In recent decades, musicians have figured prominently on Africa’s political stage. In our Uganda, musician Bobi Wine moved beyond protest singer and ventured into politics by entering parliament in 2017 and challenging long-term President Yoweri Museveni at the presidential polls in 2021. To push for social change, Wine created the People Power movement and built an alliance with fellow musicians. This article is not going to study Wine’s movement and his alliance with musicians by taking a political economy approach but rather Falz, one of Nigeria’s newest and biggest artists who is giving Nigerian activists and music connoisseurs a new sense of excitement and hope.
Falz, a dazzling musician, is on the rise. His unique and distinctive sound, combined with his unapologetic and uncensored activism, are a refreshing and welcome sight- but not necessarily new.
Before Falz came a revered and still celebrated musical pioneer, Fela. Fela, who reached his prominence in the 70’s and 80’s, is credited as the father of the popular Afrobeats music genre, and praised for his bold criticisms of the Nigerian government. His death in 1997 was a shock to Nigerians everywhere- from music lovers to staunch activists. It’s this same unique quality that Falz is bringing back to the Nigerian music scene. With many feeling that the quality of Afrobeat and Hip Hop music in Nigeria being on a downward decline since Fela’s death, the emergence of Fela brings hope for the future of the genre.
In addition to large audiences in Nigeria and Africa, Fela has also gained some international attention, most recently with his spin off of American artist Childish Gambino’s hit single “This is America”. Fela used Gambino’s style of critiquing the United States’ government to criticize his own Nigerian government on a range of topics. He also used Gambino’s tactic of voicing his critiques of the government both through his lyrics and the usage of specific details in the music video. For example, he says “police station, they closed by 6”, which is meant to be a jab at the poor jobs security forces do in Nigeria, especially with the high crime rate. Later in the video, a couple of police officers are seen harassing and starting to beat a group of seemingly innocent men, before an older gentleman steps in and pays the cops. They then leave, but are seen beating one of the group members in the background. This, again, is a sharp blow intended for Nigerian security forces, but this time it’s about the corruption that’s running rampant.
This unapologetic and fresh new look on musical activism is a welcome sight in today’s music scene, and Nigeria’s got it on lock with Falz.
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