Falz’s Audacious Take on Nigeria

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Yinka Olatunbosun

There’s a tendency to expect music videos to only entertain us. That’s not true. Like other art forms, music serves several functions including mirroring the society. More often than not, escape from social reality is what most urban contemporary music videos from Nigerian artistes provide for the viewers. This utopia has recently been interrupted by the Nigerian rapper and comedian, Falz in his controversial music video, THIS IS NIGERIA.

Falz’s cover of Childish Gambino’s THIS IS AMERICA came through with hot slaps on the listeners to rouse their consciousness. He shot the music video in a warehouse with some elements of performance art. The original song addresses gun violence, police brutality and racism in the US while Falz’s version articulates the numerous instances of corruption, organised crime and the cycle of impunity in Nigeria.

The video garnered about 4million views within the first week of its release on YouTube. For the first time, Falz’s activist nature reflects in his music with this controversial video that has received critical reviews on radio and television alongside a threat of lawsuit.

It starts with the comedian listening to a shoulder-held radio set that was projecting the voice of his father and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana. Then, there are fluid subsequent scene transitions. Through the use of costumes, a stereotype of a Fulani herdsman is recreated to mime a killing scene. The hijab-clad dancers, a visual paradox, represent the kidnapped Chibok girls and a reversal of roles that their captors foisted on them. Unlike Gambino, Falz employs a less graphic approach to depicting violence in his video. One of the bold statements made in the video is in the SARS scene. A group of young men was arrested by the police. The one with a rich father quickly secures a bail and release, while others remain in police custody. Through the video, Falz also draws a thin line between prostitution and internet fraud. With the art installation-a commercial bus, he demonstrates the street culture of drunkenness and drug addiction.

The scene of generator sets represents the power situation in Nigeria and how the average citizen needs a minimum of two jobs to make ends meet. He takes a swipe at religious bigotry in a prayer scene, ending the video with the radio broadcast chastising churches that form business ventures like schools and hospitals from contributions made by members, most of whom cannot afford to use the same facilities.

Falz’s THIS IS NIGERIA music video is a subject of interest for music reviewers because with this protest music, he is swimming against the tides in commercial music in Nigeria. His contemporaries are mostly content with glorifying female physical anatomy, pouring up cash and liquor; and hurling their fashion accessories at fans during concerts. But with this video, Falz tells an abridged version of the Nigerian story from the point of view of the governed. Undoubtedly, the raw materials for the content of this media had been sourced from global outrage, public outcry, and reports executed by the media. With the video, some memories that could have been buried have clawed their way back into our screens.