The Hip, The Art… The Beats Of Nigeria



How MTN Music+ is Giving Budding Artiste A Platform To Shine

ON a Friday night at the Mirage Hotel, Calabar, Cross River State, the air reverberated with beats. The rhythm flowed as high-flyers unwound after a hard day’s job. The environment is raucous, but not riotous. Thank God it’s Friday (TGIF), and the crowd in the club, by now, several pints in, roared approval to the song playing. No one will spare any superlative inside the club, as some very pretty girls danced to Olamide’s Story for the gods.

Every young guy in the club focused on the sensuous body movement of a 27-year-old girl, who is clad in a see through bustier and micro mini skirt. Their eyes zoomed in on the cleavages, tweaking buttocks and gyrating hips. She was one girl everybody wanted to hang out with. Not only because of her beauty, but dancing skill.

After a few drinks, the girl, who gave her name as Jennifer, and resident in Bayside area of Calabar, breathed, “I need more adrenaline pumping music. Give me Melo Melo.”

This scene, no doubt, is a recurring sight in many clubs, lounges and sit-outs in the country. Indeed, the Nigerian music industry has exploded. The hyper activity on the scene has, no doubt, upstaged the days when local TV and radio stations fed the public with foreign songs, most especially, from the US.

The last few years, however, has witnessed an upsurge in nightlife activities, which went under during Abacha’s era. With democracy, nightlife crawled back in popular fashion. A lot of sit-outs and hangouts sprang up over the country where people relax and catch fun, especially, at weekends.

In some cities, Friday nights are holy time to converge for TGIF’s communion. In Abeokuta, the Moshood Abiola Stadium is where to go, and in Port Harcourt, everybody turns to D-Line, Stadium Road and Casablanca, while in Calabar, 11-11 and Bayside are holy ground for fun and excitements. Lagos has so many of them in the Island and Mainland. Kaduna has Obalende and in Jos, everybody throng Old Airport Road junction.

At these sit-outs, clubs and lounges, The Guardian gathered that the partying is not affair for a group of friends and their ladies, but a mass thing. The people dance to up-tempo beats, which do nothing other than complement the alcohol.

Without rocking up-tempo songs, no artiste attains fame. Among those who have made this trend possible are, artistes from the Kenny’s Music, Don Jazzy clans and others, who by the side, had begun to record one track or the other that are party songs.

… And The Beat Goes On
THERE has never been a time in the country’s music history when Nigerian artistes have been more creative than now. Though, the lyrics of their songs are often lurid and vulgar in nature, they are, however, a signature of revolution, which started in 1981, when a protesting on-air personality decided that it was time to end the growing influence of disco music that was spearheaded by America.

With release of his, The Way I Feel Rap, Ron Ekundayo became the pathfinder of rap music in the country. Dizzy K. Falola, Rap master LexyMella, Dili I. Jukson, and I.C. Rock were equally popular artistes of this emerging genre.

Between 1981 and 1986, rap was a serious genre in the country. During this period, Nigeria was going through its most serious economic crisis. There had been massive job losses arising from drop in oil revenues and the economy had been in steady decline since the end of the second civilian republic in 1983.

The Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) were equally being implemented. Both the rich elite and the poor alike felt the effect of these policies. However, the reign of rap did not last long for it to be considered a serious genre for study, as a lexicon in Nigeria’s musical taxonomy. And this is because of what somebody described as the music’s “vague expressions and mindless chants poorly adapted from America.”

Long Live Reggae
WITH the emergence of Ja’ Stix or Jah Walking Stick, the domineering influence of disco rap ended, and reggae began its own reign. In fact, at a point, Ja’ Stix became the reference point in terms of reggae music in Nigeria. Every artiste that made it big in the genre in that era passed through the Ja’ Stix School – Majek Fashek, Terra Cotta, Ras Kimono, Mandators and Evi Edna Ogholi. There were equally Orits Wiliki, ‘the Coolman revolutionaire’ and some others in the long chain of protesting reggae artistes.

Welcome Ijo Shina
HOWEVER, between 1989 and 1992, the Nigerian music industry began to go through another transformation. First, it started with Shinamania craze, heralded by Shina Peters’ monster hit, Ace, and then Adewale Ayuba’s Bubble. Everybody in Nigeria was looking for the ‘ace or another Mister Johnson’ in shows and functions.

The era was significant because it marked the coming of new consumers of music — higher institutions of learning. Universities, polytechnics and colleges of education all struggled to have the faces behind these hits at their union week.

This was the era of advanced fee fraud and there was free money in the air, especially from foreign exchange deals, real estate, fraud and narcotics. The emerging nouveau riche or the young upward/mobile professionals (yuppies and yummies) were the major connoisseurs of this new taste.

Emphasis of the song and the ones that followed was lyrics in pidgin, a true lingo of the streets in Nigeria. Junior and Pretty and the ghetto soldiers of Ajegunle holistically followed the genre.

Nigerian music is the most dominant in Africa. The industry reportedly produces over 600 albums of different kinds yearly, with record sales tripling in the last five years. It is projected that the country’s entertainment industry would hit one billion dollars by 2016. There was a period when the industry was manually driven, a period of struggle for recognition, and seeking limelight. It was a time when musicians largely relied on manual distribution of music.

The advent of the Internet, however, has changed the story, bringing digital music distribution with it. With digital music services, now, all an artiste simply needs is, to identify the right digital music distribution platform and upload their songs for exposure. Indeed, in the world over, there has been a shift from CDs to music downloads.

According to IFPI, a not for profit music research organization, digital music sales globally reportedly reached $10.6 billion in 2010 and it is projected to increase to $24.8 billion in 2016, a yearly increase of 18.2 per cent.

Beyond the Internet, one critical factor has impacted immensely in the success story of the Nigerian music industry— telecoms operators. To lay a hold on substantial market share, telecoms firms scramble for association with artistes, who have set themselves apart due to their commendable efforts.
This symbiotic relationship has significantly raised the bar for artistes in terms of endorsements and sponsorship deals that have transformed their lives.

Sam Onyemelukwe, managing director at TRACE TV, captures the impact succinctly: “telecoms operators have been critical to the growth story. With their interception, now, you have artistes that won’t lift a finger without getting proper pay. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; the growth has gone well beyond that to opportunities in digital media to exploiting their music, their videos and their content. This is where they can derive value.”

At the heart of this success story is the country’s leading ICT firm, MTN Nigeria. From exciting initiatives spanning endorsement deals, corporate sponsorships, and more recently, foray into digital music distribution; the telecoms giant has redefined the game.

The outfit introduced its Music Plus App in 2014, successfully changing the face of music sharing in Nigeria. The App is a converged Music streaming and download platform, optimised for mobile and online access and is socially enabled to accommodate cross-user activity.

In only one year, the App has become Nigeria’s largest digital music distribution service and one with immediate impact. The App gives robust exposure to artistes enrolled on it and they get paid for having their songs on the platform. In the last eight months alone, over N500 million has been paid to artistes, who have their songs on the platform.

Seeing the success of the platform in its one year of existence, the company decided to take it a step further, by introducing the Next Rated app to Music+. The MTN Music+ Next Rated was specially designed to support upcoming acts in the music industry by giving them a platform to build a fan base and gain exposure.

To drive the campaign, a special activation that saw some the brand storming some major tertiary institutions across the country, was introduced.

To participate in the campaign, upcoming acts are required to upload their songs onto the Music+ platform via the Next Rated section and get friends and family to like the song.

The song with the highest Likes each week enjoys airtime on MTN partner radio stations. At the end of the campaign in December, 10 entries with the highest Likes will be selected and judged by a five-man panel of MTN ambassadors, who would select the best five songs of the lot. The top five songs will be uploaded again for Likes over a one-week period where a final winner will emerge.

Kicking off at the University of Ibadan with hip-hop act, Dr Sid, the campaign touched down at the University of Calabar, and had Kcee as the star, before moving to Jos with Praiz. University of Uyo had Harrysong, alongside latest MTN Project Fame winner, Jeffrey Akoh, as guests and finally in Lagos where friend of MTN, Jaywon headlined the launch at the popular Industry Nite.

The launch events were a deviation from the norm. Instead of the usual concert, there were no-holds-barred sessions where the students had opportunity of interacting with the stars up, close and personal. They had the chance to pose bugging questions to the music stars.

Beyond the interesting question and answer sessions, it was also an avenue for raw talents to be discovered in music and the entertainment industry at large. In Calabar, Mary Jane, aka Janey Prest, won Kcee’s admiration with her reggae freestyle. Kcee, in fact, promptly offered her a chance to be part of his music group.

The same feat was repeated in Uyo with Harrysong. After wowing the Reggae Blues crooner with his dancing skills, Sam Pat, a 200 level Linguistics student, got an invitation to showcase his skills in Harrysong’s upcoming music video.

The telecom’s company equally rewarded the students and guests at the various venues with gift items. Smartphones, cash gifts, airtimes and other souvenirs were carted away by lucky winners.

Speaking on the campaign, Consumer Marketing Manager, MTN, Richard Iweanoge, said the telecoms firm saw the opportunities inherent in the digital music service in Nigeria, and decided to fill need with the Music Plus App and Next Rated campaign.

“The Nigerian music ecosystem has evolved and aligned itself with global trends. Having seen the development, MTN decided to introduce the Music Plus App to serve the digital music needs of the people. And to even further develop budding talent, the Next Rated campaign has been designed. There are immense benefits available to fledgling artistes who participate in the campaign,” he said.

Iweanoge further informed that upcoming acts can participate in the campaign by uploading their song the Music+ platform via the Next Rated section; get friends and family to like the song.

For upcoming artistes and even music enthusiasts, the future of music in Nigeria are just getting better with initiatives such as the Music Plus Next Rated. The abundance of budding music talents in Nigeria cannot be disputed. However, this type of platform is the much-needed incentive to grow such into global recognition.

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