Inteview with Goldkeyz, a Nigerian music producer 

​Interview with Ayo Onaduja for More Branches.                                                ________________________________________

Why did you name yourself Goldkeyz and what do you understand by being a producer ?

Goldkeyz : Actually didn’t name myself ‘Goldkeyz’. It was given to me by Bankyondbeatz. He inspired me to start making music. Big shouts to him. What I understand by being a producer is more than just getting on a DAW and making a beat. You have to be conscious of the artists’ style, know what to do to bring out the best in him/her, even instruct the artists from the recording stage when necessary.

I want to talk about the relationship you have with Bernie And Banky? You all are friends from college and somehow feed off each others’s energy

Goldkeyz : Bernie is my cousin, friends with Banky for years now since high school. Basically brothers to me. Yeah about that, it’s just good vibes. We know where we’re coming from and where we intend on going with our plans. We just keep ourselves in the loop: when new projects are recorded we link up, listen, rub minds, pure vibes.

My sound is dark and spiritual; easy to sink into. I pay attention to the percussions in my music- Goldkey.

Explain the music you create ?

Goldkeyz : I make laid-back music-simple and mellow. During production of instrumentals I make sure all the elements I’m adding counts and I pay attention to every detail; makes it easier for the artists to work with. I can say I make timeless music too- doesn’t age over time, still sounds fresh when you listen even when it was made years back.

Define your sound, the elements and tone of your music.

Goldkeyz : My sound is dark and spiritual; easy to sink into. I pay attention to the percussions in my music. it really gives that drive, then the rest just comes honestly. Grew up listening to African music from the likes of King Sunny Ade, Chief Ebenezer Obey, Fela Kuti and so on. My dad played them a lot when I was younger. Even till date i really love the percussions in the music, the way they swing. I picked that up and tend to fuse it with the new school drums.

Let’s talk about your debut body of work ‘Afrocentric’, the story behind its inception, what inspired it and the direction of your music moving forward ?

Goldkeyz : ‘Afrocentric’ that project is still very dear to me. Then I believed I’ve found my sound. There’s this exotic sound I created with the afro music, you could hear that on Mainland Cruise, Roulette and the rest. Most songs were recorded way back and was lying around on my computer. When I came up with the idea of having a project out for listeners I just compiled them and made some more,; staying true to the culture. Now music is evolving day by day so holding on to bits of afro elements and blending it with different sounds is one way I’m pushing my music forward, plus I’m working on a project and I have some plans lined up for that.

Defining the music of my generation I would say is almost impossible because music on its own is wide and can’t be boxed. 

Define the music of your generation from a perspective of the sounds being infused and created by producers ?

Goldkeyz :  Defining the music of my generation I would say is almost impossible because music on its own is wide and can’t be boxed. Essentially, as a music producer it is very easy to be creative with the beat selection and fusing different sounds for the artiste I’m looking to work with just because this generation is exposed to a whole range of music.

African music is globally recognized, how does that affect your mindset in creating ?

Goldkeyz : To be totally honest with you, when I create music, I don’t put all you’ve mentioned in consideration. I just put sounds that I am comfortable with together and I create, anywhere my sound reaches, the people there would relate and enjoy my music.

The Kids Will Code

This segment is a collaborative effort between More Branches (@MoreBranches), a Nigerian based content curating site and Culartblog.
Written By Richard Ogundiya For More Branches (@MoreBranches)                            ________________________________________

I spent my childhood going for birthday parties and learning how to somersault. I got on a wave one time and I started writing (a big production house bought my script. There was even a time Rockstar Sosa and I started rapping, but those dreams kept on being dreams.

Today, It’s crazy how I see 6, 7 and 8 years old kids hop into their parents’ cars on weekends and tell you they’re going for coding sessions.      Wait? What are you coding?

Oh are you still shadowed? You still don’t know Nigerian kids have started coding? I’m happy I broke the news. I always like to talk about the Role Co Creation hub has played and is still playing in the creation of a vibrant tech ecosystem, its crazy. Some years ago, I was testing an educational app in one of their labs, another time it was geeks club (after school hours for the tech enthusiasts) and then there was the bomb- summer of code.

Co Creation Hub birthed Re:Learn, an organization helping students and schools use technology the right way 

Summer of Code is a full month of interactive programs that introduces kids aged 5-18 years old into computer science and programming, wild! Here, the kids learn to make connections between technology and their interests; they learn how to design computer games and animations using SCRATCH, design web pages using HTML/CSS and build computer applications using python, again, wild!

I really thought we were the internet kids, I was wrong. Imagine what these kids will do at age 13? We might wake up and stumble on a social messaging platform built by one of the kids, for the kids, someday.

Co Creation Hub birthed Re:Learn, an organization helping students and schools use technology the right way (if you can remember a picture of Mark Zuckerberg paying attention to kids while they used the computer during his visit to Nigeria then you definitely know what I’m talking about.) 

Re:Learn currently runs an after school club for students between primary 1 and SS3, two times a week. There’s a weekend club for children who are too busy to spare work days, the sole aim is to prepare the kids for today’s digital world and also allow them learn new skills.

Then there’s gap year, for students who are done with secondary and have time to spare instead of unicribing (an act of sleeping and waking up till the next jamb form is out, common amongst West Africans) this one aims to kickstart a career for you and prepare you for the undergraduate life.

They’re using content curation and capacity development to improve the learning experience in and out of the classroom (emphasis on ‘out’). Few weeks ago, they launched Educators’ Network- a community of educators who are passionate about education and have a strong appreciation of technology, remember I said few weeks ago? Today, they’ve gotten over 1500 applications from across the country, Masters and PhD holders inclusive.

One at a time, these wonderful team from CCHub are engineering ways to ensure that the children of today become internet rockstars. They want to serve over 1,000,000 students in the span of 5 years and at the same time, combat unemployment by training graduates and deploying them to schools nationwide.

If our kids can code, if our kids can code, if our kids can jump on the internet of things, then it’s safe to say that Re:Learn has fixed a major October 1 1960 problem.

The future is being created via the internet and it’s energizing to know we have tech companies in Nigeria and other African nations encouraging the youths to be apart of the global internet revolution, this will allow us create our own applications and lead our own tech companies that can shape and structure solutions to problems that have faced Africans for years.
This new movement of coding within the culture has inspired tech start-ups like Andela, LeadSpace and one I’m currently building with friends called Mushroom Technologies. 
Knowing we’re more empowered by aiding ourselves with the skills to program and construct our own layers of the world using a computer and internet, tech companies, start-ups and hubs like the ones I’ve mentioned will become homes to these pioneers.
We would create our own Google, our own Amazon, leaders of the tech world like Jeff Bezos or Steve Jobs will be birthed within them, in Africa to help grow these companies that might seem like start ups now, a change is coming and the kids are coding it.

THE CUTS: EP 02 Vol. 5

THE CUTS is your weekly round-up of songs and videos that has caught our attention and think you must hear or see. The music featured aren’t genre specific. THE CUTS is delivered every FRIDAY

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Kwame Write – Homeless Minds 

One of the saddening sights in most cities, no matter the level of development, are the homeless folks. Unfortunately, no one seems to care about them. Thier plight forms the basis of ‘Homeless Minds, a spoken word piece by Kwame Write. With Ebo Taylor’s horns adorning ‘Heaven’ (re-created by Yung Fly)  swirling beneath his voice, Kwame Write brings their plight to of the fore: ‘he reads me the arcane trade laws negotiating pain/ a newspaper spread covers his head, but in the newspapers his painful story is not shared’. The visuals are random snapshots of both ordinary and homeless people in Paris, France. Kwame Write’s socio-political consciousness is pervasive on his recently released EP, ‘Bloodlines’.
DJ Vision feat Samini – Like December 


I love the Samini I’m hearing. He sounds so comfortable and glorious on this Juls produced single. For a while, I’ve wondered when Samini of 5 years ago would pop up again, dishing out dope material(s) for his fans. Thankfully, DJ Vision’s ‘Like December’ could be the launch pad for Samini to invigorize his career. ‘Like December’, rides on the DJ Juls sound- mellow afrobeat chops blended with infectious highlife rhythms. The song is an idolization of a woman’s features: ‘your body, your body o/e dey make me mental’. Given the unstoppable Shatta Wale train and Stonebwoy’s continuous streak of hits, Samini’s glow has dimed in comparison. Currently, the panache and ingenuity that often surrounded his previous songs is missing. He seemed to be playing catch-up. On ‘Like December’, not only is Samini reminding us he has the glow that endeared many to him, but DJ Vision is making a formidable statement that, he knows how to make bangers- 3 solid hits in a row.
Falz – Jeje

Nigerian rapper Falz ‘The Bahdguy’ took advantage of his visit to Ghana, last month, off the back of the Ghana Meet Naija Concert to shoot a video for ‘Jeje’. The mid-tempo danceable song earned a highly impressive video to match its tone. Shot around Jamestown (which has become a favorite music video spot), the video follows Falz as he falls in love: he sees a girl whom he liked, had a convo with her and goes and pick her up from a cafe where she works as a waiteress. The video has some incredible technical qualities: the angles of shots, the location (Jamestown), the pictures isn’t excessively colour graded like the many on our screens; there’s seamless continuity in the story being told. The video is visually appealing.

Alex Wondergem – Off The Dome


‘Off The Dome’ is a 5 track, 10 mins 52 seconds EP by Alex Wondergem, a producer, DJ and rapper. It’s his debut work aimed at showcasing his talents and also let his thoughts run free over various issues. He states his mission on the opening track God, rapping with such rapidity. Half-Co Flow (a slang for mixed race, which he is) has him rapping over J.Cole’s ‘Back To The Topic’ instrumentals (J.Cole sampled from Cassie and P.Diddy’s ‘Must Be Love’). Man Dem is a shot at haters and hypocrites. Kwahme Flex drops a patios/dancehall hook. Alex talks about the pressures of life on Under Pressure and success on It’s Like A Video Game, where he raps ‘the fire inside won’t ignite unless you search for the light’;  a reminder to find your inspiration. Alex, whose collaborative efforts with neo-soul artiste Eli Muzik resulted in the bold, unapologetical “Buying Our Freedom” EP comes off more as Terrence Martins than DJ Khaleed on ”Off The Dome”
bigBen – Princess

bigBen got introduced to Ghanaians off the back of ‘Do My Own’ by M.anifest. He released the video for his single ‘Princess’-a song that carries a ‘this is why I love you’ theme: ‘I got everything that you need so give me yourself‘. The visuals aren’t mind blowing except for those water over glass haziness (don’t know how best to describe it) employed for some of the scenes. bigBen may not be such a huge force within the music circles yet, but his style of singing- a mix between traditional highlife, dancehall and urban afropop- could be a factor in his future success.
MzBel feat Fimfim – Swag

MzBel should be grateful for whoever ghostwrote and made the reference track for this song. Her rapping was spotless-a quality she has never possessed (by her standard). She raps sometimes yes, but it has never triumphed over this one. ‘Swag’ features rapper Mfimfim (he produced it). As the title suggest, ‘Swag’ is a credential boasting song with MzBel identifying herself as the real ‘boss chick’. MzBel’s popularity has been fueled largely by her controversial acts than her musical exploits so it’s obvious she’s trying to make herself relevant again. Whether it would bring her swag back (pun intended) within the music space is something I doubt. But, who knows. 

EP Review: Holes In A Pair by Slimo

Any avid watcher of the poetry scene in Ghana today would have noticed the vibrancy and energetic efforts at pushing the artform towards the centre of entertainment. 

Poets are leading this effort through the release of various projects-mostly EPs. This year has seen the release of some compelling body of work by some leading voices within the poetry scene; picking up from last year. With the release of these EPs, poets aren’t concentrating on sharing their works with just a handful of poetry enthusiasts in a small room. They are reaching out to a larger audience- both far and near.

Slimo, a performance poet is the latest to join the caravan of EP dropping poets. His 6 track EP, “Hair In A Pair”, is a collection of thoughts and observations on relationships.

Slimo’s love for poetry began in Junior High School but it wasn’t until at the University that he took to performance. He emerged on the radar of many after placing third at the annual Ehalakasa Slam in 2016. On “Holes In A Pair”, one clearly notice his gifts-artistry, nuances, clarity of thoughts. For Slimo, “Holes In A Pair” is a reflection on a flaws in relationships: between a father (Sugar Daddy) and daughter; Mother and Daughter; Man and Life; Girl and an Ex”. 

The stories on the Spider 64 produced EP are, according to Slimo ”inspired by real life experiences of a lady”. It features Elidor The Poet, Jeff Joen and Tommy Maverick

​ The EP’s ‘Intro’ present a poet who trades talking or speaking for rapping. It’s the musings of a jilted lover who completely extricate himself of any blame: ‘said I’m the cause of all this but had your mind made up. Just to look good in the eyes of the people. Don’t you do that with your make-up?’.

On ‘Sugar Daddy’, his descriptive writing comes to light- he describes his characters and situations in vivid detail: ‘margins of his singlet shows/ the armpit of his shirt are soaked in sweat‘. Employing a skit from the classic ‘I Told You So’ movie as a contextual tool, he brings a tone of comic relief to a serious subject. ‘Sugar Daddy’ is a story about infidelity- a young girl dating a older married man whose wife is being banged by the young girl’s brother. He aced on how he eneded the story.

‘Her Mother’ is a ‘how to be a lady’ letter from a concerned mother to her daughter. She takes cognizance of today’s fashion culture- short, tight, skimpy and cleavage showing crop tops-worn to win likes on social media. Her conservative views on dress codes stems from the fact that ‘there’s no proof that decency was different than it is now’. She emphasizes the notion of ‘you get addressed by how you dress’ especially in attracting the right guy: ‘You search for the right guy is like a mirage in a desert with thirsty nomad’.

‘Is life unfair?’, that’s question ‘Fruits’, the bluesy/country-esque guitar driven piece seek to unravel. ‘Fruits’ explores the relationship between Man (humans) and Life. With vox pops serving as anecdotes, Slimo eschews the notion of pre-determinism. He regards failure as a human choice (life is not fair is a cliche that denote failure). He bemoans the often crazeof blaming life for what it offers rather than taking the blame for how ones life turns out. In his view, ‘life is fair if you make yourself useful’.

Both ‘Numbers’ and ‘Blues’ play on the concept of unrequited love and the recuperation process after a break-up respectively. Sampling Nina Simone’s ‘You Know How I Feel’, Slimo whines about the unevenness in relationships; where one party isn’t into you. He questions the trip that is love: if love is that good a feeling, why do you have to fall before you feel it?’

‘Blues’ on the other hand, deals with the difficulty in seeking a perfect palliative after a break-up: do you jump in a new one, curse him for stealing your innocence, taking long walks? Or you still wish he calls you, send you those text, make you a priority?.

“Holes In A Pair” scores high in some aspects – creative presentation of thoughts, right theme songs to aid his expressions, a voice tone that’s not irritating- some male poets like to flaunt their skills and cadences unnecessarily. 

However, there are flaws, minor though as noticed on ‘Sugar Daddy’ and ‘Fruits’, where the transition from song/skits to delivery didn’t merge well. His opinion about how women should dress (on Her Mother) would raise eye browns in some quarters especially the link between decent dressing and marrying the ‘right guy’ Although the EP is inspired by the reality of a lady friend, Slimo excused men of blame for some of their actions that provokes post traumatic love disorder. 

As a debut project, “Holes In A Pair” is a good advert for Slimo. His talents are not in question. How he goes from this point would define him, as an artist, a writer and a creative mind. Every relationship has it’s flaws (holes) and this EP seek to ask the simple question: what is the hole in your pair (relationship)?

Beat Bang: Skillions boss Jayso shares his Top 5 Productions

“I only got interested in production because I couldn’t find a producer who made the kind of beats I wanted” – Jayso told BeatPhreak



JAYSO needs no introduction as far as the music scene in Ghana is concerned. His imprints on the scene is as huge as those of a bear on a muddy land. His profile and influence strides across rap, music production and of course, A&R. Nobody in the music scene has been able to identify and shape the career path of many young rappers as Jayso. 

For a decade, Jayso co-founded the first hip-hop collective, Skillions in the early 2000s. Made up of himself, EL, J-Town, Ball J, Jinx (now Frank P), Midknight and KP, the Skillions were at the forefront of hip-hop in Ghana. 

Serving as a rapper and a producer, JaySo masterminded their first mixtape. After the group members went different paths, he constituted another group made up young rappers under the ‘Skillions New Generation’ (had Lil Shaker, Rumor, Killmatic, BraKevin Beats, Graffick and Padlock and Gemini as affiliates). He also guided the careers of award winning singer, Adina Thembi and Paapa along with Sandra, Edi Young. 

In December, 2015, Jayso released his long awaited debut ‘’Making Tasha Proud’’ to great acclaim. For all his stellar gift on the mic, it is his production skills that most know him for. Jayso’s production catalogue is a box of glistering stones. He has produced for some of the best and famed rappers in the country and beyond including Sway DaSafo (UK), Wyclef (US) as well as Sarkodie, Kwaw Kesse, ASEM, Scientific. 

Despite his name tagged to so many hit songs, Jayso dug into his work and pulled his Top 5 productions (thus far), sharing in the process, the exciting back stories to how the beats or productions came about.  Brace up and step into the works of the one and only Jayso

LAY AWAY [SARKODIE FT. SWAY & JAYSO]

Back in 2008, I was in the studio working with the New Generation Skillions and my old friend and in my opinion one of the pioneers of GH-Rap Music, Dr. Carl visited (a Radio Host/DJ at Radio Universe). He’d just started making beats. He was playing some of his beats for me and there was this particular beat which had a very weird drum pattern. It was off-beat but there was a snare roll that caught my attention. I copied the snare-roll which sounded almost like a drum fill and started building a completely different beat around it. Around the time I was using Hypersonic 2 and was crazy about the Brass synths it came with so I used that for the horns. Everything was produced on FL Studio except the piano. I played that in Cubase.

I loved what I created and immediately started writing to it. I wrote and recorded the chorus and started writing my verses. At the time I was working on Sarkodie’s album so he heard it during one of our sessions and loved it but I told him to stay off because left to him, he’ll rap on every beat I had lol. Before I could finish the song something interesting happened. 

Sway visited the studio a few days later to work with Black Prophet. I hit up Sarkodie to rush to the studio because we were hoping to get Sway on one of his songs. The two artistes had already met at a radio station the previous day and they both respected each other so the possibility of a collaboration wasn’t far-fetched. Sarkodie came through and after Sway’s session with Black Prophet, we talked about the collaboration. Sway was in a hurry to leave so he asked me to play some beats. None of the beats worked for him so he was about to leave and Sarkodie pulled me to the side like “Jayso, what about that Lay Away song?” I was reluctant at first because it was for my album but I decided to give it to Sarkodie because we could lose that collaboration with Sway. I played it for Sway and he loved it. Sway recorded his verse and the rest is history.

WAR [KWAW KESE FEAT. WYCLEF JEAN]

Wyclef Jean visited Ghana in 2009 for a concert. On the day of his concert, I was home chilling and Kwaw Kese called me and told me to be on standby because there’s a possibility that he’ll get Wyclef to jump on one of his songs. 

At the time, Kwaw Kese was recording some songs at my studio. I rushed to the studio and prepared the place for the session. I was excited but to be perfectly I didn’t expect much. I didn’t think Wyclef would make it. I mean, this is Wyclef. Wyclef in my studio in Adenta? No way. But hey, I compiled some of my best beats and sat tight. A few hours later Kwaw Kese called me again to tell me they are en route to the studio.

We got to work immediately they arrived. I played a bunch of beats and Wyclef selected one. He went straight into the booth and started free-styling his verse. No pen. No pad. He finished in no time. We talked about music, politics etc- a very cool and humble fella. Wyclef had to leave so Kwaw Kese recorded his parts later. One of my favorite sessions till date.

NOTHING WITHOUT YOU (SCIENTIFIC FEAT. JAYSO)

Nothing Without You is one of my favorite songs. The message, the chorus, Scientific’s verses, it’s simply beautiful. In 2008, Scientific called me about a song he’d written and wanted to record. I asked him to come to the studio. He had already written the chorus and verses so he asked me to sing it. He didn’t need to convince me. Working on the beat was easy since my guide was the chorus.

PIZZA & BURGER [JAYSO & SARKODIE]

This song sparked the idea of a joint album between myself and Sarkodie (The Mind Game). Sarkodie was in America and sent me a voice-note of the chorus for Pizza and Burger. Soon as I heard the chorus I had a clear idea what to create. I revisited an old drum pattern I had created back in 2010 and re-produced it. I sent the beat to Sark and let’s just say the rest is history.

MAKING TASHA PROUD [JAYSO FEAT. A.I]

The whole album was inspired by Tasha, my biggest fan (as I stated on the song). The album had been long in the works so, when she hit me about it, I quickly hit the booth to record. I had the beat laid already and the verses ready. I didn’t struggle on who to put on the hook. I have known AI for a while-we are all Adenta boys and had visited my studio many times. So, I drafted him on and the rest of the story is out there.

His latest gift to the world is herehttps://soundcloud.com/jaysoskillions/sets/0106epvol2

Follow Jayso on twitter @Jaysoskillions

written by: Swaye Kidd (@swayekidd)

Throwback: Dasebre Dwamena feat. Lord Kenya – Kokooko

The ripples that Dasebre Dwamena’s breakthrough debut caused was to be expected. It shot him into the limelight, resulting in him becoming one of the finest highlife artistes of all time. It also injected a renewed verve into highlife music, which at that point, was waning in popularity- hiplife was entering into a golden era.
“Kokooko”, released in 1999 as a first single (named after his debut album ‘Kokooko), was a blend between highlife and RnB. “Kokooko” sampled American singer Brandy’s hit ‘You Don’t Love Me’. Produced by Zapp Mallet and Okraku Mantey, the song thrusted both Dasebre ‘Ahoufee’ Dwamena and Lord Kenya, who was featured into the front of the music pack. If there was a quality that was evident in Dasebre even at the early stages, it was his songwriting skills- proverb riddled, didactive stories-and his laid back attributes. These qualities were pervasive in his illustrous career. 

The accompanying video is where all the sauce laid. The video carried a date-in-the-park theme (surprising video isn’t available on YouTube). It was simplistic in form yet creative: an out of the box creative thinking. An open green park, a bed, a mirror with Dasebre Dwamena crooning soulfully to his lover. Lord Kenya, riding a bike in cirlces dropped a memorable verse to add sheeen to the track. His verse grew not only his stature; rap-wise but is still an iconic delivery. 

Dasebre Dwamena’s career didn’t always see an upward swing. It was blighted by his incaceration in the UK following a cocaine bust- which he blamed a friend for setting him up in 2006. He was, however, acquitted after an 11 month jail term. He came back to  Ghana and released an album, which didn’t make the rounds. His last album ‘Yenfii Ta’ was released before his untimely death in 2016. 

A look back on his career reveal a more than a dozen hits: Ahoufe, Odo, Saa, You Can’t Touch Me, Calling, W’afom, It’s Ok, Still I Love You, Twa So. He’s one of the most prolific writers of his generation and stands tall next to highlife greats like Daddy Lumba, Kojo Antwi, Oheneba Kissi, Ofori Amponsah. 

Dasebre Dwamena wasn’t a hit chasing artist. Rather, his compositions found its way into the charts thanks to his melodies, unmistakable R&B influences, great vocal deliveries and his unparalleled songwriting. He didn’t collaborate much. The few he did were with artistes whose pen game were equally stellar.

Death robbed us of a talent who had much to offer the music world. That’s the cruelty of death: picking the greats when in their prime . His music, however, is enough tribute to his memory. And “Kokooko” would always be the beam of light that glowed over Abubakar Siddiq aka Dasebre Dwamena’s career path. RIP Ahoufe!!

Bridging the Gap between Art and Politics: How Tuface Idibia and Tekno are leading the way

(all photos courtesy Royal TV)

Art and Politics. 

The arguments have raged on whether the two are distinct​ or are mutually inexclusive. The arguments of those who advocate  the separation rest in the fact that, artists don’t understand the nuances of politics and are therefore liable to misinform, misjudge and miseducate the masses who believe in their words. This ‘flaw’ is enough reason for them to step away from politics.

For defenders of the second school of thought, art reflect the state of affairs at any period of time, therefore artists- writers, poets, painters, dramatists and musicians- forming a critical part of the society, must involve themselves in the process. Any call for them to be uninterested in the political dealings of their society is assinine.

Although, the first argument sound ridiculous, the actions/inactions of some artists to recline into the comfortable chair of inactivism has fuelled the believe among people that, artists must not enter the political fray. The only occasion that guarantees them the right to indulge in politics is when they become full time politicians. 

Artists in Africa have always been political animals. Through the pre-independence era to post-independence epoch, records exist to show that, some African artists were very active participants within the political independence struggle. 

One country that found it’s artists blurring the two gulfs (if there exist any) is Nigeria especially post- independence in 1960. From writers such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and Ken Saro-Wiwa to foremost musicians like Fela Anikulapo Kuti along with many others, they never missed an opportunity to criticize their country’s leaders, whom they consider liable for Nigeria’s viscous transformation to a better society, both on the political, social and economic fronts. 

Whiles Ken Saro-Wiwa paid the high price for his activities, Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe fled into exile when their lives became threatened. Fela Kuti however, stayed in Nigeria, suffered for his commentaries (through his music), most times at the peril of his life, albeit taking shelter sometimes in Ghana when the political heat became unbearable.

The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of it’s leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership – Chinua Achebe, The Trouble With Nigeria

The torch of political consciousness lighted by Fela Kuti through his music continued to burn after his death. In his kids, Femi and Seun Kuti, his legacy lives. Other musicians, of recent generation, inspired by Fela have stepped into the fray, the prognosis of the Nigerian society serving as their artistic fodder. 

These musicians are not oblivious of the consequences of their actions: trumped up criminal charges, accusations and losing fans. They, however, recognize their civic roles of edifying the populace of happenings in society. By discussing the everyday struggles of the average citizen and identifying with their plight, these musicians are demystifying the notion of living in a comfortable bubbe-their riches or success are shielding them from the harsh realities facing the ordinary guy.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a video by one of the influential musicians in Nigeria, Tuface Idibia which carried a very important political theme. It was a video for his single “Holy Holy”. The song addresses the many allegations and challenges that Tuface encountered when he attempted to step near the political fire. He knew he’d sweat from stepping too close, yet he did. 

Earlier this year, news emerged that Tuface was organizing a demonstration against the choking economic crisis facing Nigeria; the country was going through a recession. The march didn’t happen. Whiles he was criticized by both the political class and some Nigerians for his ‘politically’ motivated march (it was alleged he was being used by the opposition), there were rumours of him being paid off by the government to call off the protest march. On “Holy Holy”, the ‘African Queen’ singer addressed some of the issues. The video of the song conveyed much more than what the lyrics offered.

The video for Holy Holy:

The video for “Holy Holy” spotlight two interesting ideas: first, the criticism and the overall actions of sections of the public when an individual decides to critique the political system. Second, it brings into focus the state of Nigeria after independence per its overall development. Even though the song is about Tuface and his trials, it also extends to all who get attacked for their political opinions.

As you get opinion make you know say other people get opinion too/Jah Jah love so amazing/I keep elevating’ – Tuface, Holy Holy

The first image that’s seen in the video is of kids fleeing from an area under attack: the flume, the gunshots and the confusion. The scene reflect the often seen mayhem that the senseless terror attacks carried out by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. 

A Fela Kuti video interview follows. Fela, in this interview sums up the reaction of Africans in the face of serious issues which should court their anger: ‘we suffer and smile’, he observed. A shot of a black Mercedes Benz (Nigeria’s love Benz) with numerous daggers (matchetes) stuck into it comes along. A sparkling Eagle emblem (National symbol) ironically sit on this old car. The Benz bears the registration number 1960.

The Benz, the matchete sticking through it, the shining Eagle emblem and the number plate of 1960 is a metaphor for the state of Nigeria. The burnt Benz represent the corroding state of Nigeria (the blatant corruption, mismanagement of resources); the shining eagle represent the pride of Nigeria; the registration number of 1960 is when Nigeria became independent.

2Baba, in his black (mourning) jalabia (traditional gown) is shown gazing across a vast land from a hilltop. He’s ‘visited’ by people from diverse backgrounds– priests, ordinary folks, judges, sultans, security persons who pelt him with stones. But, their efforts are thwarted by the invisible shield around him. This scene ties in to the earlier criticism he suffered when he decided to organize the demonstration and eventually backing off.

Towards the end of this Clarence A. Peters directed video, the Benz catches fire with Tuface, emerging from the flame dressed in all white, waving the Green, White and Green flag of Nigeria. A new dawn, a new optimism, a new dream. A clear case of it must get destroyed before we elevate. 

On “Holy Holy”, Tuface told his own story- his frustrations, his dream for his country, the current state of affairs of Nigeria and his ultimate wish of a corruption free, peaceful, and developed Nigeria. 

Before “Holy Holy”, another artiste had broached the subject of Nigeria and it’s affairs. Tekno, has made a name off the back of his hit song “Pana”. With it’s minimal tone, well infused synths and mid-tempo groove, Tekno won hearts and admiration for his stellar output. Other equally happy tunes followed, including production and writing credits for other big name artistes (he wrote and produced ‘IF’ for Davido​). 

But, one song that defined Tekno’s versatility and political consciousness is “Ra Ra”, a highlife influenced song. The song focuses on the conumdrum that is Nigeria: a country which has, since 1960 been scared to rise to it’s potential as a developed country despite it’s reources-oil and people. Tekno, touches on the issues of eternal energy crisis, poverty and under-development. 

He reminds the political authorities​ to satisfy the basic needs of the citizens before moving to the bigger things. His opening lyrics on “Ra Ra” dovetails into the observation by Fela at the start of the “Holy Holy” video. Tekno sings these words in pidgin: “my country people/dem dey talk talk/ dem just dey paramboulat/so so story every year”.

He touches on the energy crisis that has bedeviled Nigeria for decades and point to corruption as the reason. It’s a irony that, one of the worlds producers of oil can’t produce enough for the use of it’s citizens: ”NEPA no bring light/ Generator wan tear my ear/ Plenty greedy man for there”.  He goes on to remind the political authorities that dreaming big is great but satisfying the basic needs is of greater importance: ” forget about the big things/ so make we talk about the small things”.

International something/ Is a big situation/ Dem dey pack our money/take it to other nation

Invest for your country o/Spend the money for your country/ Make it a better place – Tekno (Ra Ra)

There’s no dichotomy between Arts and Politics. These two are more like Siamese twins than identical twins. Whereas art mirrors the political temperature, politics provides the fodder for artists to feed on. Even if there are efforts to separate the two, some artists still remind us that, that separation is nothing but a mirage. 

And it is heartwarming to see that, artists aren’t just finding inspiration in the political conditions in their respective country but are stepping within the political realm as activists; doing their bit in raising consciousness, projecting the challenges within their society and pressuring authorities to concentrate efforts in addressing these concerns. 

Taking a decision to be an activist has it’s consequences, sometimes injurious to the artists and those closest to them. This fear cows a lot of African artists from being vocal on political issues. But, as stakeholders in the political sphere, shying away from human related issues betrays your calling as an artists. That’s why Tuface and Tekno deserve all the love and encouragement. Not mission shattering criticisms.