Let’s be honest, it is difficult to do any documentary. Forget the fleeting accolades on social media, it is a thankless job in the early post-release days. The value of any documentary is felt through the rigorous perspective of time, as a determinant of quality. Thus, anybody who has taken on a task to document Nigerian music should be proud of themselves.
‘Journey of The Beats’ details the history of Nigerian music with vivid perspectives [Pulse Review]
Already, two universities in Europe and America have contacted its producers about incorporating its content into their respective syllabuses on African music history.
To them, they might have simply made a film. But in time, they will realize that they have woven a detail into the tapestry of history. The goal is not perfection: there can never be a perfect documentary on Nigerian music, simply because there are different entry points, which has loads of subplots. In fact, from now on, we will see Nigerian artists create their own documentaries.
Thus, nobody has a monopoly on perspectives or angles, from which to tell the story of Nigerian music.
The Journey of the Beats: The story of Nigerian music
First off, this was a history lesson in the cogent and resonant history of Nigerian music. Perhaps, the Showmax documentary, which was produced by Obi Asika and Rogba Aromiro, should have been titled ‘The Journey To Afrobeats.’
While the first episode passively canvasses the staple on which Nigerian music now sits in the global landscape, the story that this documentary tells, predates Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, who gets heralded as the greatest Nigerian artist of all time. It even visits an establishment in the UK, where the history of Nigerian music touches.
The perspectives are rich, and they remonstrate the detail, with which the story of Nigerian music can be best told. They also give a lot of young people insights into the history of certain topics. For example, many people now realize that Daddy Showkey is not just the Ajegunle artist.
Many people now realize that Tiwa Savage is not the first diva in Nigerian music. Many people now realize that Oby Onyioha isn’t just a gorgeous woman who joins interesting Twitter Spaces. A lot of people have also realized that Femi Aribisala isn’t just the CEO of Nigezie. Perhaps, a lot of young people have also realized that Sesan Adeniji should be respected.
But for sure, a lot of people now realize the impact of OGBC II, DJ Jimmy Jatt and Naeto C’s ‘Kini Big Deal.’
The story is told via touch points across our rich history, with a deftly prepared script, which details certain angles, without dwelling too much on them, which would have disrupted the flow of the story that needed to be told. The story is that of how we found Contemporary Nigerian Pop Music - which many now refer to as Afrobeats.
For example, the story of Highlife got told without going into too much detail. Perhaps, Highlife deserves its own documentary entirely. The story then builds up and gears towards Afrobeats, as an entity, a business and a genre. There is also the perfection with which the story of other genres like Reggae, Juju, Fuji and Pop music got told, as it built the story up to Afrobeats.
For the attentive viewers, they would realize that the 80’s - perhaps not the 90’s - was the most important era in Nigerian music. It was the moment where a potpourri of local and foreign genres coexisted in the same space, finding their own audiences and appeal, without affecting one another. It was also a time where Nigerians found a local twist to foreign elements, without tampering with the essence of those foreign genres.
The era was important for the advent of Hip-Hop/R&B that dominated the 90’s Nigerian airwaves. All these sounds can now be heard in Afrobeats. Perhaps our Ghanian and Cameroonian brothers can take a cue from Nigeria’s journey in the 90’s.
Just because Nigerian music is more popular than Ghanaian music in Ghana in 2022, doesn’t mean that would always be the case. Instead of separatism, perhaps a cogent strategy should be created, to elevate the appreciation for Ghanaian and/or Cameroonian music within their country of origin.
Ladies and gentlemen, if a documentary is detailed enough to add the decadence around FESTAC ‘77 to any story, then they did their homework. Not many understand the pivotal role that FESTAC ‘77 played in the history of Nigerian music, and Nigeria, as a country.
The corruption that was unfurled by FESTAC ‘77, is indirectly linked to the exit of the major labels in the 90’s, from Nigeria.
The documentary is also the amplification of key players, and perhaps, a moment of flowers for unsung heroes in Nigerian music.
Nonetheless, this writer also understands the importance of adding ‘Afrobeats’ to the essence of the documentary. ‘Afrobeats’ is no longer a genre, it is a movement. It is the most recognized tagline for Nigerian music across the world. In this post-digital world, ruled by digital natives and products of the internet, SEO is important.
Nobody is searching for ‘Nigerian music’ on streaming platforms. They are more likely to search for ‘Afrobeats.’ Moreover, that discoverability is also important for foreign observers, who need to know that we are telling our own rich stories. They might have their own perspective to the growth of Afrobeats, but the story is ours to tell. And we shall tell the truth - Beyonce and Drake are only but a tiny speck in it.
A lot of people might complain in the wake of this Afrobeats documentary, but they must realize that the story of Nigerian music is too big. Everything cannot be told in 10 episodes, of 50 minutes per episode. Secondly, subsequent documentaries will be inspired by this first generation modern documentary on Nigerian music.
Those subsequent documentaries will find a lot of perspectives, and in those stories, perspectives will be had and other stories will be told.
While this documentary is near-perfect, certain angles were slightly left out. First off, the influence of other African genres in the evolution of ‘Afrobeats’ deserved like five more minutes. Secondly, the subtitles should have been better. At some point, it felt a little rushed, because those details wouldn’t have been missed by damage control.
But the biggest question mark of all remains the allusion that Highlife might now have been uniquely African.
When it’s all said and done, nobody cares about these flaws. This was a breakthrough documentary that will birth a lot of children. Already, two universities in Europe and America have contacted its producers about incorporating its content into their respective syllabuses on African music history.
It was revealed during the Twitter Space conversation below;
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