What do you think about this article where ace fashion designer Emmy Collins, goes all out to diss Nigerian talent. Do I smell art-centered Xenophobia? Seems to me like he has elevated foreign stars to the position of gods whilst relegating African acts as the under dogs.
Nevertheless, he may be right about the level of mediocrity in the Nigerian entertainment business and the need for craft improvement but is he right about the lack of world class talent?
Do all Nigerian talents have to be signed by foreign labels before Emmy Collins can see them as talented enough? Anyway, maybe I’m just confused. But read his article and form your own opinions.
Sadly, I encountered what we regard in the fashion industry as designers` block whilst brainstorming on the best possible sleeves to incorporate into a certain dress I was working on. Yes, a complete range of Emmy Collins women`s collection is in the offing but it isn`t what this article is about so I will refrain from delving more into it that topic, though I`m bursting at the seams with excitement about it.
Anyway, whilst trying to occupy my mind with something else, I decided to switch on the TV and boom, there was one of the most invigorating award events I have had the fortune of watching in long while on BET, ‘THE BLACK GIRLS ROCK’.
The excitement from my perspective stemmed more from watching the awe-inspiring, novel, and incredible performances from the artistes than from watching awardees pick up their awards.To be honest, I’m not a great fan of award events.
First on stage was Jill Scott rocking her Afro like it was 1972 all over again. Jill Scott has always ranked very high on my list of top neo-soul artistes ever since she found it in her kind and magnanimous soul to bless the music world with her ‘who is Jill Scott’ debut album in the summer of 2000.
I still remember it was my buddy Toju Eyeh that introduced me to this hummingbird and it was love at first listening. So, it was highly fathomable that the moment her ethereal beautiful voice hit my eardrums, I forgot the dress I was working on. I wished she could sing forever but since it was an award event she sadly belted out just a song and it was all over and sadly so.
Her stage performance, aura, vocals,facial expression and oh my gosh the ever present afro was so up there that I just decided none of the subsequent acts would match the standard talk more of topping it but then Erykah Badu had other plans because when she popped up on stage in her very quirky this-is-who-I am-right-here combo she just utterly and completely took control and kept me glued to the screen with mouth agape, yes,I was that much in awe of her.And by the time she was done I just muttered in Igbo “Nne, I ga egbu mmadu”.
At this point it became a toss-up between Jill Scott and Erikha; it was simply too close to call. Those were triple A performances and with life band as well. By a long shot I`m not on about one of those jokes called performances where an artist simply mimes or sings along to his song as it’s played from a device or something in that regard as we often experience in the Nigerian music scene. From where I stand, singing along to one’s cd at a concert is an act of brigandage, yup, highway robbery and must be resisted with every fibre of our being.
As if it wasn`t difficult enough for me to decipher which of the two previous acts did a better job , Ciara, yes that Ciara, the one with legs all the way to her neck, surfaced and this time I was definitely sure I could pick enough faults in her performance as I was of the opinion that someone must underwhelm at some point before the show terminates so I put on my critiquing hat and sat there, cup of tea in hand and wry smile on my face, waiting for her to prove me right, but this gorgeous damsel had a surprise in store for me because she maintained the standard that had already been set by her forerunners and sang as if her entire life and that of her new born child, career and family depended upon this one performance.
I never believed she had all that emotion, artistry and calmness in her but then, don`t we learn every day? Jill Scott`s performance became a harbinger for the vocal goodies that were in the offing for the evening.
I would like to think of myself as a mentally and emotionally strong individual but sometimes stuff as little an artiste especially a lady mounting the stage and giving an awesome account of herself could leave me with teary eyes and I must confess that I did indeed get to that stage because these BLACK GIRLS did ROCK the stage; they worked the mic like it was meant to. In fact, they made passionate love to the mic.
When it comes to music, it is either you are giving me quality or I`m not listening to you and I must confess I have come across artistes that made me wanna weep out of frustration when I watch them live. In the studio you get countless chances to get it right but the moment you mount that stage you only get one chance to paint yourself in glory or you risk sending folks home with a huge feeling of disenchantment or even resentment.
There are plenty of artistes who can`t carry a tune in a bushel basket yet they are successful commercially. Being a commercial success doesn’t always define an artiste as talented; it means the marketing was perhaps done right or that mediocre reigns supreme in the society such artist operates in ie Nigeria. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I reiterate that the actual test for any artiste is on stage where there aren`t auto tones or retakes.
It will be unfair to end this article without mentioning Fantasia’s and Estel`s contribution to this fun filled afternoon of great TV. I have never been a great fan of Estel but even her, obstinately refused to be outdone by the huge names that preceded her. That lady stood right on that stage and made me almost love her. What this indicates is that once the standard has been notched high, people aspire and work towards meeting it.
Needless to opine that the entire audience had unbridled fun. If you doubt my perspective on this, then ask Michelle Obama who was shaking her head during the entire duration of the performances. I believe it is safe to hazard a guess and say she would have wished every day at the white house was more like that moment for her and Potus than having to deal with the tight ass sanctimonious republicans.
Honestly, these musically blessed gorgeous ladies brought their A game to the party. I will give an arm and a leg to experience that quality of vocals on stage in motherland, Nigeria. We must demand more from ourselves and others.
Well, even though the performances were as enjoyable as can be, I did realise there was this part of me that was melancholic but I didn`t understand why till a few hours later when I connected the dots. I was sad because I realised that besides Asa, NO Nigerian artiste has ever offered me such rich vocals. In fact, I have been forced to lower my expectations several notches down.
Now, if you ask me whether there is another Nigerian artiste out there besides Asa that has the capability of meeting the quality I have just enumerated here, my answer will be a resounding YES but then they must work very hard at it and believe it themselves before it will happen because without belief we have failed in whatever venture even before we embark on it. Someone like Timi Dakolo has strong baritone voice but he is still rough around the edges so my brotherly suggestion will be for him to get a voice coach and work on his facial expression whilst singing.
He isn`t a finished product and he must appreciate that fact but I see amazing potentials in him and have told him so on more than a few occasions. His voice reminds me of my all time favourite singer, Theodore Pendergrass famously know as Teddy Pendergrass or Teddybear by the ladies… Omawumi, Waje, Chidinma, Flavour and even Iyanya (when he isn`t singing my waist, your waist and all his kpankolo chewing gum sort of songs) fall into the same category as Timi. I believe they are all punching below their weight. They must improve on their God given talents and quit believing the adoration they might receive from sycophants, blogs, instagram followers and fans and listen to genuine criticism. Sycophants are enemies of quality.
The standard we have set for ourselves in the Nigeria creative industry is extremely low that anyone including my late grandmother, if she were to be alive today, could attain that threshold and I mean it literally. We must raise the standard and work towards accomplishing the status of the big fishes in the big ponds (world stage) as against the big fishes in very small ponds (Nigeria/Africa). This might take time but is doable. Yes, sometimes along the way we might stumble and fall but if we persevere and keep our focus on the big prize, we will get to our preffered destination eventually.That has always served as my personal mantra and nothing is about to change that anytime soon.
Unless someone somewhere can convincingly prove to me beyond all conceivable doubt that no Nigerian artiste possesses the quality, comportment, charisma, clout, allure and talent to mount a stage and take it by the scruff of the neck as Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Ciara,Fantasia and Estel did on that stage, I will continue to agitate wholeheartedly against the low standard we have so conveniently set for ourselves as it doesn`t augur well for the development of arts in Nigeria.
If, just if, the present crop of Nigerian artistes especially the aforementioned prove incapable of offering the required world class standard, I will say let us jettison them and embrace the hinterlands in search of proper talents. When was the last time a talent was discovered from Oreh, Mbaise, Ogbomosho, Kontogoara, Ile Ife , Abakiliki, Lokoja or from my local government of Aguata? Is someone too lazy to get his fancy bum out of Lagos or the cities trying to assert that there aren’t abundance of talents in these remote parts of Nigeria?
This is an urgent call for improvement in our crafts but if someone deems it as a personal affront, well that will be his or her prerogative for which I can`t justifiably be held responsible for that flaw in thinking.
Come to think of it we are even from the same local government area. I may have to correct you on this one Sire. There is talent in Aguata.by