Guest Writer: Arowoshola Oluwafemi John
The world is fast spinning and what was a means of entertainment is now being utilized as a tool of social criticism and political re-evaluation. The tides are changing and the unusual is becoming a norm. At least I am proud and happy that some of our Nigerian artistes are waking up to their duty and they are beginning to understand that being listened to means that you have to speak – you have to speak sense.
Music educates, music informs, more than any other means, music just sticks. Many times when I have the opportunity to talk to a group, I punch and re-punch the fact that education would be easier if we were taught in songs. You know this is true when you hear a ten-year old start a Wizkid’s song and only stop after hitting the last note. The youth today have stopped buying the lyric books because when they listen a few times it becomes an anthem. Call that the power of music.
Now the questions that begin to pop are: if we don’t forget song lyrics in a rush, doesn’t that mean music has a lasting effect? And if music has a lasting effect, doesn’t that make it a vital tool for socio-political criticism? Isn’t there a way that artistes can do what they love and still dedicate themselves to public service – serving as the voice of the people? In the past, we have had the likes of Eedris Abdulkareem come out to say: “Everything jaga jaga”. In this song, he expressed his dissatisfaction and that of many Nigerians regarding the classist nature of governance in Nigeria: an unfair nature of governance which relegates the less-privileged to the backseat. He posits that Nigeria is a type of nation where the rich get richer and the poor has no escape route – there would have been a possibility of climbing the ladder only if the rich hadn’t taken the ladder up with them. He also condemns acts of violence that was even less of an issue as at the time, compared to present times. Sound Sultan also said in what seemed like a prophetic declaration that one day the bush meat will become the hunter’s greatest fear. After these times, we only had barks that seemed like that of a puppy, no one roared any longer.
Fast forward to 2016, it now seems as though the sleeping lions are up. We might be returning to the days of ‘Boys Are Not Smiling’ (which I consider the only major example of the modern generation artistes in Nigeria lending a voice, through music, to pressing issues facing the society). In a world where music is more about the fame and money other than passion for the craft, there seems to be a beaming ray of hope.
In what I would refer to as a major betrayal of the status quo, Cobhams and Falz teamed up to give us a good feel of what music could do in the right hands. Language, Tone and Content of the song lands a huge slap on what is quick becoming the reality of our economy and politics – corruption. In the first verse of the song “BOOSIT”, Falz expresses absolute contempt for what is the total image of the typical Nigerian politician. He criticizes their repeated promise-and-fail nature that is becoming the culture of the job. They claim they “want to swear a h’oath they will abide toe”. This could be considered true since every Nigerian president, for over two decades that I have been alive, promised us better roads and other social amenities and after all those years, the only type of infrastructure we have gotten is what Falz calls their “stomach infrastructure”.
Funny as it may seem, it is beginning to look like our resources and National funds are really just a national cake that every politician wants a cut of. “Climb up and chop money” has become a blueprint – a code of conduct by which the position of leadership is run. Little wonder that in just months, the EFFC, under the present administration, has uncovered millions of embezzled funds involving top officials of our dear country. Year after year we have been promised the same thing, used and dumped by different people. Our youths are utilized as instruments for the propagation of political campaigns and relegated to the sidewalk – asked to wait for a future that has come and is moving past us at a fast pace. They think “we are dumb and we can’t talk”. Human beings are being treated like livestock, pushed around over and again by clueless leaders who are yet to lead themselves. We have a pack of senators who come to meetings with boxing gloves hidden under their agbada. Falz ends the first verse by stating that what Nigerians have exhibited so far is patience not stupidity. It is looking like Sound Sultan’s prophecy is coming true and Nigerians (who of course are humans) are beginning to denounce the ‘bush meat identity’ that we’ve been given for years – refusing to be hunted and oppressed. This is reflected in the chorus of the song where Cobhams pointed categorically that we are not bushmeat.
The second verse of the song, which is seen ordinarily as a diversion from political concerns, is, in my view, a figurative craft used by these musicians to further criticize the political system. In that verse, I choose to believe that the abused wife is the Nigerian populace, and the one Falz refers to as “wife beater like your popsy” represents the Nigerian politicians who have not failed to abuse us economically and politically just like the ones before them – “striking resemblance!” He says: “shey you say you wee love me die if you get chance”, this is indicative of promises made on the high platform when they campaign, but once they “come through the door” they say “wassup with a punch”. This reflects the immediate change in plans that occur when our so-called leaders get elected into the various positions. They start failing the promises just immediately, well, we started looking for our budget just months into the present administration.
My most interesting part of the verse comes when Falz states that “I no wan do when you try to dey touch, but if I say no, you will climb me by force”. This act of rape is not literal; instead it depicts the constant rape of the people’s choice, the constant depreciation in the value of the people’s votes. If we do not vote them, they rig it, so there’s almost no way that our ‘No’ matters anymore. After they force their way in, the next morning (another administration) comes and tells us the same thing, and make the same promises all over again. Cobhams wraps the song up in the last verse by throwing the shade out at the various levels of leadership, warning them about making promises they fail to keep.
The tone of the song is like that of a person who has lost their patience, this is reflected in the not very obvious initial event where Cobhams asks Falz to quit wasting time and introduce himself. Insignificant as it may seem, it reflects the anger, total dissatisfaction and impatience that the artiste has towards political idiosyncrasies and his pressing desire to talk about them. This leads us to the question of who the artistes are in this song. The language of the song is what reflects the identity that the artistes decide to put on in the context of this song. The language of the song is informal and depicts the typical expression of the ordinary Nigerian. Although it is known as Falz’s personal craft, in this song, his ‘not-very-correct’ use of English and aspiration reflected in his pronunciation of the English words is his way of taking the position of the ordinary Nigerian. There is also an underlying usage of Yoruba and pidgin. All these reflect the intention of the artistes to transcend the person of Cobhams and Falz, into the realm where they pose themselves as the ordinary everyday Nigerian man – making his voice their voice, and his pain, theirs.
In the end it is right to conclude that the song stands as the carrier of the voice and thoughts of the ‘road-side’ Nigerian. It tells of the concerns and the earnest problems of the general populace. This proves that beyond the music, there’s a duty to which every artiste should be committed. Beyond the guitar and piano, there’s a message that every artiste should revere – there’s a silent voice that made theirs loud and they shouldn’t forget to let this voice out. To conclude this article in a very absurd way, I would say that this song is a reminder that reminds the community of artistes in Nigeria to remember that they too are Nigerians.