Burna Boy’s ‘Dangote’ and the impact of music on society

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The impact of Nigerian music across the world today is to be appreciated and applauded by all lovers of the arts and the development of our culture. While some of the song writers may still exhibit some level of youthful exuberance by their chosen themes, it must be appreciated that Nigerian music is now a tool for cultural diplomacy.

Not too long ago, Bright Chimezie was crooning his classic lamentation of how he was laughed to scorn while demanding to listen to African music at a disco party in Nigeria. That songOkoro Juniorin retrospect seems to have become the wakeup call Nigerian musicians needed to unleash their musical creativity, so much so that today it is impossible to throw a disco party without Nigerian music within the African continent.

It has been stated that art, that is; music, literature, paintings, films and others affect society and influence human behavior, by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences across space and time. In this way, it allows people from different cultures and times to communicate with each other via images, sounds and stories. Art is often a vehicle for social change. A song, film or novel can rouse emotions in those who encounter it, inspiring them to rally for change.

Little wonder the late Sunny Okosuns was declared persona non grata in South Africa and his award winning songs Fire in Soweto and Papa’s Landbanned from air-play. This was in the heat of Apartheid and the songs were seen as being capable of exacerbating an already fragile situation.

In the 1960’s America, James Brown’s Say it Loud, I’m Black and Proud, became a rallying song for the Civil Rights Movement as black people across the US could identify with it and be moved to action in demand for their rights.

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When Fela (Ransom) Anikulapo-Kuti released his classic Zombie back in the day, at the peak of his feud with the military authorities, they were quick to ban it fromair-play as the song projected a certain perception of the armed services. Despite being very young at the time, when I see uniformed people today, the line ‘zombies way na one way o… no break no jam no sense’ still rings in my head.

In the same manner another Fela classic Yellow Fever, which questions the use of body bleaching products by Nigerian women still pops up in my mind whenever I encounter an unduly fair complexioned African woman. But for decorum, I could be caught singing the refrain ‘you dey bleach oh, you dey bleach’. It therefore proves the point that art preserves what fact-based historical records cannot: how it felt to exist in a particular place at a particular time.

This brings me to the issue of Burna Boy, the young man currently making waves across the world spreading the gospel of Nigerian music. I still recall vividly an issue he had with 2face Idibia some years ago about being featured in one of Idibia’s tracks and how the whole project went awry. By sheer perseverance, Burna Boy has arrived.

I’m worried however about one of his songs currently enjoying massive air-play. When you listen to the song Dangote, it sounds innocent enough, but a closer examination of the various interpretations to which the nefarious mind could give it raises concern.

In the song, Burna Boy posits that if AlikoDangote (Africa’s richest man) is still working and wanting to make more money, why should anyone begrudge his (Burna Boy’s) efforts to make more money? Knowing how the artistic mind operates, I’m guessing that a friend or a casual acquaintance may have teased Burna Boy about his work ethic which may have triggered the writing of this song.

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While the educated mind clearly understands Dangote’s efforts, it becomes very difficult to see how the unsophisticated Nigerian would interpret the song. I was a casual bystander a few days ago where a man was admonishing his son for a fraudulent behavior. Rather than respond to the accusation, the young man simply pulled out a wad of Naira notes from his pocket and started singing and dancingBurna Boy’s Dangote to the chagrin of his father who pursued him out of my sight.

It then occurred to me that this could be the simplistic interpretation of the song to the unenlightened mind; that if the richest man in Africa is still looking for more, who am I a poor and hungry Nigerian not to seek for wealth by any means necessary!

I realized then that without an understanding of Abraham Maslow, the renowned psychologist who propounded the hierarchy of needs, it would be impossible for anyone to understand the kind of wealthAlikoDangote is seeking to achieve,vis a vis the average hustler on Nigerian streets. In Maslow’s original theory propounded in 1943, he identified five hierarchies of needs that drive human endeavor. In later years however, he modified these hierarchies to seven and then to eight. For the purpose of this discourse, we shall limit ourselves to the original theory.

In this theory Maslow states that physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs are the different stages to which people at different levels belong, with self-actualization at the top of the pyramid.

It follows therefore that the seeking for wealth or money as Burna Boy puts it of a Dangote who is at the top of the pyramid, is for a different purpose from that of a person at the bottom of the pyramid who requires physiological satisfaction.Dangote is currently investing $16Billion to build a refinery, it cannot be said that he is looking for money to eat or to buy a car. What Maslow does not tell us openly is that the level of desperation of the one seeking physiological satisfaction is higher than that of the one seeking to actualize the self. Bringing the two together and saying they’re both looking for money is therefore a wrong notion.

How much ransom could Dangote collect from kidnap victims to build a $16Billion refinery? It is therefore important to put these issues in perspective so the vast ignorant majority of our people do not acquire negative behaviors in the name of looking for money like Dangote.

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It is important for the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission NBC and other regulatory bodies to work with artistes, producers, film makers, and sundry others in the creative arts to ensure that the wrong nuances are not projected by works of artistic creativity. In this way the man on the street would not be encouraged to do something criminal in an apparent imitation of a Dangote who utilizes a high level of positive mental energy to achieve his goals.


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