September 1, 2013 — Since 2009, September 1 has been celebrated as “No Music Day” in Nigeria. While not directly related to the ‘No Music Day’ initiative envisioned by Bill Drummond in 2005 which is celebrated annually on November 21, Nigeria’s No Music Day seeks to draw attention to copyright infringement as it affects the rights of performers, bands, music composers, recording artists, song writers, music publishers and other creative people in the music industry. It will be observed by broadcast stations and music users in Nigeria between 8am-10am today!
SO WE TURN OFF THE MUSIC, THEN WHAT? Many radio stations will use the time to have discussions and interviews focused on the state of intellectual property in Nigeria while other media platforms will show documentaries or feature articles that focus on the Nigerian music industry to show their support for the development of the creative industry as a whole.
At NLIPW, in line with this year’s theme which is “Keep the Music Alive”, we spent the morning looking at amazing Nigerian musicians who have used music as a tool to address sociopolitical issues and challenges in Nigeria or to call for change across the African continent. Below are a few:
1. Christy Essien Igbokwe
If ever there was a Nigerian artiste who calmly and clearly through the lyrics of her songs encouraged Nigerians to embrace good character, love, education and unity, that was the late Christy Essien Igbokwe. With her song Teta Nu Na Ula, she made rallying calls for Nigerians to arise and change some of the ills in the society. She berated disunity and fighting amongst tribes in Nigeria and advocated for love, forgiveness and mutual respect. Through her songs Seun rere (1981) and My People, she called for children and Nigerians as a whole to do good, let bygones be bygones and stressed that discrimination will not solve the problems in Nigeria.
2. Sonny Okosun
With his fusion of reggae, afro-funch and ozziddi, the late Sonny Okosun is highly regarded as one of Nigeria’s greatest musicians who shared his amazing talent with us. The themes for many of his songs called for African liberation, peace and addressed pressing sociopolitical problems both within and outside Nigeria. Through his song African Soldiers (1991), he paid tribute to great men and women across Africa who fought for freedom and economic development. Some of his other songs that carried the amazing message and showed what Sonny Okosun stood for include: Papa’s land (1979), Holy wars (1978) and Which Way Nigeria (1984).
3. Onyeka Onwenu
Onyeka Onwenu has given us some of the most memorable songs that call for peace, mutual co-existence and respect for women and children’s rights. With her song Wait for me (1980), which was a duet with King Sunny Ade, she advocated for family planning and birth control at a time when such topics were a bit of a taboo in Nigeria. In 1984, she wrote and presented the BBC/NTA documentary called “Nigeria, A Squandering of Riches” which looked at the agitation for resource control, campaign against environmental degradation in the Niger Delta region and corruption in Nigeria as a whole. Some of her other songs include: Peace Song (1996), One Love (1986) and Choices.
4. Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Often referred to as the most revolutionary of all the popular artistes in Nigeria and even across the African continent, Fela used his music as an instrument to mount pressure on the government in Nigeria to desist from corrupt practices. With lyrics like “Armed robber him need gun, Authority man him need pen, Authority man in charge of money…if gun steal eight thousand Naira, Pen go steal two billion Naira” from his song Authority Stealing (1980), Fela sent clear messages about the financial embezzlement from government officials and how unequal the justice system was when crimes where committed by people holding government positions. Some of his other songs include: Zombie (1977), Vagabond in Power or V.I.P (1979), Coffin for Head of State (1981), Shuffering and Shmiling (1977), Big Blind Country or B.B.C., and Beast of No Nation (1989).
Undeniably, Nigeria is a country with talented creative artistes but its music industry cannot survive if piracy of creative works continues. If you still do not understand why copyright in music and the rights of creative people needs to be protected, take a few minutes today and imagine a Nigeria where music was never made by:
Shino Peters (who introduced us to a new genre of music ‘afro juju’ and had us singing ♪ ♪ ♫ dance, dance, dance and forget your sorrows ♪ ♫.
Prince Nico Mbarga (whose ‘Sweet Mother – 1976′ reminds us of the amazing sacrifices mothers make everyday.)
Nelly Uchendu (whose ‘Love Nwantiti – 1977′ gave us a new way to say head over heals in love!)
Daddy Showkey (who drew our attention to the abundant creative talents that exist in the Ajegunle neighborhood of Lagos, had us singing ‘Somebody Call My Name – 1994′ and taught us a unique but quite unforgettable dance move).
Bright Chimezie (who with a slight twist of humor taught us about culture shock as it relates to some of our favorite Nigerian foods, ‘African Style – 1990’)
Chief Osita Osadebe (who introduced us to high-life and left us with songs that transcend languages).
Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey (who gave us ‘KeteKete, Epo ila – 1973′, ‘Eto Igbeyawo and Madele – 1974′, ‘Iwa ika kope – 1974 and ‘Ota mi dehin lehin mi – 1976′ amongst several others.
King Sunny Ade (who today we regard as one of the pioneers of Jùjú music and who showed us how a band can create beautiful melodies).
Sir Victor Uwaifo (who gave us ‘Guitar Boy – 1966′ and ‘Joromi – 1966′, songs that can put you in a great mood in a matter of minutes.)
Oliver De Coque (who reminded us that ‘All Fingers are Not Equal – 1979′ but that while some people may have more and some less, we should not begrudge those who are have more and vice versa).
Celestine Ukwu (who through his philosophical song ‘Ije Enu – 1975′ drew our attention to the temporary nature of material things).
Majek Fashek (who on one hand had us convinced that we were rainmakers with his hit song ‘Send Down the Rain – 1987′ and on the other hand got us to advocate for ‘Free Mandela – 1992′.)
Raskimono (who with his song ‘Under Pressure – 1989′ gave us a new appreciation for Reggae music).
African China (who had us singing for our leaders to lead us well, ‘Mr. President – 2006′).
2Face Idibia (who reminded us of the beauty of the African woman with his song ‘African Queen – 2004′).
And many more!