Over the last four decades, music in Nigeria has evolved from a career frowned upon by many to a well-respected profession. After years of being regarded as an unserious career path, music in Nigeria gradually grew on parents, guardians, and society at large to become an occupation that is associated with dedication, success, and wealth. Initially, the idea of music being a means to an end or way of earning a living was openly rejected and frowned upon, until musicians and artists began sharing their proceeds from music with the public- by flaunting and allowing them a whiff of the experience through their songs and lifestyle. The social awareness of the possibility of music having returns that could change the life of any individual created a culture of acceptance for music. Thus changing the overview of music from an activity used to pass time or ascertain talent, to a profession like any other 9 to 5.
In one of Wasiu Ayinde’s famous medleys, he tells a story of how music repaid him for his devotion. He sings in detail of how wealth, international recognition, and accolades were his proceeds from music. Orin d’wo is a Fuji classic and one of many records in his extensive discography. In the song, he gives out advice on how self-realization is needed for growth, how being a good and God-fearing, grateful person are the attributes that got him to where he is. Wasiu Ayinde was co-signed by Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister-whom he worked with at the beginning of his career- and he has since carried the Fuji sound to new heights. The popular medley also includes adoration of the late king of Fuji. Ayinde has been consistent for the past four decades, with over twenty albums and EPs to his name. Tours and live concerts across Europe, North America, and America, Wasiu Ayinde is a musician by profession. Fuji as a genre originated in the mid-1900s, founded from the Islamic style of music called Ajisari, which was used to wake before the break of Muslims during the month of Ramadan. Instruments-drums, piano, tambourine, horns, and strings were later added with lyrics still rooted in Islamic belief but mildly secular for it to be enjoyed by others outside the religion. Fondly referred to as music for the wealthy, Fuji artists have made a profession by praising the elite of society. Often times the people being praised are not scrutinized for their source of income, the only concern for the entertainer was the wads of cash that would accompany him home after the show. Ayinde’s lyrics of goodwill contradict his profession as his sole audience are people who have contributed to the social and economic retardation of Nigeria. A lineup of politicians with corrupt allegation rap sheets, capitalist CEOs who have parlayed with the government for policies to further ruin the nation, and ex-cons that have found their way back into society, all gather to listen to Ayinde sing their accomplishments while sprinkling a pinch of goodwill lyrics to ease his conscience.
Burna Boy’s rise to success was a tedious ordeal. An embodiment of what hard work represents, Burna has inspired a generation to have self-belief and devotion to one’s craft. His arrival into the Nigerian industry a decade ago should be regarded as the genesis of a success story, facing multiple challenges hos lyrics mirrored his presence and life outside the music profession. The trajectory of Burna Boy’s career is a unique tale of glory with hidden truths and open falsehood. 2016 saw the beginning of his transition from a B-class artist to an A-class. The release of his song Soke saw a part of Burna that would use his profession as a musician as a form of activism. Nigerians always loved a struggle song, more so one that could make them gyrate and forget the struggle being emphasized. Burna Boy milks this avenue with his craft. 2018 was unarguably a year he dominated in all aspects and form of music, the Outside album dropped and any doubts of his potentials not being attained were dismantled entirely. Burna has always been talented since the days of Freedom Freestyle, but his ability to combine truthful relatable lyrics with eccentric instrumentals pivoted him years ahead of his peers. Prior to these acts of activism, his affiliation to Fela was public knowledge, with references in lyrics, to using the African Shine for his Run My Race video and the unforgettable performance he had done in a pair of white underwear-a distasteful mimic of the Abami Eda.
Documentaries have been made to celebrate the odyssey that led Burna Boy to his Grammy nomination of 2019. Interviews have been held where he emphasized the influence Fela had on his craft and how his relentless attribute brought him this far. The African Giant saga was another infinity stone added to his gauntlet of self-worth, affirming that his sacrifices to his profession would not be belittled. Tracks like Collateral Damage and Another Story further raised Burna on the pedestal of activism in Nigeria. His nomination at the Grammys had everyone sitting at the edge of their seat for the next and he did not disappoint. Twice As Tall was deserving of the award, it was evident that his determination to have the world validate and admit his greatness was the core purpose of the project. Following his usual routine of activism, Monsters You Made was the song that did it for everyone, his previous lingering between profession and politics was completely forgiven and forgotten. Sadly this didn’t last long as his absence at the END SARS protests confirmed that his activism started and stopped in his lyrics. Although his assistance in the promotion of awareness of the protest by renting out the LCC billboard was seen as damage control. Being unable to hide his partial activism, Burna released a song in memory of the Nigerian that died at the Lekki toll gate on the 20th of October 2020. The last straw for his partisan behavior was his recent visit to Port Harcourt where he openly hailed Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike for splurging on entertainers at the state’s expense.
Music, like politics, is a game of numbers, people, and representation. It is important that we feel seen and spoken for in both institutions. The decisions made by these artists who have influenced two generations is a lesson worth learning. It is important that the oppressed are constantly seeking better by challenging their oppressors but it is also more important to scrutinize the underlying intent. Are our favorite artists speaking truth to power for altruistic reasons or are they just in it for themselves?