putrescence. For example, there is a legal ban on the use of hard drugs in Nigeria such that anybody caught with them will be prosecuted and punished. But it is quite surprising that contemporary musicians celebrate the use of hard drugs in their songs. Some will say hard drugs bring the surest form of inspiration; that when you take them, you get so inspired that you can rule the world. Some will even forge ahead to say that the use of hard drugs bring instant fame egging on the youth to take after their lifestyles. The rate at which hard drugs are consumed in Nigeria is very alarming and most of those who consume them are the youth. Who does not want to rule the world? The youth are blinded by the fake ideas of these musicians and consume more hard drugs detrimental to health and life and that could subsequently lead to death.
Also, most musicians only preach about money, money and money. Although money could be said to bring influence, one mustn’t doubt the Biblical position, that “it is the root of evil as well”. Contemporary muscians portray the excessive love for money by even going extreme. In fact, these musicians recommend 419 activities and money rituals. They say owo lo n fi do something (money is used for all things) and it is a must-have. These myopic musicians will encourage the youth to do yahoo-yahoo (internet fraud) with the wrong impression that they (the youth) are collecting the exploited wealth of their fore-fathers from the Oyinbos (Europeans). Those who also encourage money rituals will use the bad economy of Nigeria as an excuse; that if the economy is not helping, one needs to seek alternative means- by doing money rituals. Therefore, one will see youth whose mental sanctum has been toxified with the way to get rich quick like that of Aliko Dangote by engaging in money rituals. It is saddening!
In addition, most contemporary musicians celebrate sexual immorality. To them, there is nothing bad in engaging in illegal sexual romp. If one watches music videos, it is almost pornography. There you will see many unclad ladies and guys engaging in sexual activities all in the name of making the songs salable. Ladies no longer value their chastity and purity. Who cares for virginity nowadays! One will see how ladies are used as chattels in the name of promoting songs. What a shame!
Another set of musicians will come to say they are activists and that they will speak against under-performing government. But behind the scenes they accept deals to play the scripts for bestial politicians who pump millions into pseudo-activists schemes to reduce, satirize or taunt the image of their opponents. One will then question why these set of musicians do not condemn the songs of immorality of their fellow musicians. At least they should start from a smaller picture before jumping to the larger picture. Even the few contemporary musicians that do not sing nonsense are still no saint.
Now that the educational standard is dwindling, most youth act on what penetrate into their ears. Imagine an individual always listening to putrefied songs, what do you expect from such individual? In fact, these songs breed mild insanity. It is no longer rare for one to see person(s) sauntering across streets, putting ear piece, listening to music and dancing across the streets. To worsen matters, some may not hear the horns of vehicles when they, unknowingly, are in the middle of the road, and they end up getting knocked down which in most cases leads to death. In fact, most individuals are only concerned with the beats in the songs and not the message (since there aren’t any). That is, the more interesting the beat of a song, the more love and accolades from public. Dismally hilarious, isn’t it?
It indeed puzzles me why these kind of songs get sold off in million copies. The answer is not far-fetched, the sense of reasoning and responsibility among Nigerians in drastically on a decline. The bitter part is the wrong impression these music create to the youth. No wonder some people clamour for the ban on contemporary music because they breed social vices. Most individuals are now fascinated by the urge to make fame at all costs. Cultured individuals are no longer rampant in the society.
One will question if there are no regulations guiding the production of music in Nigeria, such that morally corrupting songs are now the order of the day and they are not banned. In fact, music videos too should be regulated. One may also question the functions of the National Film Video Censor Board [NFVCB]. One will ask if this body is in a slumberous state when corrupting music videos are produced. The National Film Video Censor Board is a body established ‘by Act 85 of 1993 to as the official regulating agency for film and video sector of the Nigerian economy’. They are meant ‘to censor and classify films and videos works, to regulate and control cinematographic exhibitions’ amongst others. Yet, putrefying music videos are not banned. Well, this is Nigeria and everything is almost politicized. The board is also charged ‘to institute record mechanism for the product of a positive themes movies…’ One then wonder why this is not happening. Also, the Nigeria Broadcasting Commission [NBC], a body ‘vested with the responsibilities of, amongst other things, regulating and controlling broadcasting industry in Nigeria’ is to be questioned as morally denigrating music videos are broadcast.
The youth are the leaders of tomorrow; thus their faculty of thinking must be moralized and sensitized. Even contemporary musicians should be sensitized as well. They should be informed that music is a vital aspect of the society and not just platform for ‘instant fame’, thus good music should be sung. Strict measures should also be taken on music and musicians that celebrate moral putrescence. The society should not be corrupt all in the name of music production. Contemporary music should be filled with substance. The Government too should intervene. Jobs should be created for the youth and also leadership programmes and seminars to facilitate effective leadership skills, since crimes have been perpetuated in the name of music, and these portray a bad image of the country to the outside world. Regulatory bodies on music production should be made more effective and efficient. This will be for the benefit of the society and it should not be politicized. Cultural conscious and morally-enhancing music should thrive so the young generation will not be deluded, and the society will forever bloom!