How often do you leave your comfort zone to try something new? Or perhaps leave the norm to experiment on a whole new idea, something you’re not used to? The thought of doing this makes a lot of people sick. It creeps them out, and do you blame them? It is admittedly difficult and frustrating to head into something new without enough guidance and direction. Without the assurance that you would succeed. That was the case with Timaya, a Nigerian dance hall artist who has known dance hall music all his life, but who is affected by the recent change in style and tempo of music in Nigeria in recent years. You see, there’s been a somewhat shift in the consumption of music in Nigeria, from the former ways of dance hall music and energetic sounds, to Afrobeats and Afropop which most times tilts towards the use of light African percussions and mid tempo beats to pass a message. That change which started a few years ago reached a high in the 2017/2018 music year, when Wizkid, Davido, Mr Eazi and Burna Boy, rode on the success of the mid tempo beats to score series of hits in Nigeria and Africa, and seamlessly export their music to a growing fan base in Europe and North America, creating this new cool around the sound. There are still many artists in Nigeria who make Dance hall music, or Highlife and Afro highlife, but Nigerian millenials who are the major consumers of Nigerian music have immediately jumped ship, vibing to the new sound, leaving behind much of the former sounds they once loved. That definitely created a lot of trouble for the artists who couldn’t make the shift, leaving them with questions like, “Is this the end of my music career, or is the pendulum going to swing back?” “Am I really ready for a retirement now?” “Can I change my sound to soothe the current sound?” etc. Therefore, artists like Timaya were faced with a huge decision to make.
Go Hard Or Go Home
On Friday, 8th February, 2019, Timaya surprised the music Industry in Nigeria and Africa with an extended playlist (EP) Chulo Vibes. That body of work is what I would call an embodiment of expressions. Timaya expressed himself in the most creative way possible, in a way no one had expected. He made a seamless switch from dance hall to Afropop. Chulo Vibes contains 9 tracks, namely: “Balance”, “The Mood”, Pull Up”, “Akuna”, Number One”, “Obrigado”, “I Can’t Kill Myself”, “Happy” and “Stoopid”, and seven of these tracks were created with the mid tempo beat. Just two tracks – “Balance” and “Akuna” maintained the Dance hall style. With help from producers Orbeat, Chillz, Kel P, Chrisstringz, Micon beats and Da Piano, Timaya created what could be considered his best work yet. A body of work good enough for your quiet moments and deep reflections, and at the same time good enough for the outdoor lifestyle – parties, shows and music festivals. Tweaking the Afrobeats sound to find a common ground is not something that comes off easily. Even when the producer creates that magic, it is often difficult to find soothing melody to fit into the exact progression that characterizes the mid tempo beat, especially if you’re used to the fast paced Dance hall type of music. The second song in the album “The Mood” set the mood for that transition, and seamlessly, as if on a mission, Timaya simmered good melodious tunes with accompanying great lyrics on each of those seven tracks. How fantastic! That tells you something – Timaya isn’t ready to go home yet. It shows his readiness to remain in the game by possibly risking his music career, just to make sure the Nigerian, and in extension, the African music scene moves an inch further on the world map. Nigeria influences much of Africa in business, entertainment and politics, so this means that decisions taken by Nigerian musicians with regards to the style, pattern and mode of marketing of Nigerian music affects the rest of Africa. Therefore, every decision is giving very careful consideration before it is executed. Of course Timaya, could have chosen to maintain his dance hall type of music and remained on the local (African) scene. He could have still maintained his celebrity and led a good life, but that was obviously not an option.
The Far Reaching Effects Have Two Twists To It
Most Africans who consume American and European pop songs wish they could one day enjoy music made by Africans the way they do those made by Europeans and Americans. They wish African musicians would devote more time and energy into creating great lyrics, sweet melodies, and an accompanying perfect beat that would literally change their lives and perspectives about issues, just the way American and European music affects them. That time is now. Now, the little boy living in Owerri, Nigeria is happy when he remembers that he can comfortably listen to an album by Timaya in his quiet moments and enjoy it without having to worry about the highs and lows that Dance hall music is known for (not that there is anything wrong about Dance hall music). The schoolgirl in Tema, Ghana and the working-class guy in Gauteng, South Africa feel the same way.
The Final Twist
There’s another twist to it. It is clear evidence that the Afrobeats sound is evolving. What started as just one sound with the great Fela Anikulapo Kuti, has evolved into an almost globally recognized sound with the help of the likes of Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi, and is still evolving. The emerging street sound in Nigeria which Zlatan Ibile, Slimcase, Mr Real and the like are championing is made out of Afrobeats. As scary as it may seem, Timaya is not afraid to try it out, and that is a good change. He is not afraid to leave his comfort zone to try something different. In all, Chulo Vibes can be considered an amazing body of work, and songs like “The mood”, “Obrigado”, “Number one”, “Pull up”, make it so. This year 2019 may see a lot of tweaks to this sound, especially and most importantly because the eyes of the world is on Afrobeats right now. All this amounts to change and expressions. And yes, more so with the Afrobeats sound.
To read more of Tim Uwakwe’s articles on music, go to vibbidi.net