Since the term “Alternative” was coined in music in the 1980s, there seems to be a general lack of agreement to ascertain what exactly it means to be alternative. Most scholars agree the alternative movement started as an off-shoot of independent rock sub-genres like punk rock, indie rock, grunge rock and other related sounds. Subsequently every other genre split into several of its own spin-off sub-genres which resulted in the expansion of the universal soundscape. However the lingering difficulty of defining what the term alternative should mean still affects many music climes all over the world including Nigeria’s.
Artistes and their music have been severally lumped into the alternative category for lack of a better definition for their music. The latest trend in that regard, are experimental artistes declaring their music alternative for reasons ranging from the lack of understanding of their own music or the poor artistic direction. However while there are still debates on what it means to be alternative, we are pretty certain about what does not automatically qualify as alternative.
We are no longer in denial of the lack of great songwriting in Nigeria, so artistes who put thought into making music with a little more weight than mere concoctions of organised noise will always be appreciated. But while great songwriting could be a plus for any artiste edging towards the alternative cliff, it doesn’t automatically pass great songwriters off as alternative artistes.
Admittedly even for many alternative artistes, unique vocals are important for creating a signature (which is the main purpose for deciding to go alternative in the first place,) but if the music produced by the vocals is still stylised to mainstream leanings without any sound uniqueness or incorporation of elements foreign to the genre, even unique vocals are not enough reason to stand under the alternative banner, sorry.
Ability to play instruments
It is believed in some circles that the ability to play an instrument is the true mark of a musician. While there may be some truth to that, we also feel implored to say being “alternative” neither makes you a better artiste, nor does playing an instrument work as a certification for your “alternativeness.”