He was a young man with a clear mission.
I stumbled on this throwback video of Nigerian singer, Timaya, giving an acapella rendition of a song he wrote in the early days of his musical journey.
This video is proof of his hunger and passion for music and today, see how far that passion has brought him. Before I go into a semi emotional rant about how much I miss the old Timaya, let me give you a brief history.
The first decade of the 2000s was a very good era for Nigerian pop music (lyrically).
Around this time, the Nigerian pop sound which is a fusion of Afrobeat and pop music was gradually becoming a major sound in the Nigerian music space thus snagging the attention of Nigerians from the traditional Afrobeat – High Life and Fuji sound.
The early years of Nigerian pop music was led by various power groups like Plantashun Boyz, Styl Plus, Mo’Hits and P-Square. From 2005, we began to witness an influx of solo pop artistes who did not only bless us with groovy tunes but also ensured that lyrical consciousness was taken very seriously.
In 2007, Timaya – the Egberi Papa One of Bayelsa as he likes to call himself – made a solid mark with his debut project titled True Story. He was a young man whose clear mission wasn’t only to make hit records but also to tell needful stories. Not only did he steal our ears, he also stole our hearts.
As I write this piece, the lyrics of the lead single titled ‘Dem Mama’ off his debut album keeps resounding in my head:
‘1999 oh I swear I no go forget am oh when dem kill the people and turned the children to orphans oh, anything when I think am o water they pour from my eyes o, somebody say make I leave but I say me I must talk am oh – I say dem don kill Dem mama eh!’
I know I’m beginning to sound like I’m in my feelings; well, I am truly emotional right now and if you really watched the throwback video, then you should also be in your feelings. That’s too much nostalgia for me to handle. Passionate, Conscious and Melodious are the words that comes to mind when you think about (the Old) Timaya.
Everything slowly began to change in 2012. Our pop sound had become really big and competitive. New kids like Wizkid and Davido came on board and took it to a whole new level. The global audience also began to demand.
Around this time, break dancing was already phasing out along with hip-hop music and the African dance (which is usually fast and groovy) was being embraced. Uptempo pop songs became a thing – average Nigerians no longer cared so much about lyrics. Melody and speed became more important because the Afro dance moves required just that.
In that era, the lyrical content of the music began to change as many artistes now paid attention to the sound of the music more than the lyrics. Conscious musicians began to join this trend because it made the job easier. All you have to do is hook up with a good producer, jump on a very banging instrumental, say a few words then boom! You have a hit record.
The conversation about whether it is the fault of the listeners or the laziness of the artiste is one that I’ll love to save for another day.
Timaya joined this trend (and eventually became a major practitioner). He began to put out records like ‘Ikoloma Demba’, ‘Pangolo’, ‘Ukwu’ and many more which displayed no form of lyrical consciousness. Now, if we judge by the commercial successes of these records, you’ll totally agree that it was good business.
Over six years have passed and it doesn’t seem like we will be getting back to the good old days of conscious music anytime soon because this sad formula to making a hit record is still working and has therefore birthed a generation of mediocre artistes who have no value for storytelling through music.
It’s been exactly a decade since the release of Timaya’s first album and as I write this, I am reminiscing on how complete the album was. Lyrics, production and instrumentation as well as the narrative of the album were on point. His second and third albums were equally on point.
Timaya has not lost his melody – the sauce is still very much there but the consciousness is almost no longer evident in the music. Still, I miss the Timaya who had me rocking on the dance floor whilst also telling needful stories.
I really miss the Old Timaya.
End note: Timaya might be slowly going back to a place of conscious music as he has put out handful of conscious songs in the past two years.
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