I actually won’t be surprised if you are startled at the mention of Ric Hassani as a Nigerian music artiste. Okay, what about Johnny Drille, Nonso Bassey, Nonso Amadi, Asa, Darey Art Alade? Those ones are even still relative, right? Heard of Odunsi The Engine, Cill, Lady Donli, Bez?
These are not upcoming artistes; they are masters of their game. Only that they belong to a non-dominant genre of musicians. They constitute a small group of artistes whose genre of music is not so popular. This class of music is differentiated from the regular pop music because of its deep infuse of art and message.
Alternative Music is a broad genre which includes the likes of Soul, RnB and partly Hip Hop. Hip Hop should not be confused with Afrobeats anyway for what we even have in Nigeria is not Hip Hop but an immersive genre which we’ve come to accept as Afropop.
There was a time when the industry believed that in order to ‘blow’ as a music artiste, you need to keep churning out just ‘danceable’ vibes which can be played at parties.
As a matter of fact, Pulse NG renown music critic, Joey Akan for whom I bore great respect once noted in one of the series of his Monday Musing that Alternative Music cannot survive in Nigeria. While at the time, the subsistence of Alternative Music seems vague, I’m sure Uncle Joey will want to retract that statement right now for Alternative Music seems to have come to stay.
It will interest you to know that Adekunle Gold, Simi, Praiz, Ric Hassani are successful Alternative Music artistes. In a world where commercial music means pop and street sounds, they’ve been able to prove their worth and stick to the vibe.
Ric Hassani is a wonderful force responsible for the gradual acceptance of Alternative Music outside the dominant pop sound. He released his album ‘African Gentleman’ in 2017 and since then has only released two videos of the songs off the album. He believes appreciation of Alternative Music is not about huge numbers but more of finding the right kind of people who flows with the vibe you are creating and are ready to stay true to you.
Music is very wide and explorable. There is no reason why anyone should limit their potentials or ‘panel-beat’ it simply because you want to fit into a particular sphere when you can actually be true to your kind of music and be the master of your game.
It isn’t easy anyway. As a matter of fact, many feared for Adekunle Gold when ‘Sade’ announced him to the world as a talented alternative artiste and he got signed to Olamide’s YBNL. Considering the music philosophy of YBNL which bothers on Afropop and Street Sounds, you would expect ‘Kunle to at least shape his style to blend into the demands of the industry. But he didn’t.
Adekunle Gold is the only artiste signed to his Afro-Urban Records. Ric Hassani is an independent artiste signed to his Riverland Records. Bantu, the Alternative Band last month had a successful concert in Germany. Praiz and Simi are signed to X3M Music. Even when ‘Simi’ will produce party vibes like ‘Owambe’ the irregular sound of being alternative is still reflective in the song. Yet, she has the third highest number of nominations at the 2018 AFRIMMA which comes up later this year.
Also noteworthy is the contribution of stunning songwriter who is always on the radar every now and then for his comment on the music industry. Brymo is a bundle of talent and his recent Oso album is a mystical bunch of work. He is one of the best Alternative Music artistes that Nigeria has ever produced. He has even allegedly said that he is the inventor of Alternative Music in Nigeria. So far, he has a discography of 7 albums to his name.
For growing music artistes who feel the industry which is already saturated with the street and pop sound will not accommodate them. You are wrong! As a matter of fact, the time is now to ride on the success that the likes of Simi, Praiz, Adekunle Gold, Ric Hassani and the rest of them have achieved with Alternative Music.
Beyond this, it is more important to stay true to the tune. Iyanya once belonged to this clan of artistes. His ‘Love Truly’ song was an RnB genre before he switched to producing dance vibe like ‘Kukere’. And since that turned out to be a commercial success, he became stuck on that genre. Iyanya deviated from this genre because of the unappreciated commercial value but he is still struggling to find his feet in the regular pop scene.
This is a time and age when people would like to check the lyrics of a song before listening to it. At least to some extent, the consciousness about message in the lyrics is rising. It is becoming no more about the vibes and the beats but more about what is this artiste spitting out in the lyrics. Thou can still be relevant with Alternative Music.