By Yinka Olatunbosun
Apex hen Tonto Dikeh ventured into releasing her songs on the internet earlier this month for the listening pleasure of her fans, she might not have envisaged the number of “critics” that were made by her off-handed effort. All manner of negative remarks trailed the songs and even those who had not listened to the songs said they hated them in advance. This unpleasant reaction was quite similar to that of Genevieve Nnaji who delved into music when the movie industry was in turmoil over the otherwise outrageous allowances paid to popular actors. While Omotola Jolade Ekeinde might have scaled through the hurdles of critics with her one-hit wonder , “Naija lowa” , her success story in music career was short-lived with the multiple releases of talented artistes whose competitive nature have driven the music industry to the height of international recognition.
Still, it looks as if it is just unacceptable for Nigerian actors to sing. Tade Ogidan proved that notion wrong when he assembled a collection of the Nigerian movie industry’s finest to make a charity inclined Nollywood All-star album. It was regarded as Nigeria’s imitation of Micheal Jackson’s “We are the World” in terms of sales, airplay and popularity. Inspite of this effort, some Nigerian fans are still very cynical of any music recording performed by an actor.
On one hand, not all Nigerian actors sing well. On the other hand, there are some whose vocal cords may inspire intriguing goose-pimples. They are few and they include Segun Arinze, Stella Damasus-Aboderin, Kate Henshaw, to give living examples only. Even at that, not all of the talented singing actors made hits. To be sure, there is hardly any individual who is a master of all in art. One can be skilled in all areas but certainly that one will only be distinguished in a particular field. That is why a good footballer cannot also be a good goal keeper. Everyone has his own special gift. While actors have spent several years developing their acting skills on stage and at film locations, some people think it is right to judge them on their ability to sing with just few moments of training spent in studio to record a song.
To be fair, Tonto Dikeh’s Get High begins like a potential hit song. Then the rather druggy voice rises above the danceable beat in an annoying fashion. It sounds like a joke. Towards the end of the song, she sings that “I don’t know what to sing.” That sounds like a sort of confession. Really, she did not know because she had not learnt how to. Professional singing is as demanding as acting. Repeated practice session, physical exercises to aid vocal chords and build stamina, voice training, stage performance skill acquisition, choreography to name but a few are all required. What some fans may not know is that most Nigerian actors make singing a mere recreation. That is why a palpable feeling of unseriousness can be perceived in the way some of them render their songs.
But is that not the same situation when Nigerian music artistes act movies? More often than not, their appearances are just to promote sales. Sometimes, the artistes appear to be self-conscious and their best in not seen in acting. It has thus become apparent that in the entertainment scene in Nigeria, some actors cannot just switch their roles. There is a reason for this. In the western world where switching careers is common, most actors have background in theatre. There are numerous Art and Film schools where talents are trained to acquire elementary skills that would come in handy in their professional choice. That is why there is hardly any actor who cannot dance or sing. If an actor cannot do both, one can be sure that such actor has other unique skills to compete in the acting world such as skills in martial art, sports , language and more.
The error of judgment for the Nigerian fans often lies in their high expectations of actors. Some actors rush into making songs sometimes to fulfill personal desires. Much time is not given to getting good song writers to work on the lyrics. Some do not even hire voice coaches to help them with rendering the songs. That same song that Tonto Dikeh performed can be given a master touch if performed by some other brilliant artiste. Tonto can also perform it better if she had those artistic considerations in place.
But the biting criticisms can discourage other actors who may nurture private thoughts and ambition of becoming singers. The example of Jennifer Lopez can be a motivation in that she is very conscious of the fact that music is not her greater strength. Therefore, she channels a lot of energy, time and practice into making songs. She also has a good voice that can do a very nice hook on a song. It may be wise if actors begin by featuring on songs before performing an entire track at the risk of sounding monotonous. Tonto Dikeh has actually taken a giant leap by performing a song like Get High without backup singers. If she is determined to sing songs that will not be irritable, then she would pay attention to professional singers so as to build more fan base and less critics. She and other actors may polish their acting skills while they are at it.