The Music Industry In Nigeria Needs A Stage Craft Revival: A Slight Rant
The past week was my first back into work in Lagos after a nice 10 days of doing absolutely Nothing. Ok I Lie maybe not absolutely nothing, but I did spend my holiday truly unwinding. And so returning to the hustle and bustle of Lagos, I was determined to keep my holiday chill for as long as possible.
Now the way Lagos is set up, my resolve was immediately tested when a pick up truck, casually drove into the back of my car. While we were at the toll gate. On my way back from the airport. 2 hours after landing.
Remember, Holiday zen.
I quickly popped out of the car to asses the level of damage ( which thankfully only consisted of small bolt marks in the paint work of my bumper and nothing major besides) and then persuaded my enraged driver to get back in to the vehicle and not cause further problems for everyone.
The rest of my week cruised by more or less as I expected, busy days and early nights, but I was looking forward to the weekend: a hip hop Showcase called The 'CORONATION' 2.
It’s a show put on by 100 Crowns (a sub label of the Chocolate City Group) whose focus is to revive and grow hip hop culture in Nigeria and Africa by showcasing the artists and bringing together the fanbase. Now as you can imagine this is rare and yet important to the continued growth and evolution of hip hop in Nigeria. 100 Crowns aims to build a community and share the family connection of Hip Hop by encouraging underground artists to continue in their craft and connecting them with the right fan base.
I attended Coronation 1 at freedom park and thoroughly enjoyed the vibe, so I was looking forward to a repeat of that same experience. The line up was extensive and had a plethora of underground names on it, which is why you come to these shows for: the underground talent. However as in any area, when searching for diamonds in the rough, know that there will be a fair amount of rough to get through.
However the rough where pretty rough and it made me righteously angry for people who created a platform for some of these artists. Also note that this righteous anger surfaced because the younger artists have also learned this behaviour from more experienced performers who ought to know better. When will be get to a time that we will no longer be subject to artists who do little to engage their audience, and then at the absolute worst, proceeded to criticise the crowd for being 'dead' whilst just jumping up and down in a breathless manner, forgetting the lyrics to their songs, and having no stage craft whatsoever.
This is 2018. Come. On.
I deserve better entertainment than wack Karaoke which I don't even get to participate in. I understand that these artists may be fantastic recording artists, but stage craft is a whole other area where a lot of them fall short. Our Artists do not spend time working on performances. They do not create performance tracks or rehearse different types of sets for audiences they may come across. The truth is that these artists will keep serving up mediocre performances also because the watching public rarely ever openly complains. It is seen as not being supportive, or being rude, or being (God forbid) a hater.
As a music fan I may not always pay for events in money ( some events are put up for free and again a big shout out to the organisers of such because it still costs money to do this) but then I am still paying in time and effort. Just because something is free does not make it an obligation I need to fulfil.
So dear artist please remember that people are sacrificing precious time and resources to watch you and you owe them a minimum level of preperation. It is not enough to have recorded a great track and then wing it on stage.
It is one thing if your planned performance doesn't connect: you can always walk away an strategise for another day having learned something; But where you have no performance planned and simply run back and forth on stage, most times only showing your audience that you are also incredibly unfit, well there's nothing to be learned from that. And worse, nothing for your audience to genuinely enjoy. The only people in the audience yelling for you are your friends who don't want you to feel alone. The sad truth is, your performance was piss poor and you need to do better.
Stage performance is a craft and an art in itself that deserves effort. It is theatre for your music. And watching MI Abaga headline Coronation, it was a clear reminder that Hip Hop will always continue to enrapture the audience if done right. Tell us your story, but perform it in a way that compels your audience to listen. You do not need to scream at us, but simply connect in the most human way possible. Hip Hop is a modernisation of Griot story telling, something that as Africans is steeped in our DNA. I sincerely hope that more artists make a conscious effort to study and practice this craft so when the story of HIP Hop evolution is told around the world, they will tell how African Rappers took it to that next level.