Friday, April 13, 2012

Luci! Stoned in Port Harcourt!!

I was sad to hear the sad news (or is it stale already) that Luciano was stoned in Port Harcourt. I had to revert to the Oracle - "Holy Google" to point me in the right direction and voila - it was true...  Jamaican Reggae Star- Luciano, Stoned in Port Harcourt

Before I start ranting, let me establish that I am a serious lover of reggae music. I have followed it from the 70's... during the Ska days with early Bands like Justin Hughs & The Domino, The Wailing Wailers, Mighty Diamonds, The Pioneers, Toots & The Maytals, etc. Even when early exponents pushed the envelope and wents solo - Eric Donaldson, Bob Marley, Eddy Grant, Jimmy Cliff, etc. So when my mates were "break dancing" and "electric shocking", I was listening to artiste like Denis Brown, Gregory Issac, Don Carlos, Lovingdeer, Tiger, Tippa, UB40, Third World, Yellow Man, et el... and as reggae music evolved from "drum and Bass" to Ragga, and Lovers rock, I was there. My life was shaped and characterized by these small but mighty bands. By the 1980s ragga had caught on and I was sold. In 1988 after a short spell in the UK, I threw my comb away and turned Natty! I kept my dreadlocks until 1994 when I finally succumbed to societal pressure and cut it.

All along, mot people around me could not understand why I loved this flavor of music - largely because they could not understand a word of what was been said. I lost a lot of girl friends who could not get rid of the "Ilapa lapa" cranking of my stereo. I called it exotic music because it was rare, one had to travel to get the Tapes, besides heavy weights whose hits had broken into main stream, there was no way to buy or hear authentic reggae in Nigeria. So real reggae was only known to a few - I remember my friends thought "House Call" (by Shabba Ranks featuring Maxi Priest) was trash until it became a party anthem.

Reggae has always appealed to me not just because it sounds good but like someone eloquently put it "they s[a]ng conscious tunes - songs that appeals to man's conscience". So much like Jazz, and Soul music it had a certain mood that is hard to explain - even allowing some artist to sing outside the musical scale, exploring the boundaries of their creativity, away from anything other genre could offer - take Papa San's Maddy Maddy Cry for instance. (if you don't laugh at this at some point, you are not normal!).

The Jamaicans had invented a sound that appealed to the conscious man across the world. Considering that they are descendants of slaved Africans, they often look unto Africa as home - Mama Africa's calling, has brought several African/Caribbean/Americans to our shores thinking they are welcome. But their euphoria is often greeted with a surprise... lets go back memory lane.

Jimmy Cliff came how to Nigeria and kissed the tar mark only to be thrown in Jail - on his return he sang a not so popular "Have you heard the news" and the popular "The Harder they come" expressing his disgust with the military government of Nigeria. Third World visited Nigeria in the early 80s and even after recording "Lagos Jump" in Nigeria but they had a rough time during their tour of the country. Brand Nubian came to Nigeria in the early 90's and was booed out of stage... several other musicians have come here only to be disgraced... 50 Cents, Ashanti, etc.

So why all this nonsense you ask? Well I guess it might be that the average Nigerian has a sweet tooth for a unique kind of music, but their promoters have yet to key into it. I don't agree with that notion - even though it took a while for us to enter the scene with our own blend of  music. Our so-called African-Hip-Hop is classified as Dancehall/reggae music (The same music Jamaicans are known for) and Nigerian artiste who are true to themselves like 2Face, Majek, etc will tell you their inspiration is Reggae.(This is not to say that there are no Rap or R&B Naija artiste). 

The big names in Nigeria who play our flavour are not known internationally. In fact CNN recently published a list of top African acts, and only 3 Nigerians made the list... If the hundreds of Nigerian musicians who cater to this flavour are not known internationally, why then do event promoters keep bringing their foreign counterparts here? Our fans do not understand that by  participating at such shows with big names, they are opening doors for the Nigerian artist. Tracy Chapman's fast climb to fame can be traced to her performance as an opening act for Tina Turner.

I hear the Port Harcourt fans wanted the likes of Ras Kimono, Daddy Shokey, and Peter & Paul to play tunes they were used to, They could not understand what Luciano was saying... so they booed Luciano Out. Hear Luciano - Poor Simple 

"I know, l know... and you should know,
 It is better to be poor and simple, and your conscience set you free,
 than to be rich and living in agony,
 It is better to be poor and simple, and your mind is free,
 than to sell your souls for vanity,
 some all they want is silver and gold, diamonds and pearl the things of this world,
 they will do anything, they say anything, just to live the life of a king" - Luciano
 Some will say to be is a crime, but its better to be poor than rich with a filthy mind,
 becos of their crave and lust for vanity, they have no time and love for humanity...
 They are blind and can not see, what is ... when they are face to face with destiny
 but its better to be poor and simple... " - Luciano
Luciano is one of Jamaica greatest, he mellow gospel-reggae genre is not that kind of music Nigerians, let alone the Port Harcourt crowd listen to. Its like calling El Klugh to play at an Ajegunle show. Which Nigerian wants to hear things like that? What morals has this Christifarian got to preach to them on stage. They may be right though, in a society where money is worshiped, and evil and immoral people hold sway, why should they allow someone they paid to entertain them to preach to them - because preaching is what Luciano does. All his songs are gospel ragga. So I put the blame on the promoters and his manager - why should a promoter arrange such a gig and carry it to the masses.

In conclusion, Nigerians have to open up and look towards globalization - always doing things the Naija was does not work out well in the long run. Our ambassadors often disgrace us out there because they feel the world thinks with a "Naija" brain, they often can't communicate because they speak Naija English, we cant eat their food because it has no taste, we cant drive abroad because there is a whole set of International standards we are not aware of. While other nations think about practical ways of solving problems, we rely on gods and deities to rise and tackle our problems. I wrote a two part article about these wrong applications of standards in Nigeria - I titled it Nigeria, Majoring the minor. I believe these problems are all hinged on misconceptions, miscommunication, wrong applications of theories and they all lend their small quota to making Nigeria financially and socially unattractive to the rest of the world.

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