At the 2015 Miss Nigeria pageantry held Saturday November 7th in Lagos, Harrysong performed his hit single “reggae blue” alongside Kcee. Unfortunately, the performance was simply boring and cliché as the duo’s attempt at actual performance was characterized by uncoordinated movement around the stage and a frisky, tacky dance between Kcee and a young woman. Their vocals were off key the entire time even as there was no live band. There was no electrifying artistry, the type one would find in a Chris Brown performance for instance. This got me thinking long and hard as to why most live performances by Nigerian artists are simply basic, uninteresting and mediocre!
Now there is no doubt that the Nigerian music industry has grown and become one of the most influential in Africa and beyond as Nigerian artists constantly release quality audio-visual productions for our entertainment. Songs by singers such as MI Abaga, Waje, Tiwa Savage and Runtown (to mention a few) are top-notch in terms of quality of production and musicality. In the same vein, these musicians ensure that their music videos are in par with global standards. But then when it comes to stage performances, their outputs are usually poor. Interestingly though, many music lovers in Nigeria seem unperturbed by this phenomenon. Yet I [just] cannot figure out why anybody should buy a ticket to watch a favourite singer’s performance only to get treated to a completely boring show. In 2015 when music artists around the world spend days rehearsing theatrical, visually-captivating dramatics for their shows/concerts, Nigerian singers fail to at least give their audiences live bands. And yet said audiences attend these shows and seem satisfied by it. Who then is to blame for this lack of artistic standard; the singers or the music lovers?
To answer the above question, permit a little bit of digression. Major international artists have been criticized severally for their stage performances especially when it is large scale like the Super Bowl and the Grammies. Last year, Katie Perry was the subject of ridicule by some who thought her elabourate Super Bowl performance was trashy compared to Beyoncé’s giving the year before. And speaking of Beyoncé, most fans were disappointed over her most recent performance at the Global Citizens’ concert in New York. This is despite all the dancing, drama and actual singing she put out. But then this is what the case should be; music artists should be mandated by their fans to always bring out their best while performing live shows. Music lovers abroad are known for this as they practically determine a lot of things singers do on stage. For instance, it is in anticipation of what audiences would like to see on stages that artists go out of their ways to recruit stage directors and creative artists who will plan out the moves, the choreography and the actual crazy fun that makes for good shows. One of Beyoncé’s many Grammy performances once saw the artist marching up an isle towards the expansive stage with an entire army all of whom were dressed in full military uniforms. She would later dance, interact with the crowd and run the breath of the auditorium while belting out lyrics in her amazing, crystal-clear manner. Indeed, Stage performance is beyond standing with a microphone and jumping up and down a stage. Jumping around the stage and demonstrating swags is definitely good, but certainly not all there is to it.
My point therefore is that both the artists and the audiences are to blame for the poor stage performances we experience in Nigeria. And I think [perhaps] the main reason behind this is the fact that most of us have yet to realize the immense importance of stage performances. How then do you explain artist’ lack of preparedness, the poor sound quality, the typical absence of live bands and hence the boring shows we usually always have in Nigeria? Most of these performances are so random and unplanned so much so Iyanya was performing at his all white birthday concert and his friends were walking about the stage as though it was a joke! All this happened while the fans merely sat back and watched, seemingly indifferent. Why on earth would I pay money to watch such a show? In actual fact I cannot seem to understand the phenomenon. This is 2015 for weeping out loud and entertainment should be refreshing. Why then on earth are some people especially the audiences so nonchalant over what they get in return for their money?
Once again let me reiterate the crux of this piece in order to avoid misunderstanding. Nigerian musicians are generally doing great jobs in the studios. However, there is need to replicate said excellence on stage as that is the only means they will get to that point in their careers when they rent out stadia as the likes of Sam Smith and Taylor Swift do. And perhaps it belies the Nigerian music lovers to demand such excellence. Now I don’t know the best way this could actualized, yet social media rants have proven very useful in many situations. And speaking of social media rants and how it shapes artists’ leaning towards the fans’ wants, Lady Gaga’s fans (for instance) recently went on rampage on her Instagram account over the many jazz shows she has been performing of late. This happened following a picture the singer posted on the social media platform, with many followers complaining that she was becoming too jazzy for comfort. One particular fan’s comment caught my interest and it read thus:
I was on stage with her in Zurich but please please Gaga stop this jazz sh*t; your fame isn’t the same anymore… We want f**king Judas!! We want Aphrodite!! And f**king shit… please give us back Donatella… I’m a little monster and I f**king tattooed your name. So go back and f**king be my mother!
Now that is how to speak out as a fan. And Nigerian music lovers need to speak out this way while demanding excellent stage performances from our artists as it is imperative towards ensuring continued growth in the industry.
This story was first published on http://www.simonateba.com and written by Emmanuel Benson