Nobody ever seems to notice the salient theme of aspiration tied around mainstream Nigerian music,especially when alternative music lovers gloriously declare their music tastes too sophisticated for the mainstream. The same issues of repeated lyrics and emphasis on nyansh and money are some of the biggest bones of contention anyone has with Nigerian music. The hypocrisy in this rather shallow judgement, however, is separating mainstream music from where it has come from.
Ironically, the “alternative” counter coin to mainstream music similarly has some of its own rather daunting characteristics that don’t always shine in a good light, even though the music it births might.
The alternative genre has been co-signed by many as music for people seeking more out of music than just whatever sounds good. So greater attention is paid to details of sound arrangements, wordiness, and thematic intent.
But we are a product of our environment, which means unlike mainstream music that comes from streetwise minds trying to get a better life, alternative music has a greater purpose and hence comes from minds exposed to realities that allow them to study life instead of worry about how to get through it.
In simpler words, alternative artistes must be rich enough to not worry about how to get rich. This is why the disparity in content differs, because while one person’s reality is trying to make it as a singer in Ojuelegba’s gritty slums, another writes a love ballad from an upscale building in Banana Island after returning from an 18 months music diploma program in the United States, following boredom with their first choice photography career as a “creative”.
Essentially the only way to be an alternative artiste in Nigeria is to be an awkward rich kid with exposure your parents paid for in better education, summer vacations, choice career support and making music that can broaden your sonic scape.
Or even better, they can simply birth you outside the country and continually expose you to elements of your own Africaness, so you don’t forget where you have come from. You will return in a couple of years with a record contract and platinum albums even though nobody at home will know your name. But you don’t care about fame where the daddy-mummy money resides so even this is fine.
Besides, your entire band is made up of all your cool white friends, your biggest fans too, so your love songs were never for the starving man on the streets of Ijora Badia to relate to anyway. Even better, in addition to your wealth and class privilege, foreign validation of your music already places you at a genre superiority advantage. So all the other so-called locally created alternative artistes who gained enough minimal exposure to try something different will still join the mainstream queue, under your untouchable legendary shadow.