Protest Music and Political Consciousness Among Nigerian Youths

Protest Music and Political Consciousness Among Nigerian Youths

Titilayo Remilekun Osuagwu
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7295-4.ch013
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Over the decades, music and songs have been used to highlight the ills in various societies. Nonetheless, disparities sometimes exist between musicians' intensions and how their music is received. Thus, it is possible for people to listen to the melodies of songs without comprehending the socio-political messages embedded in the lyrics. This observation underscores the importance of this chapter, which examined the Nigerian youths' response to the messages in the lyrics of songs released by two Nigerian musicians, Eedris Abdulkareem (Jaga Jaga) and Techno (Rara). This study surveyed youths in the South-South region of Nigeria. Focus group discussions of the same population were also held. The findings primarily show that the youths were highly aware of the socio-political messages in the songs.
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Music is used to communicate infinite messages and experiences in socio-cultural, economic and political spheres. It is also therapeutic hence the reference to it as “the food of the mind.” Life would have been too boring without music (Galindo, 2003).

As a genre, protest music has been in existence for a very long time. Musicians over the world have been using their talents to serve social causes, make political statements and chronicle the plight of the repressed. In this regard, songs of protest were vital in the “nationalist independence movements” around the world (McQuail 2011).

The origin of the phrase “protest song,” is generally traced to the United States in the 1960s when a group of authors, artists and ordinary folk protested the Vietnam War. Shortly after that was Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the U.S. national anthem, which was a reflection of his thought about his country. In Jamaica, the Reggae/Rasta phenomenon helped propel Michael Manley to power. Incidentally, the spread of the “Stand up for your rights” philosophy and music by Jimmy Cliff and Bob Marley precipitated Michael’s political downfall and replacement (Jean- Pierre, 1987). Other musicians that have used music not only to entertain their audiences, but to communicate socio-cultural and political messages include Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley James Brown, Ottis Redding, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson.

It is noteworthy that John Denver, Luigi Nono, an Italian composer, Quaker, Bonnie Raitt, all championed social causes and worked for victims of political persecution in Latin American countries. U2, an Irish rock music band, achieved worldwide popularity during the 1980s and 1990s owing to the political relevance of their songs. Protest music also played a crucial role and as evident in musical genres like R&B and Rock ‘n’ Roll that served as a uniting force to blacks and whites and further made a difference during the antiwar and civil rights movements of the late 1960s in America (Baran, 2004). In the same vein, Campbell et al. (2014, p.108), commented on the political influence of music and stated that “one reason for the growth of rock and roll can be found in the repressive and unsettled atmosphere of the 1950s.” Outside rock and roll, artists deployed other musical genres like reggae and soul music to communicate political messages of social and racial equality and justice in the world.

Protest music in Nigeria largely owes its origin to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti who in turn was influenced by black American Jazz and politics. His Afrobeat music was more than just another musical genre. His clever and sarcastic humor, rebellion against authority and political consciousness, were evident in his music. He stridently used his Afrobeat brand of music to politically awaken the conscience of his people and gear them towards developing a sense of nationalism. He also used protest music specifically to criticize a succession of military regimes in Nigeria (Olaniyan, 2004; Rojas & Michie, 2013). For instance, his songs, ZombieV.I.P. (Vagabonds In Power), Unknown Soldier, Shuffering and Shmiling and Beasts of No Nation, were metaphors for an uncritical military mentality. In them, he depicted Nigerian soldiers as robots or morons who lacked the capacity for independent thinking and decision making; people who were remotely controlled.

Similarly, another Nigerian musician, Sonny Okosun, released a song, Which Way Nigeria, in which he made critical comments about the political direction of the Nigerian ship of state under the captaincy of Nigeria’s military dictators. Sonny Okosun also released Fire in Soweto,Papa’s Land and Liberation. These were songs that condemned the white-led apartheid governments in South Africa and suppressed black South Africans and people classified as being of colored or mixed races in the country.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Youth: A youth is an individual within the age of 18 and 35.

Socio-Political Consciousness: It is an individual’s ability to critically analyze the political, social, and economic forces shaping society and one’s status in it.

Entertainment-Education Theory: A theory that states that entertainment contents could be packaged such that they serve the entertainment, information, and educational purposes.

Protest Music: Music that serves social causes.

Extent: Degree or limit of influence.

Influence: The capacity of music to have effect or impact on the youths.

Awareness: Knowledge of a situation. It also means knowledge of music.

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