The Return of the King: Nigerian music moving culture forward.

“Eez the return of the king oh, everybody sing yeaahh.” A befitting opening to a lyrical and rhythmic outburst of cultural pride and complexity that is largely consistent throughout the rest of the mixtape by The Collectiv3. I cannot express how grateful I am for this well thought out, progressive mixture/confluence of sounds. It came perfectly at the time when I was worried that Nigerian music would either bore me out my mind or deafen me before thirty. Apart from the tiring “dush ke dush ke” sound, you have the even more tiring storyline. Parraps per-adventure, it seems like the “dush ke dush ke rhthym” is only well digested with stawv like; talk of money, spending, plenty pands and dollas (pounds& dollars) and overwhelming backsides and boobs- in the way coke goes with jollof rice. Well, we thank God for change.

Thankfully, with this album, Ikon is able to “go back to the roots” by using the cross rhythmic patterns of traditional music and mixing them with electronic and acoustic sounds that weave themselves into the melody. He uses short breaks and quick interjections to add or remove something from the rhythm that adds excitement and drama to his music. When last did you have suspense in a song? His interludes and outros switch up the traditional plot of a song and give the listener time to understand the intricacy of the beat and enjoy it as well. Aside from the stellar production, I need to shalla (shoutout) to TemiDollFace. Her vocals won me. She won! I’ve listened to that Akintunde song too many times and I think my neighbours must be tired. Of course, Funbi and Poe delivered magic as expected. Also, before now, I never really heard anything from Nsikak but I’m a firm believer in better late than never- he strung those strings like he meant it. Shout out to show dem camp for “bringing the real spittin’ back.” Still, you might be wondering, why all this cool story for an LP that’s even free?

Well, can I just say I’m tired of giving a round of applause to mediocrity. Yes, I want to support growth in the Nigerian arts industry. BUT, I’m tired of looking like the cynic who refuses to give a standing ovation to work that is progress from the past but not progressive enough to compete as maestros of their own genre in this generation. I understand that this wave of Afrobeats is a new one; and like anything new, we need to take time to figure it out. However, there is a near obvious difference between laziness and “taking time.” Fela took his time, but in every step of the way he wanted to create music that was as inspirational as what he was hearing from the rest of the world. Though he knew he was not going to use the same language or medium, he knew he wanted his music to have the same effect James Brown was having on his world.

Fortunately for some and unfortunately for a lot more, we live in the era of globalization, therefore, I allow myself to have global standards. As a continent, Africa is beyond sarcastic videos about “How to respond when your American friend says you’re a donkey.”

Maybe that was important at a certain stage, but not now. Now, we need to show- not tell- people that our history is important. We should not beg for grammy nominations; instead, we should show them what they have to lose by not being a part of this cultural revival and revolution. To be really invested in the change many were quick to vote for during the last Nigerian elections, we need to become historical experts in our culture. To do that, we need to keep making culture that is worth analysis and not ridicule or dismissal (side eye to Nollywood).

Indeed, through many arguments on Nairaland, we might know that our culture contains greatness (interrupted by colonial violence), but the question remains: how do you change the world’s old idea and image of our culture without shouting on public television? Also, How do you show that we- as locals- are changing the old degrading idea and image of ourselves that we believed and internalized?

We need to take advantage of the global exposure and the advancement of technology to push that rich substantial history onto the pedestal that it deserves to be on. Right now, there is an opportunity to show our culture as a repertoire of our creativity. We can invite the world to learn how we solved the problems of communal living and ruling ourselves before people with guns forced us to accept they were better at it than us. Using music, dance, books and whatever that taps into that history, we can seduce the world into having a genuine interest in how our ancestors lived.

More importantly, through various songs and storylines, we can create the modern complex Nigerian character that is proud of heritage but also weary of “traditional bureaucracy.”

Chimamanda once said, “Culture does not make people, people make culture” This is the time to redefine how we want to live. And, the arts is important in creating work that mirrors who we are while simultaneously, allowing us to dream about who we want to be.

Another reason for my cool story is that I remember how and how often my mother would get angry at us for singing along to “Nigeria JAGA JAGA.” She would squeeze her face into an untidy and uncaring pout and ask us: “why is it that you people only like this stupid Ikwokwirikwo music?” Ikwokirikwo (which can also be translated to “DUSH DUSH KE”) includes, but is not limited to, wizkid and friends. She is not a fan because (somehow) she is convinced “ikwokwirikwo” music is for drunkards. I beg to differ because I think Ikwokirikwo can be quite fun and exciting at times; who doesnt love a good sing along to Sunny Nneji’s “IKEBE WAN PUT ME FOR TROUBLE, OOHHH IKEBE”.

However, we are not all Sunny Nneji- even Sunny Nneji is not all about Ikebe. The fact is, we need more stories to account for the current individual Nigerian who is often a confused and confusing confluence of 170 million people, 36 states, 6 military coups, one civil war, the hot sun, Jollof rice and many love stories and heart breaks.

For those who don’t know, our official motto is “Unity in diversity” but in reality, most of our actions say “terrified of difference” or “intolerable to change.” To actually live out the country’s motto, I need new narratives to understand this diversity we seem so proud of. So, in celebration of music that is neither ikwokwirikwo nor for drunkards, I am so excited to share this LP collection by The collectiv3. The hype is in the promise of what this could become and what this could mean for moving forward. I know there are other great musicians doing great work but the time was right and the soundtrack was inspiring. In Nigeria’s O’clock, I believe it might be past time for the return of the King. But better late than never right?

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