I stood at the front of the stage at the Lucid Lemons: The Lemon Curd concert and watched the ‘Soundcloud Artists’ aka ‘New Wave’ creators try to perform their music to a live audience. These were nerds and music junkies, with big dreams of hitting the big stage, although with a different sound structure.
The Lemon Curd, for all its criticism of charging artists to perform on their stage, was crucial for a movement like this. While platforms like Pulse Nigeria focuses on curating this wave for millions of people online, Lucid Lemons carried it offline, to a stage. They called out to a crowd, brought the artists together, and allowed creativity to find an outlet.
Soundcloud artists have always been in existence in Nigeria. Just like in other music cultures, there are acts who decide to leave the main stage and chase the road less travelled. These talents aren’t the usual guys with a mic and label ambitions. They are stellar folks, who are influenced by external cultures, and they bring these into their bedroom studios and garage bands to create what they can imagine.
In some way, you can link them up to those weird scientists you find in Hollywood flicks, always seeking to invent or improve on something. Sometimes they do, most times they don’t, but the effort to keep trying is what brings them to our attention. Hustle is in their spirit, and they go about their business academically; little music scientists who hope to change their world.
I saw the same thing at another underground event, '90's Baby Sound-Off, another concert for these Soundcloud creators, who have found a way to link their music with others of similar minds. It was organised by Idris King, another New Wave visionary and idealist, who is seeking to grow the movement by binding them together and creating a lifestyle for young people…like me. I was born in 1991, I am still young, I guess.
“I’m sure you would enjoy the show, it’s a great experience,” King tells me as I pull up wearing a Jellabiya. Two hours later, the venue had exploded with people and breathing for me had become a struggle. I made my exit to get fresh air, but I had seen enough. What affected me the most was connectivity on display. A band of young creatives, building a network funded by a collective love for the art. They struggle, they fail, they succeed, they fight, but in all, they are together.
Many of them barely know how to string together a great performance set. Across concerts this summer, let’s be honest, many have put up horrible performances. Out of breath, with no real coordination to their stage craft, they have appeared to flail in the wind, whenever they hit the stage. Voices going off-key, hands moving wildly. But the crowds at these places loved them. There’s a genuineness to their effort, and it is that rare quality in entertainers, which connects with the fans.
“The performances at these concerts aren’t top notch, these people are mainly studio artists with very little training,” I observed to Segun Akande, my colleague who is obsessed with the culture.
“They’re still lit, fam,” he says. Admitting the flaws, but also reaffirming his love.
He isn’t alone. I have seen fans stand in the rain and watch Tomi Thomas and Lady Donli sing ‘Ice Cream’. An underground hit for those who know. If you want to know, click here. I have seen people demand a verse from an energetic kid called Shakez. He is a rapper you might never have heard of, but he possesses the confidence of a raging bull, bringing everything down with his rap.
Two years ago, I wouldn’t have cared. As a music journalist in Nigeria, Pop music is one big force, which sucks you into its ruminating belly, throwing variations of the same sound at you. There’s endless commoditized debauchery, Supreme turn-ups, and hit records falling all around you. And you also get to meet and influence the stars, who boast of millions of followers and fans. But things get boring. At the end of every record, your spirit yearns for more. But your cravings are rarely fulfilled. The system is set in stone. It almost never changes.
Talking to these New School artists, you get a different vibe. Barelyanyhook, a skilled rapper once introduced his inspiration to me at a concert. He pointed to smiling guy named whose name currently escapes me, and said: “That’s the man who introduced me to music.”
I once hugged Lady Donli at my office, and she smiled shyly, the smile of a young woman first, not an industry robot with a facade. Odunsi The Engine avoided an interview with Pulse, because ‘he wasn’t ready’, but his reasons were valid, and I didn’t feel like some nitwit had turned the opportunity for more press.
These are people, not personas. Humans on the grind, everyday men and women, pushing the art as a means to an end. In an industry filled with egos, entitlements, and attitudes, it feels refreshing to talk to passionate people who love music, appreciate life as a gift, and genuinely want the art to be elevated.
New Wave acts are dreamers, seeking a new world for Nigerian music. We at Pulse Nigeria are dreamers too, curating every aspect of the culture, and building a new brand of journalism for the art and culture. That’s why we resonate with these Soundcloud artists. We are all a big family, bound by a shared love for music, the art and the culture.