Nigeria: Debate On Fela, Wizkid, Burna Boy Soars!
… Younger generation exploring what Afro-beat legend couldn’t compromise
‘What Fela refused to compromise in his music, the likes of Burna Boy and Wizkid have explored in their individual music to hit the global limelight.’
Perhaps, this is the disturbing topic that recently dominated discourse on the popular WhatsApp platform, n’ Highlife Masters Voice.
The platform has been buzzing with members discussing the globalization of African music and the supposed brains behind the milestone.
While some have argued that Fela remains the reference point when it comes to creating original African sound that is devoid of western influence, many others believed that the emergence of the new crop of musicians like Burna Boy and Wizkid on the scene has brought about the global appeal that Africa is currently enjoying. Though they ultimately leaned on Fela’s music to find their voices.
For veteran actor cum producer, Edmond Enaibe, why Fela didn’t attain global acclamation during his time like Burna Boy and Wizkid was because of the Afro-beat legend’s inability to compromise his originality that embodied all he stood for.
He posited that even though the self-acclaimed African Giant and Starboy owe their individual musical influences to Fela, the superstars obviously have surpassed the Afrobeat legend after they incorporated western elements in their music to gain global acceptance.
“The comparison is not about diminishing or rubbishing the musical place of Fela with the present globalization of Wizkid and Burna Boy. No, their music obviously reek of Fela’s influence to which they proudly acknowledge.
” They have incorporated western elements in their music to gain western cheers. This is what Fela refused to compromise… his originality that embodied all he stood for. Bob Marley compromised but still maintained his rebel status in his lyrics,”Enaibe posited.
Mr Ayo, another critic believed that both Fela and Wizkid belong to different generations of musicians who functioned within a specific socio-economic and political era.
On his part, Marina Osoba reasoned that comparing Fela with any of the present day musicians is “akin to that of whether a disciple is bigger than his master.”
For creative industries entrepreneur, Obi Asika, there is no need to diminish the success story of the new generation of Nigerian singers.
“We can’t predict the future but I can tell you, we have never been as relevant as this and that has to be respected, many of our talents are basically digital and they too have talent and work hard. There is no need to diminish them and what they are achieving daily, they represent us and they fly our flag wonderfully,” argued Asika.
Meanwhile, popular art critic, Chris Paul Otaigbe does not believe that Fela should be compared to any musician living or dead.
According to him, it’s insulting to the intelligence, intellectuality, creativity, purpose, message and energy that the Afro-beat legend brought to his works, comparing him to the musicians of this new age.
Otaigbo noted that the closest to Fela in terms of their creativity and messages are Lagbaja and Dede Mabiaku. But the two, he stressed, lack the enduring pop sensationalism that Fela attracted easily to his music.
Otaigbe said the globally acclaimed music stars are far from understanding the idea of the true music that Fela gave the world, while he lived.
‘You should also know that if Fela were to be alive today, his music would have morphed … Not into the lyrical senselessness we have today nor in the superficiality that pervades today’s music.’
“While still holding onto the organic foundation that his Afro-beat music laid, his commentary and sense of humor on the times would be the cherry that would have consolidated his Afro-beat cake for his fans globally.
“Virtually all Fela’s music make sense to this generation. His music outlasts theirs! Even in their own generation today!! Which other Artiste enjoys that in Africa, among the black Race… ?’
‘Maybe Michael Jackson, James Brown (though fading fast). Fela was more; literate, articulate, real and a complete Thinker. Can we say the same about these boys?.. No!”
“With all due respect to the boys, I respect and appreciate their global success as musicians and for being the best among their peers. Great thing; and I rejoice with them. That’s where it ends as far the matter is concerned.
“I can understand using Fela to shore up their ratings and give a meaning to the kind of music they developed for themselves.
“But truth be told, they don’t come near Anikulapo Kuti. They are universe apart. No insult intended.”
‘So, comparing Fela to these boys doesn’t cut it at all. If anything, it offends the spirit of true music.’
‘Fela was the greatest of his time , one of the greatest of all time; he remains the greatest today and for generations to come,”Otaigbo argued.
“Have you ever imagined if the internet, in its full intensity today, had met Fela at his prime even till he transited… Have you ever given it a thought to what he would have been today… “
“If Fela could generate the level of fame and power he had in the absence of IT, you can Imagine what he could have been if he had the advantage of the same facilities our boys have today.
Because the boys are winning Grammys now, so, they can now rub their shoulders with Fela..The boys are successful artistes globally. They are making Nigerians proud and we appreciate them.”
‘Fela goes beyond all of that. He was an institution and an enduring legend. His shoes remain too big for the global feet and feat of our superstars today,” Otaigbo added.