Across the world, Nigerian singers/ musicians draw accolades for their rare feats. However, there are hidden stories of up-and-coming and established artists about how they resisted temptations to engage in untoward practices to gain fame and stupendous wealth. LADESOPE LADELOKUN writes on the need to beam searchlights on the music industry
Having to forgo the pay and perks that come with being a backup singer of a famous Nigerian artist was a tough decision for Dare Anibaba. But his grace- to-grass story is a mood changer; something that draws tears from his eyes. For the Offa Polytechnic graduate of Business Administration, who now does a menial job at a local block industry in the Mowe area of Ogun State, he would not trade his conscience for sudden wealth and fame,even when he has become a shadow of himself, going by his old pictures.
According to him, he had a fantastic relationship with the said singer until he began conversations about how life could be a lot better for him if he could help his destiny by ‘donating’ his aged mother figure(his grandmother) for ritual purposes. That, for him, he said, was a deal breaker as he showed Sunday Telegraph pictures of the good times with him. “There were times he would have a couple concerts in one night. He would perform to a particular level and ask me to close the show before leaving. We had it very good.
But I can’t betray my grandmother for anything regardless of her age. When my mother died as a little kid, she was the one I called mother. I can’t imagine harming such a woman. If I had danced to his tune, I wouldn’t be here at all. He took back everything he gave me – car, accomodation,et al. ” Asked why he has not called out his former boss, he said: ” I still look to revive my career. I’m not known now. If I go to social media now or other platforms to tell the world my experience with him, I would be exposing myself to danger and I would be seen as someone who just wants to be popular by tarnishing the image of a star. But if I talk as a star, I would be taken more seriously.
I do not want to be seen as a clout chaser now.My time will come. ” Although Anibaba is not in the category of up-and-coming artists, renowned comedian and actor, Atunyota Akpobome, widely recognized as Alibaba, accused some musicians of engaging in occultism before securing record label contracts. In a recent interview with Channels TV, Alibaba confirmed that the desire for fame and wealth has led some artists to compromise their fundamental values.
“For me, there are some things that you would not want to do, and you must stick with it. It is the same thing with some of these artists — some of them do rituals now. As an artist, you must define your purpose. You must hold on to some strong values you’ve been brought up with. “If you are someone, who is in a position with your creative abilities, you don’t need that kind of pressure.
You don’t need somebody making you sign or take an oath for you to be creative.” Beyond the tales of rituals, stories are told of the giant strides the Nigerian singers/ musicians are making across the world. From having sold-out concerts in major cities across the world to songs sitting pretty at the summit of music charts to streams in billions on streaming platforms, testimonies of the exploits of Nigerian artists on the world music stage abound. Just recently, Nigerian singer, Divine Iku- bor, popularly known as Rema, reportedly became the first African artist to score a number one hit on the Billboard Overall US Radio Vhart.
His ‘Calm Down’, reports say, beat Miley Cyrus’ monster hit song, ‘Flowers’ to become the song played most on American radio stations! Also,the Recording Academy had earlier in the year announced the addition of three new categories -Best African Music Performance, Best Pop Dance Recording, and Best Alternative Jazz Album- to the Grammy Awards. According to livemin. com,the decision to introduce the Best African Music Performance category comes as African acts like Burna Boy, Wizkid, and Tems gain global popularity and achieve chart-topping success.
This addition,it said, acknowledges the influence of the Afrobeats genre and showcases unique local expressions from across the African continent. Subgenres such as Afrobeats, Afro-fusion, Afro pop, Bongo Flava, Ethio jazz, Kizomba, High Life, Fuji, Ndombolo, Mapouka, Ghanaian drill, Afro- house, and South African hip-hop will be eligible for consideration. Meanwhile, despite the successes recorded by Nigerian artists on the world stage, there are fresh concerns about the influence of cultism, hard drugs and ritual killings in the music industry.
This is coming on the heels of the sudden death of Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, better known as Mohbad. Mohbad, in his “Sorry” song, sang about his poor family background, how he ditched school for music and his struggles as a young man. A ray of hope for a promising future, perhaps, beckoned when he got signed on by Azeez Fashola, popularly known Naira Marley, to his record label. Although he was said to have left the label in 2022, there are allegations that he left because there were underhand secret tasks that he had to do that his conscience found repulsive.
It is also alleged that he was hounded, harassed, and threatened until his death. In a viral video, Naira Marley’s associate, Sammy Larry, in reaction to Mohbad’s death had said: “All stations settled, no case to answer”, fuelling suspicion in some quarters that his death might not be natural. Following the outrage that greeted the video, Larry had in another video denied killing Mohbad, claiming to have loved the deceased.
More tales of rituals
“If money no enter, I go do blood money” This is a line from a song titled ‘Logo Benz’ by Nigerian singers Olamide and Lil Kesh. But it was not without a backlash when the song was released in 2018 as some netizens considered it to glorify rituals, internet fraud and blood money. Also, Habeeb Olalomi Oyegbile, popularly known as Portable, had equally attracted knocks after he released a song with the title, ‘Kuku Do Ritual’, in which part of the lyrics say, ‘Kuku do ritual.
If you do ritual, you go die. If you no do ritual, you go die. Kuku do ritual’ Away from ritual-promoting songs, Nigerian rapper and singer, Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike, better known as Phyno, recently recounted how he was advised to join a cult and engage in rituals if he wanted sudden stardom during his days as a struggling artist.
He said: “Some people look at us today and think we got it easy. Not at all! I’ve never loved easy things. Before many people heard of Phyno, I’d had songs that no one knew existed.” “A couple of friends told me to blow, I must join a cult or sacrifice something or someone. I told them the price is too much. I’ll never do such. I believed in myself and the power of hard work.
I started little and today, I thank God.” Phyno further admonished artists to shun desperation for record deals and fame, urging them to embrace hard work. “Young talents need to relax. Do not be desperate about record deals or being in the spotlight. Keep working. When it’s time, you’ll shine.
“Imagine begging a label to sign you? What kind of terms will they give you? They already know you are desperate and they will use you.At the beginning, you might not see it but give it time, you’ll regret it. Nothing pays more than hard work and consistency.
Destroyed by drugs
Brig. Gen. Mohamed Buba Marwa (Rtd.), Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), had at a mental health summit, expressed worries about how popular drug-related song lyrics have grown among young people, stating that such songs have led them to view drug usage as a grand idea.
He said: “The ‘high syndrome’ is so entrenched among young people it has become a sort of self-prescription therapy for dealing with some of life’s issues. For some, it is the grand idea of leisure. It is a buzzword in their everyday life and a motif in popular music.
Offhand, I can give you three quick examples of hit songs that glorify the abuse of psychoactive substances in the name of ‘getting high’ “ ‘I just want to be high’, ‘I need Igbo and Shayo’, ‘Sometimes food no dey give man joy, but Canadian loud, the feeling is different.’ ” Below are some artists whose deaths got linked to drug addiction
Before he passed on in 2020, Nigeria’s reggae icon, Majek Fashek, was said to be in and out of rehabilitation centres. In 1988, his album, Prisoner of Conscience, shot him to limelight. Although reports say friends rallied round him and attended to his hospitalization needs, it was revealed that he battled, apart from his drug rehabilitation binge, esophageal cancer, when he died in New York City.
Dubbed the wild child of South African pop by The New York Times, Brenda Fassie’s struggle with drug addiction was a matter in the public domain. Although, it was first said that she died of cardiac arrest brought on by an asthma attack, a post-mortem report concluded that she died of drug overdose, involving cocaine. Fassie was known as an outspoken singer, who used her songs to oppose the apartheid in South Africa.
But for death,Whitney Houston would have been 61 this year on August 9. The pop icon passed away in 2012 at 48. The coroner’s report stated that the singer’s cause of death was accidental drowning, with heart disease and cocaine use as contributing factors. The toxicology report, according to Mirror, found that the singer was “acutely intoxicated from Cocaine” and she was a “repeated Cocaine user”.
Other examples of artists whose careers and lives were cut are Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, among others. But, beyond stories of drug abuse and addiction, there are strong allegations linking record labels and their signees to drug trafficking.
I rejected two record deals to protect my career – Up-and-coming artist Speaking to Sunday Telegraph on the dangers of getting trapped by record deals, Up-and-coming musician, Abbas Olalekan, aka Badman Lakers, said he had rejected nothing less than two deals, even when he has never been signed on by any record label to save his career. “I’ve never been signed to a label before.
I’ve been offered about two deals from record labels but I rejected them. You know you must find out what you are going into. I didn’t want to get into the wrong hands. When I get offers, I consult my producer for guidance. He has produced songs for the big shots in the industry and he knows the industry so well. As a matter of fact, he was signed on to the same record label with Zinoleesky before he joined Marlian Music .
Most labels love talented people; they will approach you but not every deal can be accepted.” On artists becoming members of cult groups, he said: ” Most of the top artists who own record labels (names withheld) belong to cult groups.They don’t even hide it anymore.What I can’t state categorically is if they joined after having their labels.”
It’s all highly exaggerated – Seun Oloketuyi
For filmmaker and founder of Best of Nollywood Awards, Seun Oloketuyi, positing that the entertainment industry is largely peopled by ritualists and drug dealers is like using a hammer to kill a fly. “Which category of characters that you’ve mentioned are not in other industries in Nigeria.
We’ve seen situations where, upon investigation, industries,banks and the rest of it have been traced to fraudsters and the rest of it. In my own estimation, I would like to rely on facts. Has the EFCC been able to come out to say this particular person did this or that? If you say rituals, there is no particular week you won’t see the Nigeria police come out with statements about ritualists,and all these characters.
I don’t think they are bigger than the law.” According to him, the issues that centre on the alleged involvement of entertainers in cultism and drug deals are being highly exaggerated. “I’ve been in this industry for close to 20 years . I’ve done several things in this industry. Up till now, nobody has ever asked me to do any of such.
I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not saying they are lying but I’ve not experienced such. Nobody has told me that before I do my award, I should do ritual.Nobody among those I’ve met for sponsorship has told me that before they sponsor my event, I would have to join a cult.”
Regulatory agencies must wake up – Orits Wiliki
Commenting, Chairman of the General Council (Board) of the Musical Copyright Society Nigeria Ltd/ Gte (MCSN),Orits Wiliki, traced the genesis of the culture of hard drugs consumption, rituals and cult- ism in the music industry to the failure of the relevant regulatory agencies to check songs that glorify the aforementioned vices. “There used to be a high level of monitoring by the National Broadcasting Commission(NBC ). What you put out was censored.
These days, people come out with all manner of lyrics. They are not checked. So, when you put out such things on the airwaves, of course, the youth will start reacting to it. So, we are a product of our environment .We had content that edify.You know there used to be high level of monitoring by the NBC of what you put out there. Since the advent of …the younger ones, our children, come up with all sorts of lyrics and they are not checked.
For instance, when reggae music ruled the airwaves, we had content that was edifying the people and the mind. There was cultism then but it was almost not noticeable. There was drug then, but it was almost not noticeable because of the high level of positive content that the stations dish out.
“It’s not every song that’s being played on radio stations today that I can allow my kids to listen to. It goes a long way in affecting their psyche and when you are playing it over and over on our TV stations, and they are seeing it, they will start copying and that’s what you’re seeing. It’s not something that started overnight. It developed and metamorphosed into what you see. I’m saying a lot of content dominating our airwaves ought not to be there.
This is the genesis of the problem”,he argued Wiliki further stated that the potency of “healthy content” cannot be overemphasized: “If you are my friend,and the kind of music you play is edifying cultism and hard drugs,and you appear to be making it, what stops me from joining you since I want to blow? All these things will fade away when you start hearing healthy content on airwaves.”
He, however, admitted that social media has really helped in spreading the popularity and visibility of artists, making it, unlike radio and television, difficult to control what is put out.