A pretty noisy lounge with some 15 or more of my friends had just been brought to dead silence with a loud shhhhhhhhhhhhh! sound by my girlfriend who was visibly dying to read a joke aloud, off her black berry. 30seconds later, the joke on “how the current presidential aspirants were the same ones who told us over 20 years ago that we were the leaders of tomorrow” was done. And as the joke signed off with a sarcastic projection of when our tomorrow was likely to commence, a roaring laughter descended on the silence from every corner of the room.
Sure, I had my share of the laughter but with a little difficulty. Why? Well, have you ever let out a hearty laugh with mixed emotions? You know when what tickles you is irresistibly funny but with the outburst comes the after-thought that sets you on think mode? That home truth that leaves a bitter after-taste with the potential to make laughter your last reaction upon a re-think about the import of what you have just heard or seen? If you can relate, then you have saved me the trouble of explaining my difficulty.
So, while the rowdiness of the lounge was being slowly restored, I was battling with the sour taste of the truth hidden in the joke. The truth in this case being the sad reality of the near non-existent opportunities reserved for the Nigerian youth to make any impact on a massive scale in his society. It donned on me that while America had embraced an age where the white house could be governed by not only a young man but one with traceable African roots, Nigeria tenaciously holds on to a drama plot where the curtains are never drawn on the old and tired players who have every plan to die on that stage. Little wonder why every time recognition is bestowed for remarkable contribution, the recipient would approach the podium an old man.
At the forefront of hosting the guilt of this ill is clearly the sphere of politics where only a few daring young ones have swum against the tide with amazing success as is clear with the Lagos story.
Interestingly the entertainment arena tells a slightly different story. Here the elders in the game have been forced to play by the rules of the young and restless. Without a choice, they have made way for the raw hunger of the youngsters which has practically given them control over most aspects of show business. Ranging from Movies to Music, Photography to Comedy, Dance to Fashion, Broadcasting, etc.
Yes, the young ones pay the piper, dictate the tune and do the dam dancing all by themselves in this industry. The level of success registered with the industry in their control is equally phenomenal. Cashing fat pay cheques, Creating job opportunities, Gaining global recognition, Sealing corporate endorsement deals and building the generally intimidating stature of the industry is an off shoot of the sweat and tears put in by young people. Some of the stories behind these efforts are nothing short of capable of activating your tear glands and permanently reserving an iconic status for a good number these young heroes.
But the reward system is still operated by the papa’s so a federal honor for most of the young is currently a laughable concept. At the most Austin Jay Jay Okocha (Ronaldo’s Idol) may just have to meet up with Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji before he becomes deserving of an OON or even a simple clay statue in the national stadium or Pretty has to be able to shake Junior before we can publicly shake his own hand.
Did I just hear you say “TUFIAKWA! Not our Jay Jay or Pretty” Ah! Amen o! “long life” ….is what we wish them and all our young stars but please, my people, they have lived long enough to have been honored for being living legends. They do not have to be history before they can be made happy for making history. Can we please give that pat on the back now? Now, that they can share in the joy and not by a grave side. Now that the closing statement to the citation can be “a standing ovation please” and not “may his soul rest in peace”. Now that THEY ARE STILL BREATHING.
Me, I will not wait for them government people o! Neither for award organizers who make such recognition an exclusive reserve for friends of the house. I would say my thank you now. I, on that note give to you 8 of the most deserving young people who have been outstanding with their contribution to the industry of entertainment against amazing odds. The RARE feat accomplished by these few guarantees that in generations unborn they shall have their praises sung because if it wasn’t for them, the blessings of serving as channels for a revolution would have been lost on us all.
AND THE RECIPIENTS ARE:
Wyclef and Sound Sultan.
SOUND SULTAN (Lanre Fassasi) Music as a tool for social change. That is the essence of Fela’s entire legacy. It is why I remember quick May 11, 1981 for Bob Marley and may need a rain check to be sure of the exact date when my own grand dad passed. Consciousness and the power of lyrical content is the reason why some elite white kid is going to stay up tonight studying 2pacs lyrics so he can pass his exams. With the loads of vain and cliché topics emphasized by artiste over the years, Sultan is clearly the nearest to Fela with lyrics that would likely form part of a school syllabus tomorrow. Our children would xray his 1st Album tagged KPSHEW… with classics such as Mathematics, Gengen, Koleyewon etc. You know that it was a tradition for him when you follow the consistency as the message is served fresh in all 5 of his albums. A few examples include Motherland from the album Text Book, Animal Farm from the 007 album, King of my country from the SS4 album and the current wave making 2010 from the just released back to the future album. Sultan has kept the light shining from the very 1st verse he delivered in 1995 on Baba Dee’s Governors daughter track till this very day.
Other act trailing closely in this category include Black face, Eldee the Don, Mode 9 and Tuface but it is Sound Sultan who is already a living legend on this basis.
Cobhams Asuquo: This man can make u say ‘God is great 10 times in 5mins from an encounter with his voice. Then they mess you up by telling you that he produced and wrote the song you are listening to. But before you lose your mind totally please take note that he played the instruments as well. Oh yes! The guitar, keyboard, you just name it. But please now know that he was born blind. Ok now you can go bunkers. Do u hate to read? This blind guy went into Unilag to study law. Are you scared of marriage? This young man said ‘I do’ to beautiful Veronica on Dec 2nd 2010. Are you trying to score an African hit as a producer? This man has awards for record sales in France. What kind of versatility do you need to have to via your production, satisfy the fans of DJINEE and that of Mode 9. Fans of Faze and fans of Street Monks, Fans of Asa and fans of Rooftop MC’s. He’s got that. Do you want to own your own business someday? Well meet ex head of Audio production for question mark studios and current CEO CAMP (Cobhams Asuquo Music Production ltd). Business with CAMP is done on that international scale as he is signed to SONY ATV (London) for publishing. There’s so much more but I guess the powers that be want to stay blind to the presence of this rare gem.
TU Face (Innocent Idibia) The singular reason why Tu Baba is on this list is because he is the only one who as a music act does not have fans but disciples. Tu face is the nearest you can get to the idea of a Nigerian Michael Jackson. I know a girl who while exchanging pleasantries with any stranger and introducing herself would not fail to add to her profession and name, the sentence ” .…and yes, I am a crazed Tuface fan” (No Joking). From the Senator to his wife and their daughter Rita in Unilag and their son John in Texas to Gabriel the family driver, everyone has Tuface as their favorite act. This love triples every time there is damaging news about him ranging from- you know what to- you know what. He can’t go wrong in many a quarters. He can start a riot without being physically present. 2 face is a mini god with a spiritual following. The followership is distinct and unusual and makes him a clear living legend. Let’s not fail to mention his intimidating humility.
Eldee The DON(Lanre Dabiri): Watching CNN refer to Genevieve Nnaji as Nigerias own Sharon Stone, I got fascinated by that and tried to find a Naija match in Hollywood stars. After an unopposed lecture, my friends agreed with me that there was only one P Diddy replica in Nigeria. The similarities went beyond the sharp carve of the hair and the shades. The components of my lecture exposed that only EL as a young star in his first year (Unilag 1996) had began what came to be the raps biggest family and a launching pad for carriers that still stare us in the face. Did u ask “like who?” OYA now. Row call: Sasha P, Freestyle, 2SHOTS, SID, Blaize, Lekushay. Sultan says Eldees business sense was frightening that early. While he (Sultan) was excited about going to the studio to record, Eldee was laying emphasis on having Sultan register a company so he could do business in the near future. El discovered the use of the Alaba machinery for distribution of CD’s. El designed and introduced the very first paper casing used for CD’s today as against the plastic cases obtainable then. His mothers faith in him was evident in the shock on T Joe’s face when El showed up with her support in the form of N250k for the project in 1999. He, like Puffy, has outlived all his protégés. Is the only married one from the entire crew with the most collection of consistent hits. What else should he please do to get some respect here. Fight a bull?
Asa: The venue was the French cultural centre in Ikoyi, Lagos and a popular comic act had just gotten on the stage after a bare footed dred- lock wearing tom boy had struggled to extract a weak round of applause from a scanty crowd with a performance alongside her guitar. The comedians opening remarks: “na hunger go beat this one commot for this music business”. That was some 6years ago and boy was he right. For indeed her hunger to explode would not stop beating her and it sent her out of the business that was confined to Nigeria and sent her out to the world of international music business. Becoming the official captain of the relay team running with Nigeria’s hope to someday come home with a grammy. The doom looming predictions of the comedian was shared by more than a handful as Asa’s genre of music stood out as not commercial but it was good music to all who had music trained ears.
She battled with that rejection, battled with an unfavorable record deal, battled with limited funds, battled with a system with little faith in her but she didn’t give in. She kept pushing WITHOUT WATERING DOWN her style just to eat for the moment at the sacrifice of quality (a very familiar story) . Today, Asa is an INTERNATIONAL STAR. Please take that to the bank because when you hear that Asa is on tour, she is NOT playing before 25 Nigerians in a small bar in Ukraine (another familiar story). She is actually before thousands who bought tickets in advance to go see a CONCERT PROPER.
The only female on our list. Asa is a living legend.
Uzodinma Okpechi: The leading, most developed and most professional sector of the entertainment industry today is the music video industry. It is ironically the youngest sector in terms of the new age rebirth that placed it at par with music videos from across the globe. Before Uzodinmamania invaded the industry, our music videos were huge jokes that were far from funny. The Lagos bar beach was officially the only location if you did not have flowers growing at your back yard. At great cost and with lots of suffered losses, Uzodinma changed all that. Pioneering the new age music video package as the new statement made by the artist and his record label. For months, material profit trailed behind passion, perfection and creativity on his scale of preference. When international music cable stations turned their attention to what Nigeria could offer, Uzo was the reason why we could proudly lay our cards down on the table. Quite instrumental to this development were directors like Shina Adedeji, DXF, Baba Dee, and a few others but Uzo led the pack as the first recipient of the award for best music video as a director at the Award for Musical Excellence in Nigeria (AMEN). While his recognition had broken his business interest into the corporate world and kept him a little out of circulation in the industry for which he jettisoned a career in medicine, we would not forget the moves with which he redefined the music video making business. Uzodinma Okpechi, a true Living Legend.
Opa Williams: Jokes apart, If you could count, and do arrive at the number 1,000 as the number of times that you have laughed to a joke told by a Nigerian comedian, then here’s the man to thank for the 1,000 laughs. His aim was to get you to have all one thousand laughs in one night. The first attempt to do that was greeted with a world record disaster. The auditorium in Unilag was filled to the brim with empty chairs. That wasn’t enough to stop Opa from creating an industry currently at the nucleus of Nigerian entertainment. Opa had with one project began to do the following.
* Discover Nigerias funniest talents
* Wear Comedy a corporate face
* Institutionalize comedy shows as annual festive events
* Create Jobs
* Enrich himself and more than a few others
Opa Williams was a lone ranger in a business where as far as we are concerned has till date only had passengers come on board a bus that ran on Opa’s drive as the only source of fuel for a long long time. It is painfully fallacious to dare talk about a King of Comedy and not let that name ‘Opa” come behind the title. Like all of our heroes, the tradition that made the man has been sustained over the years and is still flourishing. Today, with tens of industry children to his credit and over 15years of building the hypertension arresting aspect of Nigerian entertainment, this movie producer who we remember for giving us the movie ”Deadly Affair” is a Living Legend.
Jimmy Jatt: ’when people think say we dey mental, back then, na Jimmy Jatt na him dey give us instrumental’ … Tu face from the song stylee. Under those words lie the true picture of the man Jimmy. When rendering help was uncommon and tasking, Jimmy was the sure and last busstop. Show me an artist who was around when the youngsters began to invade this industry and did not get one form of assistance or the other from Jimmy and like Bongos I’ll show u a virgin in a maternity ward. All you needed to be given a chance with Jimmy was say you think you can do it. Infact I dare say that the era of collabos and artiest meeting each other was born with the first of Jimmys annual 2pac remembrance show held at “Water Parks” in 1996. All Jimmy was busy doing that day was making introductions. That evening he actually remembers saying “Plantation boys meet Trybesmen, Mode 9 meet Eldee, OXYGEN (Comprising of Slam, Paul Play Dairo, etc) meet Def O CLAN. Everybody built lots of friendships that would subsequently build the new world era of Naija music. Thanks to the one man who was there for everybody for roughly 2decades and still running strong not just behind but on top wheels of steel. Jimmy Jatt. Our Living Legend.
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