Fire on the mountain
Being Nigerian is not easy all year round, but last month, being Nigerian was particularly harrowing. The Federal and Gubernatorial elections left most of us defeated, angry and grasping for any indication of how things got so bad. How could it be so normal to witness Igbophobia on the insane levels we did in Lagos state? Why are we STILL stuck in a cyclical whirlwind of chaos and corruption years after independence? I felt helpless and kept asking myself – what do you do and how are you supposed to react when your country is in a constant state of crisis? Nigeria is no longer on the verge of collapse, it is continuously collapsing.
Music, art, tv and film created by Nigerians and for Nigerians has managed to thrive above the madness, serving as the saving grace which we can all be proud of while the country crumbles. We are currently witnessing a worldwide appreciation for Afrobeats and its various sub-genres, as Nigerian stars are front and centre on the global stage. Our artists are taking up space in ways that feel unprecedented and monumental, but is this enough in the wake of political, economic and social crisis in Nigeria? ‘Afrobeats to the world’ is an exciting phenomenon. I’ve written about it and immersed myself in Nigerian music for as long as I can remember, but the well being and livelihood of everyday Nigerians matters so much more. Art does not solely have to serve as an escapist tool, or a way to win global brownie points or show that Nigerians are capable of getting things ‘right,’ even if our government cannot.
Art has many faces. It can also be used as a means of self-reflection, a way to shed more light on the issues in Nigeria and more generally, music can plant seeds of political consciousnesses in its listeners. As acknowledged by Nina Simone, “an artist’s duty is to reflect the times,” and so many Nigerian musicians, such as ASA, African China, Fela, Lagbaja and Onyeka Onwenu to name a few, have done this in relatable; succinct and sonically immersive ways over the years. Artists who remind us of our current realities are just as important as the artists who help us escape them. Politically conscious; Nigerian music is worth listening to, discussing and engaging with, particularly while we grapple with the scary and dire circumstances of Nigeria’s trajectory.
Fire on the mountain is a collection of songs, which encapsulate my feelings, thoughts and fears regarding the current socio-political landscape of my country. On ‘Mr. President,’ African China sings ‘food no dey, Brother eh water no dey and our country no good o.” 23 years later and the lyrics still capture the stark reality of poverty, corruption and careless leadership in Nigeria. The stagnancy of Nigeria’s issues rings loud and clear on this playlist and a state of panic seeps through, as Asa reminds us that ‘there is fire on the mountain and nobody seems to be on the run.’ Maybe because it is difficult and often impossible to completely run away from home, as Sound Sultan reminds us that there is nowhere like it on his classic song, ‘Area.’ 9ice laments about Nigeria’s political corruption, describing her as a “fool,” on one of my favourite songs by him titled ‘Oro.’ This playlist felt heavy to make and also listen to, but I wanted to share it and showcase the work of Nigerian artists who reflect the times.