I have followed the last three months relating to the much talked about in the Nigerian tabloid press regarding the Nigerian Music Awards (NMA) held at the International Conference Center in Abuja on May 19, 2007 to promote the nation's music industry universally. Reading the so-called tabloids and how the event unfolded, I couldn't but laugh at how the organizers talked about having a great show. Only in Abuja, without a doubt, that NMA is big story parading artists never heard of in any jam session. Let me be blunt here, I am a music freak and I do know about music dating back to the swing and be-bop era which initiated the big bands, but it's quite disturbing when a nation that produced legends like Fela would stage a musical award and nobody around the globe heard about it. Poor promotions?
Sadly, it is a Nigerian show featuring local champions who have made mockery of the music industry in Naija and had limited capabilities for exposure worldwide like aspiring new artists and legendary musicians who have left a mark in the entertainment industry. Where in the universe has Tuface Idibia been given air time, or where in broadcast news have we heard of Sunny Neji who took home Song of the Decade and Artiste of the Decade Awards, respectively?
If the late South African legendary star Brenda Fassie should perform today in Diaspora, she would be playing at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, UCLA's Royce Hall, Coach House, San Juan capistrano and other major events all around the United States. The irony, though, is, we find ourselves caught up with our local musicians playing at naming ceremonies, recreation parks and events of that nature when they should be supposedly playing at big events; for eaample, dates at the Hollywood Bowl, House of Blues, Jazz Bakery, Mixed Nuts and places in that category where live audiences recognizes masterpiece performances and are given the exposure required to blow up. And who among us here in Diaspora ever heard of the Nigerian Music Awards' Tony "Juliana Play Me Wayo" Okoroji is iconic to the music industry's projects that has no history and which is all news to my ears? We make too much noise, yet, we can't feature in local pubs here in the Yanks. Not even a roadside coffee house.
But it's ok, though, when we play gigs at related naming ceremonies and "community launchings for worthy causes" to portray ourselves as societal nouveau riche and spraying money in your face kind of stuff with all that "Ogbuefi,", "Omemgbeoji," "Ebubedike," "Ori ewu na azi," "Iyi," Osimiri," "Dikeanatuegwu" and stuff like that just to make ourselves relevant to a conquered people who lost every sense of belonging and had hoped deliverance would come from Diaspora in terms of building a profound community. The Diaspora community is a lost cause and nobody really cares. They are a finished people. They have failed to build community like their other Diaspora counterparts. It is a sad reality.
I still remember, back in the day, Kris Okotie's second album launched at National Theatre, Iganmu, promoted by Silverbird Production in a quest to introduce World Music, reflecting on 70's era pure funk which brought about the "funkitified" music of the time. Brothers Johnson, Kool and the Gang, Shalamar, Dynasty, Delegation, and many other foreign ensembles of the time in the Disco and razzmatazz funked-up era which had Quincy Jones as we read Right On Magazine believe in a situation music was not all about the be-bop era, but a change in the scheme of things. Showbiz(ness) will never be the same, henceforth. Quincy Jones sprang up from that era, the swing and be-bop, including the Big Bands. And Quincy brought about the modern era that would change music spending hours as a "studio rat" in jam sessions making beats and producing quality music 24/7 trying to figure out why a pot-smoking-generation Woodstock shouldn't be changed for the better.
Be-bop is fine with me. When it comes to music, I don't discrininate and have no reason to as long as the targeted audience gets the message. And, that's the problem, especially when our local musicians have no clue what it means to get the message through in terms of a universal language in the culture of music. No Los Angeles club or the airwaves has heard of Tuface Idibia and the much talked about "African Queen", Crooner, Yinka Davies, JJC and Diya Ojo as popular artists who have made the breakthrough in popular music. I "wanna" see these guys play the Greek Theatre and the Wiltern; not isi-ewu joints and all that bragging about a good show. But, hey, alas, enter a Naija crowd in Diaspora to check out who is who in pop and reggae; and you will be hearing names like Yinka Davies and JJC. Names not even heard of anywhere on Planet Earth as far as music and showbiz is concerned.
But I have no qualms, as long these dudes are getting paid from playing gigs at our local facilities, especially in Los Angeles. That's not the case. It is a case of opportunists who deliberately took advantage of these aspiring artists requiring airtime and promotions only to be dumped and abandoned by a greedy group of "promoters" who've not attended big shows in their entire lives as in Playboy Jazz Festival, Newport Beach Jazz Festival, Reggae Sunsplash, concerts in any category at auditoriums and jam sessions seen at high profile night clubs.
Even though the legendary Fela received a posthumous award coupled with lifetime achievement awards presented to King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and co., last weekend's Nigerian Music Awards is big deal only in Naija, and they should stuff it where it belongs. No fuss about that and no big deal.