‘I think, as far as Africa is concerned, music cannot be for enjoyment; music has to be for revolution.‘ – Fela Anikulapo-Kuti
This quote has stuck with me all day. Artistic expression has always been a very powerful tool to influence people, because it appeals to the emotions and can be used to plant ideas inside the subconscious mind. Images, music, theatre, comedy, writing and so on can move people to action, and one of the most powerful of these art forms is music.
Fela Anikulapo-Kuti used this instrument to its maximum, by exposing the corruption of the Nigerian elite of his time in highly creative fashion, and could as well have been talking about Nigeria in 2012. He also paid a high price for it.
The kind of music he did back then is the type we still need today, because we are still in an arguably worse position. We don’t have enough socially relevant music in Nigeria, and maybe this is because our music – like our churches – is an avenue to escape from our sorrows. What we are left with it is largely devoid of any meaning, save for the repetition of a few lines.
Here is the real problem, however: We, the music consumers, are to blame for this. We elevate and glorify entertainers above artistes, we give our money to them, so the cycle keeps reinforcing itself. In the end, our music up to this point is largely a reflection of what we are as a society.