Only a month ago, life in Lagos was the usual mix of chaotic rowdiness and nonchalant revelry that characterizes the city. People went about their business as routinely as possible despite the looming threat of a global pandemic, sparing a thought only when newer updates about the coronavirus popped up on their Twitter timelines or in discussion with friends domiciled in countries ravaged by the virus. Now, just a mere four weeks later, Lagos is the epicenter of Nigeria’s coronavirus outbreak, and life is changing faster than we can even realize everywhere from the highbrow graces of Victoria Island to the eternal buzz of Oshodi.
On a larger scale, the true extent of the coronavirus on life in Nigeria is just unfolding. With newer cases being confirmed every day, religious and social institutions ground to a halt, lockdowns being enforced in the most states in the country, and the lack of a truly airtight safety net for the most vulnerable members of society, we are acclimatizing ourselves to the reality of a nation practically in lockdown.
Seemingly, every industry is affected by the virus, production is hampered and profit margins are non-existent for now as most people switch to survival mode; practically, we are in a standstill that doubles as a freefall for prices for essential materials and products. For musicians like Davido, whose fiancée tested positive for the coronavirus, the effects of the virus, financially, should not be too damaging despite postponed tour dates and reduced earnings. For a number of musicians, particularly the up-and-coming ones, the reality is quite different.
Lagos’ up-and-coming musicians’ scene is as diverse as it is impressive, and the impact of the coronavirus on them is almost unquantifiable. A Twitter thread set up by The Jollof Dairy, a haven to educate up-and-comers about the music industry, has documented the frustrations, coping mechanism, and joys of this period for some of these artistes. One musician wrote candidly that he has almost lost his mind and continues to battle depression. Another shared that he has had time to work on his phobia for the camera and interviews.
Grimaldi Banks, a rapper based in Lagos, has seen his ability to make music impeded by the virus and the lockdown that has followed. During our conversation via WhatsApp, he tells me about the reality of being a creator in these uncertain times; how financials are affected by COVID-19; his attitude to life during the lockdown; and, how his music-making has been affected.
Our conversation, mostly unedited, follows below.
So, first question, when did you know coronavirus was going to affect life in general in Nigeria?
I would say I knew that (it would become a big issue) since it became a major issue in the U.K. and the U.S.A. Because I understand that there’s usually a lot of movement between Nigeria and the UK and also the USA. And one way or the other, eventually, the virus was going to find its way in. Also, I think that Nigeria didn’t have its guard up properly and it was going to be a matter of when.
Your mind was already made up that it was going to be a major issue when it started affecting the U.K. and U.S.?
Basically, I hoped it wouldn’t be. But I was more afraid that it would be.
What’s your day-to-day life like under the lockdown? Does it affect your music-making process?
Yeah, it’s been a big hindrance to my studio time. I do not currently have a setup of my own at home, but I’ve spent more of the time writing songs and venturing into other things.
What are the other things you are venturing into?
I also do graphic design, video editing, and web development. So, I’ve been investing a little more time into these fields. I’ve also been reading up many materials too.
Are there any financial opportunities you are missing because of the coronavirus?
Sure, there are a few jobs I would currently be doing that require me leaving home daily if not for the lockdown which I cannot currently do. So, yeah, definitely, there are many financial opportunities I’m missing because of it
How are you dealing with the loss of these financial opportunities?
It’s not been easy, but basically, I’ve just resigned to doing jobs I can carry out online for now and I’m also spending the time learning more things that can bring even bigger opportunities for me both online and offline. And I keep calling to check on my other opportunities to remind them that, after the lockdown, I’m still very available.
Do you fear that the local authorities charged with maintaining order during this period would probably take things overboard?
Judging by how they’ve managed other situations in the past, I think there would be excesses in their methods, as usual, but I also think that might be determined by the people’s ability to comply with the directives.
Even though I think the whole thing would be difficult for the people, because I think we all know how hard it is to survive in Nigeria right now, and I think there are more people who feed off daily sales and earnings than salary earners. So, yeah, I fear that some of the forces put in place might take things overboard every now and then.
How does music help you, and others, during this difficult period?
Personally, music has always been my way out of almost everything. From a boring day, to taking a walk, even to find sleep sometimes. So, it’s just more of another regular day for me with my music.
But generally speaking, I’ve seen many people on the social media discovering new music, picking up old records, listening to artists they’ve always heard about but never got to listen to. I also saw the battle between Shizzi and Sarz on IG Live, a few other activities too that have made me conclude that music, being a huge source of entertainment worldwide, is helping us through these difficult times well
What are you listening to help you through this period?
A lot of my own music, a lot of Kendrick Lamar (which is usually a regular daily activity), a lot of Mode Nine’s old jams, hip-hop, trap music. Lol, actually anything and almost everything I come across.
How do you think life, and music, is going to be affected when the coronavirus goes away?
I have two views on this. It’s possible that we will take this time as a lesson to learn that every day is a big privilege and must be properly utilized because any other day could be the day when things go totally wrong for the world entirely. Or everything could just slowly return back to what it used to be and we move on from this episode of life.
As for music, I’m very sure that it’s going to bounce back even harder this time because a lot of musicians have had time to stay at home and work on new stuff, no shows, no outings, just work and rest. So, I’m looking forward to the wonderful and amazing sounds we should be expecting after this lockdown is over.
Listen to Grimaldi Banks on SoundCloud.