Social Media Week Lagos: Female Artistes are Finicky

Day two at Social Media Week Lagos was a bit of a drag, and I say this for only those events I attended. That said, the panellists were an inspiring bunch. Their zeal and drive to make things happen were undeniable, infectious, and I found myself questioning George Bernard Shaw’s belief that youth was wasted on the young. Still, the entrepreneurs’ words of wisdom fell short of eliciting a eureka moment.

Day three, however, was more interesting. It began with an intimate interactive session, hosted in a small room. The hosts handed tiny sheets of paper to attendees before instructing all phones be turned off. “Turned off or silenced?” asked his co-host amused. Silenced came the serious reply. “If your phone rings, I’m going to seize it until the end of the class,” he continued, unsmiling.

A thirty-something-year-old confiscating the phone of a naughty twenty/thirty/forty-something-year-old? Now that was something I wanted to see.   

It was 9.05am, five minutes past the designated start time. The hosts deliberated on whether or not to start the session or wait another five minutes for more people to show up. They settled for the latter.  

Each participant was required to write on the paper provided, what impact, in the context of journalism and the media, means and then read it aloud. A discussion on the impact of fake news and journalism on the Nigerian society soon followed. I argued journalism in Nigeria rarely resulted in demonstrable and effective changes because citizens were apathetic, a malady that encouraged venal politicians to loot with impunity.

Although some attendees disagreed with me, there wasn’t enough time for a debate or substantial discussion on what could be done to get Nigerians to care enough to act on the news. Time really does go by so quickly when you’re having fun.

The second event I attended had been scheduled to start at 9.00am and last for an hour, but thanks to African time, it had yet to begin. Minutes later, Nigerian musician Dbanj, a member of the panel, strutted into the hall like a heavy-weight boxer, donning a hooded robe. His entourage huddled around him. Another five minutes would pass before he and three other panellists made to the stage.

Afrobeat was on everyone’s mind, except mine, maybe. Nigerian music like Nigerian movies isn’t my cup of tea but I was curious enough to listen.

A lot was said about protecting the rights of Nigerian artistes and the originality of Afromusic—the term encapsulates Nigerian music as Dbanj made it clear there is a distinction between Afrobeat, Fela’s sort of music, and his, Afropop—from the cold, calculating, capitalist hands of Western record companies. There was a fear that Afromusic would become like reggaeton, a messy shadow of its former self, if the Nigerian gatekeepers snoozed. Talk of equal partnerships with foreign corporations, respect and recognition from the global music industry was also bandied about.

The conversation was going smoothly until a panellist, the CEO of a Nigerian record company made an unsettling comment about the paucity of women in the Nigerian music industry. His reasoning was female performers were finicky and more expensive to promote. He went on to dig a bigger hole for himself by suggesting that because women got married and then have kids, they weren’t worth the investment.  

Before he completed his sentence, an impatient wave of unintelligible grumble rolled over the hall. The females in the audience were not having it. If tomatoes were available, the man would have been pelted no doubt. Sensing trouble on the horizon, Dbanj swooped in, remarking that Nigerians needed to change their perceptions about female artists. If we were fine with him flashing his chest, we should be fine with Tiwa Savage shaking her derriere. His answer wasn’t directly related to the question, but it sure quelled the rumble. 

Questions were fielded from the audience, and few took it as an opportunity to fan out to Dbanj, running in circles, never quite getting to the question until they were prodded by the moderator. And since no one resurrected the CEO’s incendiary comments, the panel discussion ended on a positive note. Pictures were taken and the audience dispersed.

Lead photo: Adedeji Hamed

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