So you’ve hustled the streets of Lagos and discovered that there is a growing affiliation towards Nigerian music – you hear it blasting from the cars with lowered windows as the drivers try to conserve fuel (cheapskates) and you also see it from the number of CD singles being sold like hot cake for N150/$1 (street hawkers) . You can’t quite understand this because you remember a time when you stormed into a club with ‘Return of the Mack’ to welcome you, followed shortly by ‘This Is How We Do It’. But this is NOT how the clubs are doing it now.
Out goes the American hip-hop & RnB and in comes the Nigerian pidgin-pop & PnP (Peter and Paul, commonly known as PSquared). You’ve seen D’banj do it, Wande Coal do it, M.I do it, Davido do it, and Darey do it (though he’s arguably not as rich as the other artists) but nonetheless, a ludicrous idea starts to brew in your dandruff-riddled head – If I can record one hit song I can stop eating Indomie noodles for life!
Whilst this couldn’t be further from the truth (with zero singing experience, zero credibility and zero myspace fans to your name), miracles abound when you consider the following valuable tips:
1. Craft a cool stage name for yourself: Don’t call yourself ‘David’; call yourself ‘Davido’! Don’t call yourself Dapo Oyebanjo; call yourself ‘D’banj’. If your real name is Alex Poopoo (which has already gotten your singing career off to a terrible start) then get creative and transform your name to ‘Lexi-P’ - you get my drift? Boring names in the Nigerian music industry don’t get you very far e.g. Dare Art Alade, which was subsequently transformed to ‘Darey’, now looks and sounds much cooler.
2. Use Autotune and plenty of it: You don’t have to know how to sing – that’s years of sore lungs and ear-deafening you don’t have time for. Do what the veterans are doing – synthesize your wack voice and you will soon be sounding like T-pain, Lil’ Wayne, Wande Coal, 9ice and Wizkid, just to mention a few.
3. Make your chorus catchy with keywords (and repeat them throughout the song): The best part about this tip is that the keyword doesn’t have to be an actual word that exists in the English dictionary. For example, just say words like ’ti-ko-ko ti-koko’ and explain in your song that this the sound your heart makes when your dream girl is around you. Also, make as many exclamations as possible. Beyonce’s ’Crazy in love’ track is laced with the ‘Uh-oh’ sound which sounds like she’s made one to many blunders but works like a charm. Rhianna cleverly adds the exclamation ‘eh-eh-eh!’ to her platinum track ‘Umbrella’ and Banky W can testify to its success.
4. Infuse pidgin into every track: Remember, this is the Nigerian market you’re trying to penetrate. If you sing completely in English then you will NOT be relating on the same level with the average Nigerian. In fact you’ll probably be seen as being a stuck-up, arrogant, returnee from the UK or US who’s trying to impress those who’ve got ZERO chance of getting VISAs to travel out of Nigeria in the foreseeable future. E.g. While Darey’s ’Not the girl’ was a hit among the hip Nigerian community, it wasn’t churning the kind of public interest and cash that D’banj’s ’Ogbono feli feli’ was doing effortlessly. Today, Darey is attempting more club bangers and lacing them with generous helpings of pidgin English (The song ‘Ba Ni Kidi’ is not exactly a work of art but definitely a work of Art-Alade).
But by far the most important tip you consider when planning to make a hit song in Nigeria is to make an appointment with the Hitmakers. Yes, the Hitmakers. Every desperate artist in Nigeria who has engaged in business with them has made certified hits (I have been discouraged by some of my blog fans to mention actual names). The artists themselves do not own up to that fact, nor do the Hitmakers who prefer to keep their dealings private. Somehow, I feel we know who they are. I imagine if you were to go to their secret studio your nauseating song would be transformed into a beatilicious cocktail of pidgin and nonsensical exclamations in no time. I can give you the lead…but it’ll cost you :)
I leave you now with the infectious track ‘Kukere’ which is a mega-hit in Nigeria. Don’t worry about what it means, just enjoy it! (well, it actually means ‘Don’t worry’ in Efik – one of many Nigerian languages).