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Urban Central Round table: Fela, Falz, Moral Instruction and the State of Nigeria

On 15th January 2019, Nigerian rapper Falz released his 4th Solo Project ‘Moral Instruction’. The album was met with praise and criticism from different sections of the Nigerian populace. Unsurprisingly most of the conversation on the album centered on three items;

- The single ‘Talk’.

- Social commentary

- Use of Fela samples

Asides the above, is there more to the album? Does it manage to comment on other issues prevalent in the Nigerian society? At Urban Central we realized that there is a need to discuss some of these issues for a better understanding of the album, to this end we put together a panel.

THE PANEL

1. Music Lover, Writer and Urban Central Feature Scribe; John Eboseta [Tweets @mAvErIcK]

2. Writer, Poet, and Urban Central Feature Scribe; Efe Ogufure [Tweets @ablvckpoem]

3. Writer, Scribe, and Cultural Commentator; Olise Chinonye Fay [Tweets @chee_nohnye]

BACKGROUND AND OPENING THOUGHTS ON THE ALBUM

John: It is probably one of the best Nigerian albums I’ve ever heard. It’s very rare for a high profile mainstream Nigerian artiste to make an album with actual content — to actually use his or her music as social commentary, to clamour for change instead of droning on about money and fleshy female buttocks.

Efe: Falz, like every sentient being with a purpose has evolved and this evolution was catalysed by prevailing societal ills. Having become a quite popular comic, he employs satire in this particular consideration to weave stories that everyone can relate with. He scores very highly in my books in this regard. He finds el-dorado in the creation of a beautiful body of work with a universal message. Moral Instructions in its beautiful brevity found a way to cover the entire syllabus that is the state of my country in 9 tracks and 23 minutes. It goes straight to the point, each track devoid of excesses, not too much nor too little. He finds balance in his storytelling along the beat with a top drawer production across the album and still adds a little dark humour to make the message register.

Chinonye: As usual, when I think art is going to be great I wait for the initial buzz to fade naturally. Moral Instruction was released on a great day, my internet speed was fire. The music that Falz is putting out is very social-politically conscious, from the album art to the first line.

DOES HE THINK HE IS FELA?

Chinonye: This album is calling out the most unnecessarily resilient bunch in Africa. The album begins with a use of the great Fela Kuti’s “Johnny”. The use of Fela samples, in my opinion was a consciously smart move. It was not a move to ‘copy’ or to undermine. It was a move of solidarity.

Falz took us back to the time of Fela. Fela’s music addressed issues important to the Nigerian underclass (specifically a military government that profited from political exploitation and disenfranchisement). Fela recorded blistering attacks against Nigeria’s corrupt military government and this got Fela in serious “Wahala” for the most part of his career.

Efe: On Moral Instructions, cliché as it seems and probably is, Falz mirrors the legendary Fela Kuti, the poster boy of Nigerian music activism. If a time machine wound up broken and the legend in all his naked glory dropped an album in 2019, this is what it would sound like.

However like most things, we have pros and cons.

The samples are neatly placed and the artist found way to tilt his style towards delivering a sonically pleasing experience to the listener but they are mostly heavy handed and painfully obvious. I mean, we could spot the Fela influence from a mile away. While it is pleasantly nostalgic, it is not a breath of fresh air. He was however, able with these samples to broaden his audience and the number of people that resonated with his sound. The album passed across a grave message in so lucid a manner that critics began to question its authenticity.

John: I’m one of those who roll their eyes at the way countless Nigerian Artistes use Fela’s music and its elements almost indiscriminately — as a subtle unapproved validation of their imbecilic party tunes. In my review of the first track, ‘Johnny’, I even said as much.

But Falz isn’t one of them.

Yes, he sampled Fela’s music heavily. Yes, his album art was inspired by it. SO???????? How is that what bothers you? Why not focus on the music and the content? Why so bothered about that? I don’t get it.

THE APPROACH TAKEN BY FALZ; HEAVY HANDED OR FITTING?

John: Dude dropped an album talking about what REALLY needs to be talked about. He touched on almost everything wrong with this damn country. He even criticized himself in the process, how then can trigger-happy critics call it judgmental and hypocritical?

Efe: Upon becoming a voice for the people, there is a tendency to be ascribed a certain deity status and this unfortunately has led to the overly harsh criticism of the artist, his album and his choices. Frankly, it is easy to come across as conceited and self-righteous when you take up this role but this is perfectly normal so I do not get too riled up when people in a rush of blood to the head momentarily attempt to cancel his entire discography because he struck a nerve too close to home.

Chinonye: This album could not have come at a better time. Very soon a lot would be determined for Nigerians by Nigerians and a lot of factors are ganging up to make sure we as citizens are a complete joke. For a lot of Nigerians, this is a call remind us that all isn’t okay. At a time where legged dance moves are the most prominent things to learn, this is a breath of hard truth air.

ON OPINIONS THAT HE CONFLATED ISSUES-ARE PEOPLE MISSING SOMETHING?

Chinonye: Transactional sex triggered the internet and Feminism was dragged like it is a joke. Data has shown that a higher percentage of Nigerians who engage in Transactional sex are not aware of the risk thereby increasing the rate of STDs up for grabs. Youths disappearing into thin air and later found butchered. In my opinion, one of the aims was to look out for women rather than misogyny. There was a bigger picture.

Efe: Falz on Moral Instructions attempts to burn the entire house down, no holds barred and I am all for it. The same energy used to drag corrupt politicians should be meted out to fraudsters, crooked policemen, false prophets and runz girls alike. Everyone burns after all, we are a morally upright nation, aren’t we?

John: Trust the Nigerian youth to ignore the content and debate about pointless bullshit. His comments on transactional sex almost overshadowed the general message of the entire album. Instead of us to actually focus, band together and apply ourselves, instead of the youths to demand better and request for change, we focus on pointless arguments on Twitter and social media, pointing fingers at one another and making nonsensical points.

MORAL INSTRUCTIONS AND THE STATE OF THE COUNTRY

Chinonye: The men of the Nigerian Police Force are now feared as lives are no longer worth a pin around them; trigger happy murderers. The insurgency in the country is severe and degenerative and apparently politics is the main concern. But here we are as citizens, taking it all in because we are a resilient bunch. My own friend was killed in a Herdsmen attack. Some religious entrepreneurial ventures, AKA some churches were put on a table and cross examined.

Falz broke this table.

“The Child Not Bride” is a painful struggle that has been going on for a long time. This sub was scheduled and delivered. Sometime ago, I heard someone defending this using religions basis. The rapper spoke unflinchingly about the ill state of the nation. He addressed the government, with easy-to-discern references at the statistically-proven under performing government.

As citizens, are we our “brother’s keeper”? Do we show that little acts of kindness? Do we so the right thing in that office even when no one is looking or so we give the money to snakes and monkeys?

Internet fraud is the new degree to be held. According to statistics, Nigeria’s employment to unemployment ratio is pathetic. Millions of graduates and no means of engagement, try entrepreneurship? Power, water, road, taxes will stifle it. One way or the other, we are all screwed. This wholesome corruption has even brought our billionaire entrepreneurs to their collars. Have you read the new list of billionaires and their net worth in comparisons with that of the former?

Efe: My favourite bit about the album is the follow up conversation that ensued. These conversations are necessary and even though I tweeted my disdain at the reduction of a richly packed body of work into an inquisition of the artist’s misogyny, and his not so subtle obsession with runz girls, I really enjoyed the debate it sparked on the other aspects he so succinctly spotlighted.

CLOSING REMARKS

John: The Nigerian youth and misplaced priorities are a match made in hell. Explains why barely days to the Presidential Election, students were still on strike and no one was doing or saying anything about it. We’d rather hop on the latest trend and juicy gist on Twitter, while time flies by, it’s unfortunate. We have a long LONG way to go, hate to be negative, but it’s the truth.

Credit to Falz for dropping a great album, in saner societies, it would have sparked a renaissance among youth. But that one no concern us jare.

Play gbedu make we dance jor! Smh. Shame.

Chinonye: Asides being a ray of sunshine, Moral Instruction is also great music as this brilliant artiste is consistent with placing the flows easy for us to understand and flamboyant enough to be enjoyed.

Henceforth, sleeping dogs will not lie. “Canada in the name of Jesus” but your family and friends are still here. We are aware and doing more about it. Johnny could be any one of us. No more follow follow all because of paper to live the faaji life. This negative ripple effect would get to us all, one day at a time. Get your PVC and Speak up!

Efe: In light of the pseudo woke resistance to these Moral Instruction, Falz is a product of the system that he is trying to kick against. We all grew up in religious homes that crafted our formative years with the very misogynistic tendencies we are trying to shed. The backbone of his Moral Instruction is a need to react to the existing norm. It is to not be at peace with an oppressive system that has guided our line of thought from birth. I would opine that it is very nonsensical, holding him to the very standards that you have failed to accord yourself, your leaders, your religion, your parents, your pastors, your employers and finally your spouses.

Remember you can follow us on Twitter @TheUrbanCentral

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SPIRIT AND VOICE OF TIMES

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Urban Central is the Internet Magazine for the millennial mind, focused on the issues that matter for an evolving generation. Do follow us, Urban Central.

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