Once upon a time, before ‘banana and cassava’ began to fall on music lovers in Nigeria, the nation paraded singers whose lyrical contents contained didactic messages that addressed bad governance and moral decadence in the society.
Before the advent of ‘ukwu’ ‘Hennessey’, ‘champagne’ and show-off of wealth in the nation’s music industry, music lovers were exposed to songs that taught moral lessons, addressed bad governance and exposed corrupt leaders.
Today, the story is different. Most musicians in Nigeria nowadays worship sex, money, women and wealth with their lyrics.
Albeit, today is not Thursday that social media users have adopted as flashback day, but I want to journey down memory lane to reveal those who made (still make) ‘real sense’ with their music in the extant.
This is a personal observation. The list is endless but here are the unforgettable 10.
No doubt, President of Kalakuta Republic, Baba Fela remains the father of anti-corruption music crusader in Nigeria.
For more than 10 times, he was thrown behind the bar because of his songs against the then military government but he remained unperturbed and never deviated. Fela made sure he passed his message to looters and corrupt leaders in the country and Africa at large during his heydays on stage fearlessly.
Do you remember his song entitled Authority Stealing where he compared the crimes of an armed robber to a person in authority stealing? The armed robber would be lynched or thrown in jail for stealing a petty amount; meanwhile the man in authority would get away with it. Or even be praised.
What about Suffering and Smiling, where he talked about life for the average Nigerian, who experiences strife in almost every area of life but continues smiling, believing they will receive their reward in the afterlife because of the teachings of religious leaders, who themselves are enjoying plenty of the world’s earthly pleasures.
Apart from the absence of a military whip, things haven’t changed much after all.
Nigerians will never forget his song, Coffin for Head of State where Fela critiques the hypocrisy of political and religious figures and the presence of preferential treatment in the allocation of positions based on religion.
Hear him, “Anywhere the Muslims them they reign
Na Senior Alhaji na him be Director
Anywhere the Christians them they reign
Na the best friend to Bishop na him be Director.” So sad the story has not changed.
About two decades ago, Chinagorom Unuoha came into the limelight with his evergreen song, Crisis; where he vented out his anger on the killings in Nigeria, particularly in Jos, Zamfara and Kaduna States.
In the album entitled Crisis, which he released in early 2000s, China lamented ‘How Long’ it would take Nigeria and Africa to realize that shedding of blood would take us nowhere.
China predicted most of the things happening in Nigeria today through his songs.
Coming on the success of his debut album, China dropped Mr. President where he lamented thus, “food e no dey
“Brother eh water no dey
“And our country no good o
Everyday for thief
“One day for owner e
“Poor man wey thief maggi
“Omo, dem go show im face
“for crime fighter [crime fighter]
“Rich man wey thief money
“Omo, we no dey see their face
“for crime fighter.”
Most of his songs that addressed bad governance and corruption included: Crisis, Our Government Bad, How Long, Mr. President, Boko Haram, Amen.
He summed up the suffering of Nigerians in his about-to-be-released song entitled Letter to Mr, President thus: “who no know now go know, say na now the real hunger show. Hungry wan kpai man for this country o. dollar frustrate our naira and fuel price do don to wahala. If them cannot rule make them backup. he vowed to ‘continue to dey talk until their wickedness stop.”
What’s gwan inna this our nation? Man and woman can’t get no food to eat Watta fi gwana? Watta fi gwana? All the people are them are running fi murder Watta fi gwana? Watta fi gwana? All the masses are them are running fi cover Watta fi gwana? Watta fi gwana? All the children them are halla fi hunger What’s gwan inna this our country? Lord of mercy!
This song was an anthem on many radio stations across the country in the mid 90s.
This reggae singer, Kimono was among few musicians that flayed the then military government over the suffering of the masses.
Oritse Majemite Femi started out in the ghetto street of Ajegunle with his estranged band mate, Chi of the Junglist fame where they voiced Eyes Don Clear, a song talked about how Nigerian leaders looted the nation’s treasury to world bank.
Following the split of Junglist in early 200os, Femi dropped his first solo album tagged Flog Politicians where he literarily whipped corrupt political leaders with his lyrics.
In another song entitled ‘Elewon’ (chase them) Femi also bemoaned how Nigerian leaders sold out Niger Delta oil to white men, which led to the emergence militancy and kidnapping in the region.
He later joined ‘bad gang’ in the cassava and banana’ industry but he would be still remembered for his messages against bad governance when music was still music in Nigeria.
Nigeria jagajaga Everything scatter scatter Poor man dey suffer suffer Gbosa, gbosa, gun shot inna di air Armed robber came to your house Eno thief money, eno rape your wife Went straight up to your bedside (Gbosa) Six feet, now you are down Which armed robber no want money Which armed robber no want joley Na political armed robber be that Na wetin dey kill Nigeria o.
This above lyrics landed Kano-born activist and singer, Eedris Abdulkareem in the prison yard.
The then president, Olusegun Obasanjo was so pissed that he organized a world press conference to reply Kennis Music Eedris on his assertion about the country in his song, Jagajaga before throwing him behind the bar. Truly, Nigeria still remains Jagajaga.
Many music analysts believe that the ordeal of Augustine Garuba Ahmedu, also known as Blackface in the industry boils down his refusal to compromise his standard.
After Planthasun Boys disbanded and the trio of 2face, Face and Blacfkace went on solo careers, this Benue-born singer released his debut album, Ghetochild where he highlighted the suffering of masses in Nigeria in one of his songs, Hard Life.
He has good lyrical contents and most of his songs addressed bad leadership and the suffering of Nigerians in a nation believed to be the (gi)ant of Africa.
Once, Majek Fashek was Nigeria’s greatest musician. A reggae extraordinaire with an epic all-time hit song called Send Down The Rain. Whenever Majek Fashek (whose full name is Majekodunmi Fasheke) raised his voice in a melodious refrain of “Send Down the Rain”, there was always a downpour. And by that, he put an end to an almost two-year drought in northern Nigeria.
If reggae were to be a religion of sort, with the legendary Bob Marley as its Delphic Oracle, then Majek Fashek, at the peak of his career, was the principal prophet of reggae. Rolling Stone acclaimed him as the heir apparent to Bob Marley. He was compared only to the greats – Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and Fela. He was reggae’s poster boy in the late 1980s and early 1990s so much so that any international reggae concert will not be complete without Majek Fashek headlining the show. When he performed live on the David Letterman show in 1992, he made history as the first African to appear on a national network television in the United States.
Before the Majek narrative plunged into a dark from the Olympian height and but a ‘fallen god’ he had many studio efforts that faulted bad governance in Africa.
His songs, So Long, Free Mandela, Prisoner of Conscience, Religion Na Politics, et al are what the society needs today.
Raymond King Gbaji
His strong lyrics against the Nigeria Police and government landed him in the police net many years back. Raymond King Gbaji would forever be remembered for his song against bribery among Police officers in Nigeria.
Black and Black what the song he used in passing his message to corrupt police officers. He paid for it but sure achieved his aim – say no to bribe and corruption.
His song, E be like say is many things rolled into one.
He has many didactic songs but this surely carries the message the society needs right now, especially as preparations heat up ahead of 2019 general elections.
Hear him. “Ebe like say you want to code
“You want to code
“See, all I want to say is that
“They don’t really care about us
“Because all they want to do is to get in touch with big bucks
“Because they think the money gives them the power
“But the power is nothing
“If your people cannot get quality education
“The power is nothing
“If your people keep on dying of disease and starvation
“The power is nothing
“If your people have no peace (no peace)
“The power is nothing.
“If your people cannot live in unity (yeah)
“See, why do you keep deceiving the people, my brother, my sister
“See, why do you make all this people to dey fight one another
“Only God can judge you now”
2baba, as the Idoma-born singer now prides himself is one of the few musicians whose lyrics are lewd-free.
Have you listened to ashes, touch a life, for instance? The songs sure are evergreen.
Others worthy of mention are: Victor Essiet and the Mandators, Andy Shurman, Save the Masses crooner and Maxwell Udoh.
Written by Ameh Comrade