Do you love music? Can you easily point out something unique in the music you are listening to that differentiates it from others? What is the identifying mark?
“Take a listen.”
A social event in the highbrow part of the city is about to start. The hall is impressively decorated. Seats properly arranged. Doors and windows diapered with colorful silk. Special lightings give a dazzle and spectacle.
In trickles invitees enter the hall. Guests take seats minding their convenience. Some care to get seated at a location that fit their ‘status’. Other choices gravitate to reasons not open. It is true many like to choose seats. They are happy when ushers are not insistent. Where strict protocol or tagged seat is not enforced, some guests feel it is cute. Options are breathing space!
Low playing jazz music is on. Ones choice of music may be different. Surely, choice of music in events is not as open as the seats. Here the dis jockey and the compere are in control.
The event has not started.
Music is still filtering on the background and gradually increasing in tempo. Crackles, jokes and cheers from friends are heard here and there. Jazz music drenched in piano and sax from a musical legend changes the ambience, leaving guests in another world. Imaginations, recollections, remarks and spluttering about works of musicians of this genre elicit fond memories.
Voice, idiom, instrument and arrangement give these musical personages their signature. It is easy to identify them with their unique horn, clatter, density and typical improvisations. They are masters. Even on the surface, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Michael Jackson, George Benson Yanni, Peter White, Barry White, Hugh Masekela are easily known. Also, one is reminded of Rex Jim Lawson, Ebenezer Obe, Sunny Ade, Sir Victor Uwaifor, Osita Osadebey, Clestine Ukwu and others with renowned musical signature. Do you say it is creativity uncensored? Yes, great labels to use a classic language.
Identification of unique signature does not start with musicians. One only needs to pay little attention to birds as they sing and chirp. Opportunity to know may be limited for millennials in the cities where one can pass 1000 houses without a tree. Really, how long does a bird perch on a rooftop where there are no nearby trees?
Where there are trees, level of air pollution is high. One can hardly see a bird in a week! It is a natural world but unnatural. You see a bird or animal on television and something in you says it is not natural as the natural! Let us not veer off the point. Our local music and musicians have their musical signature like birds before computers cause a stagger and bandwagon. Just take a little time to mark the difference.
Millennials may not know so much about traditional music. They should ask their parents to discuss at least 10 traditional music of their locality and their signatures. If they are at par with their parents in knowledge and ignorance on this matter, they can still rise. They can face the challenge, carry out research.
Let a few traditional music from a location in Nigeria come to our rescue. It could also be a subject of research.
The word Egwu in Igbo language is used for music, dance, play or joke. But here we are discussing sound of music. Take for example Egwu ndi Dibia. It is octave sound emanating from unusually small drums fixed together. The smallness of the drums makes a local expression apposite – “the tortoise and its children are enough to make the Dibia’s drums”. It implies being small and content. It is known that a tortoise has little skin leather. This instrument sound marks traditional medicine practitioners music out as unique with a rare signature.
Other music in this locale include: Egwu Aguba, Egwu nmo, Egwu Ota, Egwu Ugolo, Egwu Omu, Ukwukpe, Egwu ikwa ozu, Egwu Ani Nweanya, Egwu Igba Ine, Egwu Uje and more. Each of these has its own signature. Those who are indigenous to the area can from a distance, without straining ears tell “it sounds like “war music” or a “celebration of love”. Sounds of music is not a programmed chipping. It is not bland and repetitive giving jarred sounds that make you wonder: “what is this”?
It is difficult to relate with what one does not know, feel, heard, read or seen. Even in faith you take first steps from things heard. Compendium of festivals by some in this part are great. Monumental as they are, distinct music and signatures not associated with some local festivals are not properly addressed. Some are not discussed. Festivals are sometimes examined without forays into their music, “the sounds of music”
Nowadays, one could recognize a gap in dominance of programmed signatures in local music. A few musicians have made exceptions with prodigious impact by their fusion of african traditional music with their new love. By so doing they show greater understanding and a distance from the hype of hackneyed music – computer instigated bandwagon!
Impact and relatedness simulate acceptance, tunes the mind to greater things in future. Sometimes, it can be a kindling fire that sweeps the entire musical career. Bracing divergent traditions in music can give wonderful yields. Such fusion is like interracial genes producing unimaginable energies, output and incredible beauties in humans.
Little wonder musicians like Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Hugh Masekela and some other African musicians are of this tradition. Yanni seems to draw from oriental, mid-eastern music commingled with African jazz percussion dominance and western classical/liturgical traditions. These have impacted and created his kind of jazz music! Interestingly, he has once confessed of his inspiration coming far beyond from bird’s song register. This affirms the beauty of drawing from many traditions. It is a wise effort to gain from diverse traditions rather than parochial “computer programmed general pattern.”
Some of these computers induced “repetitive sound”, usually ends as narrow, indistinctive, a hotchpotch lacking in signature. While they rave for days, they leave their owners without a face and limited memory gain. Some may translate quickly to money but what about the “life shelf” of the music. What about term yield and reputation? Is it part of a ‘quick fix’ dimension of this generation? It could also raise a question by discerning minds in the arts: What is your signature?
How can your music gain a permanent artery in the cortex (remain indelible) in the arena of competing voices?
It does not come by chance. That is where this story dovetail.
Hard work has no substitute in practical things.
Do not neglect your rich musical heritage.
Ability to draw from wide range of traditions could spur amazing outcome.
Beware of a quick fix mind that is bereft of thought and great practice.
Work to develop a signature – a clear result of years of practice.
Music is great.
Try to list 10 names of traditional music from your area. Can you identify any of their signature?
If you do, you are on the pathway to knowing. It is greatness if you recognize what actually belongs to you in this universal subject.