Record label did not do ‘Pon pon’ music in 2017, did that affect them?

The Don Jazzy-led squad have turned their nose up at the sound, and refused to touch it with a long stick.

You get a new pay raise at work, and the responsibilities climb up your shoulder and into bed with you. A new car comes with maintenance issues, an iPhone with the threat of loss and if you are in Lagos, the spectre of the police asking you why you own an expensive phone in Nigeria will always loom.

In 2016, we got a gift. Mr Eazi had accelerated the Ghanaian bounce, bringing mellow Highlife percussion into the paired up soft-hitting synths which make the ‘Pon pon’ sound a signature of our music. The sound has been trending since Nigerian artists discovered that you could make your version, rework the melody and score a formulaic hit record.

Shout out to Runtown’s ‘Mad over you’, which democratized the sound, and started the 'sounds-race' of who could utilise the influence to score a hit record.

The rest of the year has sounded like one huge ‘Pon Pon’ festival, with a typical pop playlist packing the sound, in various ways, and various forms. Davido has won the year with two ‘Pon pon’ singles, and a flood of speculative hits have carried it through and extended the life of the sound. Heck, even Falz found a way to force his comic rap into the record.

But not Mavin Records.

The Don Jazzy-led squad have turned their nose up at the sound, and refused to touch it with a long stick. None of the records released under Mavin  in 2017 has gone near it. The in-house producers, Altims, Baby Fresh, and Don Jazzy have looked the other way, and no record bears the mark of the ‘Pon Pon’.

Instead, they have stuck to their guns and pushed other formulas in dropping records. Korede Bello has an album, Tiwa Savage has ‘All over’, D’Prince came through with three singles, Reekado Banks has two new singles, Dija continued her search for self, Dr Sid pushed his list of singles with a couple of releases. There’s also Iyanya, who dropped his sleeper-hit record, ‘Hold on’, and an EP too.

But in all these music releases, ‘Pon Pon’ music was far from it.

“Pon pon music is nice,” says Mavin Records producer, Babyfresh who spoke to me via a telephone conversation. “Some of us just love to be creative with other sounds. As long as people love the music that is being created, that's all that matters.”

Mavin records have had a slump in 2017. Although the record label signed three new artists – Johnny Drille, Ladipoe, DNA – they have not had a significant impact on the culture, radio, and playlists. This is rare, operating below the standards that Africa has come to expect from the powerhouse. You could find more on the subject here from my colleague

Of course, there are a number of factors why this might have happened. The music industry is a multi-faceted space where numerous forces come together to make even the simplest thing work. Everything that plays out in-front of you is as a result of various mechanisms working in sync to achieve a result. ‘Pon pon’ music is just one factor, and to really infer that the record label has had a slump due to the industry is to simplify things.

Nothing in the music industry boils down to one factor alone. But it does feel like there was an opportunity missed. ‘Pon pon’, for all of its critics, represented the sound of the year. It touched the Pulse of the people and even allowed many artists find an easy formula to get people to listen to their music, and sneak into DJ sets.

Imagine Tiwa Savage on a ‘Pon pon’ record, with that syrupy sultry voice, backed by smooth Highlife production and ad-libs from Don Jazzy, and a colourful video to match and promote. The sound might be a curse due to its dominance. But at that moment, with Tiwa dancing and singing in the sun, with Don Baba J showing up with a drawl.

Even the harshest and most critical of critics will admit that there’s a blessing in there.

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