The ultimate aim of Afropop (or Afrobeats) is for you to komole, gbesoke, to groove and live your best life. Afropop has never hidden its agenda, neither has it made any effort to understate it. Afropop is as dense as it is joyful and powerful — therein lies its political nature.
Partly for this, the genre has gained global attention, dominating music scenes across Africa and finding a home in far flung places.
Despite its heavy reliance on sound machines and near-absence of coherent lyrics, Afropop somehow manages to find its way to the playlists of club DJs, charts and, most importantly, hearts.
One might be tempted, especially Afrobeat purists, to condescendly dismiss contemporary Afropop as sugary, bubble gum pop that is pointless, remarkably different from its progenitor, Afrobeat.
Still, that would be an arrogant dismissal of a huge swathe of Nigerians, and millions of Africans, who find empowerment, joy and comfort in Afropop.
On its face, Afropop is apolitical. But it is, actually, political — as is the joy it brings. Both binding together as a shield, a resistance, to a reality that we, as Nigerians, are powerless to. To be happy, regardless of reality, is in itself an act of resistance, a political act that is a response to a repressive system.
When Tekno, for instance, released his hippy song, ‘Ra ra’, he found a sweet spot between the obviously political and covertly political by combining biting words with a danceable, joyful rhythm.
Needless to say, despite how huge the song became, little attention was paid to his political undertone: the criticism of government and society. Tekno has since taken stock, and stayed with the inane.
To be Nigerian and live in Nigeria is to be exposed to the constant reality that life is, in fact, a never-ending school of hard knocks.
At every corner is a systematic failure that screws one over, top to bottom, till you are left hopeless and weatherbeaten. And it doesn’t matter what social class or educational qualification you have; whether one lives in a mansion in Ikoyi or in a hut in Enugu, we are united by our experiences of state failure, hopelessness, humiliation and powerlessness at the hands of a system that is designed to frustrate and deliver smack downs at every turn.
We rise every day to fall again. Dust ourselves up and stand again. Rinse and repeat. Keep going.
It is around this utter despondency that a typical Nigerian finds meaning and forges an identity, thus claiming ownership of that which threatens his very existence.
And integral to this identity is the vacuous songs produced in studios from Lekki to London — songs that provide a sense of reprieve, a rebuff to our reality and disappear in the joy brought on by strong staccato rhythm and senseless lyrics..
If all Nigerian musicians were to be ‘deep’, how then would we find solace in the face of hopelessness?
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