The unparalleled dedication of a genre that many of us 'cool kids' laugh at as 'razz' is foreign to pop stars.
Case in point: Adewale Ayuba this past weekend.
The Fuji musician is 50 years old and his break out album was Bubble, in 1991. The oldest of our biggest stars would have been a child like this writer while most of them would not have been born when Mr. Johnson became the youngest Fuji star commanding the airwaves.
Twenty-five years later, he is older and less in the public eye. After a lengthy stay in the United States he’s back in Nigeria, doing private shows and unlike any Fuji musician you know, a born again Christian. That would affect his artistry? Not by any chance.
At the One Lagos Fiesta on Saturday, Adewale Ayuba made an appearance at the Victoria Island Bar Beach. From the moment his backup singers filed out in a uniform outfit, it was apparent that some thought had been put into this. When he started singing, to perfectly synchronized live beats, the young audience (most of them below 30) forgot that there was recession and that rice was twenty-five thousand naira per bag; their dancing was spontaneous and infectious.
Now here’s the thing:no part of the show was a freestyle- his repertoire was seamless as was the cheoreography. Any observer could tell that there were rehearsals and it wasn’t just for this one show: it seemed second nature and it was obvious that practice was regular.
That said, I admire the courage of many younger artistes that experiment with live bands at concerts. For a handful of them that are actually performing artistes, it plays to their strengths. The rest are recording artistes, meaning they get into the studio, find a suitable beat, record and fiam, a hit is done. However, a lot of them struggle with live bands because it is foreign to them. But they don’t have to (at least to me). You can have your recorded beat played and then perform to it, not lip sync the whole song. In the clip below, Jay Z stopped the DJ twice for playing the song not the beat for him to rap on. ‘You didn’t have to come here for that shit’, he said, ‘You could have just played the song and put a picture of me up…’
What our pop acts can learn from Fuji artistes go beyond performances. For one, the unparalleled dedication of a genre that many of us ‘cool kids’ laugh at as ‘razz’ is foreign to pop stars, as though giving the fans what they want is an encumbrance. They spend hours and hours rehearsing, creating new songs that last 45 minutes instead of the urban 3 minutes we are used to. And they do it every single day.
What’s more, they know how to get their music- mostly physical CD’s and cassette tapes o! to everywhere their fans are. Pop stars just blast their mp3 files to blogs and influencers and that’s that.
Longevity is a topic that seems overflogged. Our new crop of artistes have a careers that span an average of five years. The most fortunate make it to ten before their stars start to dim. An average fuji star has a career twice as long as that.
Luckily some younger artistes are starting to pick a few things from them. Olamide for instance, has massive cult following that follows his every move. He understood early on what his core fanbase wants from him and has mastered how to deliver it. His repeated flirtation with Fuji is not just to be ‘local’.
Back to Adewale Ayuba’s performance: it lasted for about an hour, and that’s because it wasn’t a proper concert. They always have all night engagements. Pop stars need to find out from them what makes them last that long.
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