Opinion: Why Ric Hassani and Simi Are Not Alternative Artistes

Posted on January 24 2018 , at 05:28 pm
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Calm down.

Chances are if you clicked on this article, you are probably a fan of Simi and Ric Hassani. If you are not a fan, then you might be a Nigerian music lover who is probably really upset that someone dared to say Ric Hassani and  Simi are not real alternative artistes. You are ready to hiss and drop the savage comment that started to take form in your head the moment you saw the headline.

Calm down, it is really not that serious.

It goes without saying that Simi and Ric Hassani are two of the most talented singers and songwriters on the Nigerian music scene today. Their debut albums, ‘Simisola’ and ‘The African Gentleman’, were on ‘The Best Albums Of 2017’ lists of a notable number of websites and blogs. Apart from creating impressive bodies of work, the two artistes also made significant career moves last year that made followers of the ‘alternative’ genre proud. Whether it was their concerts, ‘See Me’ and ‘Live & Wavy’, or the success of their singles, ‘Joromi’ and ‘Gentleman’, Simi and Ric have done good for themselves.

The question at hand, however, is not whether or not the two musicians are exceptional artistes. The question is whether or not they are true ‘alternative’ music creators. In order to come to an answer that’s fair and reasonable, let’s consider two questions. The first, ‘Do the two artistes create music that is technically alternative?’ and the second, ‘Do the two artistes identify as alternative artistes?’.

A quick session of googling and Youtubing will reveal that the term ‘alternative music’ as a genre is actually a type of rock music that was created by some independent artistes in the 1980s. Even though the genre didn’t catch on until the 1990s when it became popular, it came to stay. While there are many significant qualities that define the alternative music genre such as instruments and production technique, the most prevailing is its distinction from popular rock music.

Although Simi and Hassani don’t fall even a little bit into the rock subgenre musically, there is an element of alternative music that their music does possess. In comparison to their contemporaries, the ‘Owanbe’ songstress and the ‘Police’ singer, have taken popular music themes and added a new layer to them. With their brilliant storytelling songwriting style and excellent vocal ability, they have added depth to what your favourite pop stars started.

Without a doubt, the contribution of these two remarkable acts to Nigerian music today cannot be understated; however, their music simply isn’t alternative. Apart from the fact that these two artistes generally explore the same subjects and themes as Nigerian pop artistes, there are existing genres that fit the style of music which they create.

This would be an entirely different conversation if Simi and Hassani were creating music that is so out of the box and discussing themes that are so eclectic that we just had to give them the ‘alternative’ crown. This, however, is not the case. As amazing as these two artistes are, they are still pop musicians and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Correctly categorizing Simi and Ric as ‘R&B’ singers, ‘Afro-pop’ artistes or simply as ‘Singer-Songwriters’, will not diminish the quality of their work in any way. If anything, it gives them a label which is truer to their sound and more accommodating to their style. This brings us to the next factor we are considering, whether or not these artistes identify as ‘alternative artistes’.

In an exclusive interview with NET TV, Ric Hassani revealed that he is inspired by pop artistes such as Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber and Chris Brown. He also said that he identifies as a pop artiste and feels that people put him in the ‘alternative’ box because he doesn’t sound like his contemporaries. A glance at Simi’s Apple Music description would show an artiste under the ‘World’ genre. In fact when Simi’s debut effort, ‘Simisola’ charted on Billboard at the No 5 spot, it was under the ‘World’ genre.

So if Simi and Hassani don’t consider themselves to be alternative artistes and don’t technically fit the billing, why have they been ingrained into the minds of Nigerians as that? Its a combination of truths really, one of which is what Hassani touched on during his interview.

When Nigerians, and people in general, don’t know what to make of a particular phenom or concept, they tend to misname it. While people were jamming to ‘Eleko’, Hassani was breaking through with ‘Gentleman’ and when people were still learning Shaku Shaku to dance to ‘Wo’, Simi was shooting her shot with ‘Joromi’. They weren’t doing what their peers were doing and it was confusing to the everyday listener.

‘It’s not regular, so it has to be something else. Alternative sounds nice. Let’s call them Alternative!’

In a way, Simi and Hassani styles are alternative to the reigning styles of the moment. However, as these two become more popular, so will their styles and sounds. Eventually they will outgrow their ‘underdog’ status and the airwaves will be populated with new Simis and new Hassanis. When the sun dawns on the day that they become pop stars and major music influencers, who will they be alternative to?

Hassani

Its no secret that Nigerians have always had a problem with names and terminologies, whether its calling all Mayonnaise ‘Bama’ or calling all diapers ‘Pampers’, Nigerians will call you what they want. They’ll call you what’s easiest to remember, whatever is least tasking and whatever, by their estimation, is best fitting.

It’s not right but its still not completely wrong. People cannot be faulted for identifying you with what they find to be most memorable. It is your job, however, to grow with them and introduce them to the name you want to be called. Not everyone will agree with it, but if you work hard and consistently enough, it will ring true in enough ears.

If Simi and Ric are truly bothered about being refered to as ‘alternative musicians’ by every blog in the country, then they have their work cut out for them. If they aren’t, they can just wait till the day when end of the year shows are filled with Simi and Hassani wannabes and in that moment, they’ll know that you know who they truly are even if you refuse to call them by their proper name.

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