Unexplained traffic delays caused my late arrival at the Lagos Street Carnival last Sunday but I wounded up at the entrance to the venue, contemplating turning back or joining the long queue.
The security personnel, who pleasantly accommodated my enquiries about safety, persuaded me to enter. Without the height and weight advantage, I kept a safe distance from the crowd as they converged on the venue. In an instant, I was surrounded by a large group of young males, some of whom later politely gave way for me to get frisked by the waiting hands of the female security guard. The men were to undergo more scrutiny with the metal detector mounted ahead.
No doubt, the organisers, the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Tourism in Lagos kept their word on security. I was more concerned now about the quality of performances. I had grown used to the jaded “DJ drop the beat” style, which many of our top ranking artists have adopted. I could tell that the artiste would descend from the stage after first verse and walk around with the microphone. One could also guess that the artiste would share his popular chorus with the crowd in call and response. My spirit yearned for something different and memorable even though it was free entry for all.
Then, I saw Waka Queen Salawa Abeni on stage. After quietly admiring her beautiful dark skin tone that was markedly different from the former show-stopping whitened skin, I paid more attention to her lyrics which were mostly rendered in Yoruba. She struck me as an activist, for her lyrics addressed the prejudice against entertainers. “Won tu lashewo ni mi/ won lanbe lokunrin/ won lanbe lobinrin.”
These words literally translate to accusatory remarks about female artists being prostitutes and their male counterparts, philanderers. How relevant! That song is about 20 years old and that view is yet to change. That’s why there are still a few female artistes in Nigerian music industry.
Blame it on the music video styles that emphasising female sexuality. Also, the male artists boast of their escapades in their lyrics. A case in point would be Reminisce, a rapper I would love to respect. He came on stage that night with many of his popular songs that thrive on vulgarity. And he courted a lot of responses from the fun-seekers.
But when the singer-actor Saheed Osupa arrived on stage, it was fire. I hardly collect Fuji albums since the likes of Adewale Ayuba, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and Wasiu Ayinde Marshal peaked in the 90s, making way for the Obeseres and Pasumas. I followed Fuji music at a distance, watching the trends of hip-hop adaptations. But an on-air personality introduced Osupa’s music sometime in the late 90s, it is rich in metaphoric language and highly philosophical. Osupa began to command my attention.
His fans have gained the mastery of his lyrics, which for the most part contain words of wisdom. He had music pedigree, born of a father who was one of the pioneers of Were music, Moshood Ajiwere Layeye and a cousin to the late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. Well educated, Osupa is an alumnus of American International College where he studied network operations. It’s no puzzle how he manages to be one of the most cerebral Fuji musicians in Nigeria.
Back to his stage appeal, many of his fans reeled in sheer pleasure as he sang with the accompaniment of his band boys. He, like Obesere and other indigenous music acts, displays an admirable sense of professionalism that has become unpopular amongst our popular musicians.
When he left the stage, I left the venue. I didn’t want to go home with some anticlimactic feeling. Osupa had raised the bar for the night, I wasn’t going to pollute my ears and hearts with washed-out lyrics that glorify sex above reason. As I left, I made very few disciples.