A game of tones: Deal or no Idyl

The Voice Nigeria coaches: Waje (left), Patoranking, Timi and Waje on set

On the 18th of June, flying on the wings of popular telecommunications giant, Airtel, Nigerians were greeted with the second edition of ‘The Voice’, a music talent hunt and reality TV show that had thrilled viewers in its first year. With it came the weekend excitement that came with reality TV shows, just a few months after the popular ‘Big Brother Naija’ had ended. As opposed to that though, it was a game of tones, real talent on display, and after three long months, the tournament has come to an end with the appellation of ‘The Voice 2017’ going to a 22 year old upcoming ‘street’ artiste from Bayelsa, Daniel Diongoli, also known as Idyl.

With this award, and the entire show itself came much criticism, and Twitter was abuzz last night up till the early hours of the morning on the subject. For many, this year’s season of The Voice fell below par and was a caricature of the first season. For others, the voters had made terrible mistakes, casting votes for people who did not deserve to win. Some blamed it on tribalism and nepotism, others on the blind Nigerian devotion to street stories, as in the case of the winning act. For a certain population too, the win was well deserved; Idyl rode on the wings of grace or something like that and he had a personality that earned him the win. For this set, perhaps it is necessary to ask, if The Voice is a personality test or a voice test. Subliminally maybe, it is a mélange of both, or not, but when individual votes are involved, there is no denying the place of personality influence.

The competition, undoubtedly had a plenitude of talented singers from Jahdell to Symenca, Precious, Happiness, Yimika, Chris, Arewa, Kendris, Wilson to Sandra whose rendition of the National Anthem played the judges right into her classical hands; people who took words of awe right out of the mouths of Timi Dakolo, Waje, Yemi Alade and Patoranking, literally making them turn in their chairs for them. This then got me wondering why the uproar about poor quality of talents was mainstream, and then I decided to go through every single blind audition up to the battle stages, and it occurred to me. As the numbers whittled down, it seemed like the better acts left and the ‘next-in-lines’ stayed behind, and even their performances lowered in quality. The better performances overall in the show were between the blinds and the battles. And, connecting the dots, it was after the battles that the voting was open to the public, to add their voice, a move which I think resulted in the discordant remarks and responses all over social media. Perhaps, as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many voices spoil The Voice, so that soon, we can’t even hear it again.

Yet again, this brings a very salient point to bear. Judging by the number of complaints and baleful tweets regarding how Idyl was not the ideal person to win, how there were better singers like Jahdell and Wilson and Precious, which I completely agree with, one would wonder where these tweetlords were when their counterparts were voting and soliciting for votes for their contestants. It gives one reason to ponder, if Nigerians have not turned a passive lot; people that disagree with things and do nothing to change them. I mean, if this is a Game of Tones, you are either Khaleesi or you’re Ned Stark, and we all know Ned never stays till the end of the show. If Nigerians wanted the better voice to win, they could have made it happen with their votes- Ik said it on every show. What scares me is bigger than this talent show, it is that we will adopt a similar stance towards the 2019 polls and sit at home and tweet about how one party should never return, while those who have been rusted given tins of Geisha and custard buckets of cheap rice go and thumbprint besides the person or party who paid for their votes. And then we spend four years after that tweeting about how there is no power supply to tweet and watch the next season of The Voice. Maybe this is a subtle reflection of the Nigerian voice, and how cold, muffled and in Waje’s words, ‘without control’ it is.

Let me come to the matter of ‘street’. There had been a lot of ‘street’ support in Nigeria lately. The story of grass to grace, I had no shoes and their cohorts seemingly get a lot of support. Olamide’s Headies win, Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential win (a big deal to do street voting, but happened nevertheless), Efe’s BBN win, and now, Idyl made a seamless move to glory on the wings of ‘the street’. So now, streetly speaking, what is it about the street, and not merit, that moves us? I am not condemning the parley with people of humble backgrounds and beginnings, but perhaps, there needs to be a shift from that conditioned point of view to considering merit in its entirety; rich or poor, bleaching cream or sunburned black skin, whether the person says they can spend the prize money in one week or a day.

On the final competition between Ebube and Idyl, there was a lot of heavy weather about it being depressing for a final round because the better singers were out. Well, blame that on yourselves for voting them out already, leaving those voting in the finals with no choice than to vote the better of whatever they were offered. Clearly, Idyl was the better of the two that night, but without an iota of doubt, he was not the best in the competition.

All in all, the competition was a delight to watch. Whether Idyll deserves the recording deal and other accoutrements that come with the award is not a question anymore. Perhaps it was a month or a week, or a day ago, but now the best anyone can do it tweet. And then follow him on Twitter afterwards. The judges though, were an enjoyable lot- Patoranking with his ‘skylevel’ and ‘hah-hey’ demonstrations, his cheesy promises of stardom and picture perfect outfits; Yemi with her love for singers who enjoyed themselves and her knack for taking on the rejected cornerstones; Waje with her love for lyrical slurs, mastery of range and ‘control’; and Timi of course with his wit, churchy jibes, aphorisms, admonishing and ardent love for good music. They put an energy into the show that made you always want to come back to it every weekend. And of course seeing Bez and Dare do their thing backstage gave major credit to those Nigerian musicians who actually polish their art, stay their course and understand the undying nature of fine music. It invariably wasn’t a job for the street.

Adebayo is a legal practitioner and spoken word poet, lives in Lagos.



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