Charting better music direction with Africa Sings Concert Choral night
The University of Lagos (UNILAG) main auditorium was pack full as latecomers, including guests from outside the campus, who have come to witness the yearly Africa Sings Concert Choral Night could not find a place to crouch. The concert has remained one of the biggest events for the university’ Faculty of Arts since inception.
While enjoying different performances from drama centred on love to songs that cut across genres, guests, including students, merrily tapped their feet along, nodding their heads and snapping their fingers and intermittently cheering and applauding the musical groups on stage. The event, which is in its seventh edition, drew both town and gown to the university to witness a refined choral performance spiced with street music.
According to the Programme Director, Dr. Albert Oikelome, the concert aims to create choral tradition among students of the Faculty of Arts and also give the university a representation in African Choral Music, aside providing a platform for budding artistes to hone their skills. The various student groups were outdid each other.
According to Oikelome, “The last edition, which was targeted at the celebration of Dr. D.K. Olukoya, was a competition. This year’s edition is not. It is to create a synergy between street music and choral music. With this, we aim to positively impact on street music in terms of composition, rhythm, lyrics, use of language and others. We want future songwriters to desist from the use of language that cannot be boldly sung in the open.”
With four choral and drama groups – Inferno, Eminent, Revonewtion and Hiltop Chorale from UNILAG and two – The MTH Choir and Holy Flame invited from outside, the event would linger in the minds of attendees for a while. The songs were as captivating and thrilling as the dramas, as they shed light on the ills of society and called for change of attitude, as a way to move the country forward.
To what extend has the programme fostered peace and unity among students from different departments and faculties in the school? Oikelome, who hailed the students and fellow lecturers for the superlative outing in terms of quality of songs, presentations and organisation, stated that the rigorous two months of rehearsals before the event did not only help students from different departments to work as a team, but it helped to make them value and respect their individual’s skills based on the way they now behave to one another.
“You can see the quality of choral presentation,” he enthused, “how the students creatively infused religious music with street music to create something new, which in real sense sounds better than the original compositions. This type of fusion would not only help our music industry to attract the desired investment, it will go a long way to making some of the songs to have music notations. This then means it could be performed anywhere in the globe. Would you believe it that some of the songs of our popular artistes, both old and young, lack this. It means they are limited to a given geographical location. We need to improve on our music, no matter the genre, so that musicians across the globe can perform them just as we perform theirs. This is a way of selling our culture to them without being there.
“Apart from honing skills, creating platforms for mingling, the event is a training ground for those who performed, both in the drama and songs. So, it prepares or exposes students to the entertainment world. Let them go there and give us quality products and from the standard of performances, lecturers’ reviews and audience reaction in and outside of the campus, I can boldly say the event has been touching lives, helping some artistes to perform better in the entertainment industry.”
Was the infusion intentional? “Yes, it was,” Oikelome continued, adding, “it was to create synergy, make the new and old come together as one, and to show guests that it is from the university community that African music can be made better. It is also in line with this year’s theme, which is ‘Music From The Classics To The Streets.’ We explored African classical music, which most times have a strong religious content. We equally used the opportunity to adapt Afro-pop music from different artistes, including Teckno, Yemi Alade, Small Doctor among others.”
Some music lovers have observed that African music, especially gospel songs, are too noisy and with heavy instrumental background and as such would prefer listening more to foreign music like jazz and others from Europe and America. How can Africa Sings Concert improve on this?
“It is not a day’s job,” he conceded. “In fact, it is part of the changes we are talking about. Some people, especially in the religious sphere, would just gather people to sing because they feel they have melodious voices without knowing that music goes beyond anybody singing or playing the instruments. You have to be properly trained. Our music has been so described because most of the artistes are not trained. Some even become singers by inspiration, which is not really it.
“With Africa Sings Concert, the audience is shown quality performance. We want them to know our songs are rich in lyrics and with proper arrangement and organisation they could be made to be equal what is obtainable in advanced countries. Besides, foreign songs and music had the challenges our music is facing today, but the people went to the drawing board and today, they are better for it,” Oikelome concluded.