9 February 2013

Nigeria: African Musicians and the Challenge of Image Laundering

Entertainers all over the world see themselves as potential ambassadors to their respective nations, selling out their cultures to the world. What efforts are Nigerian celebrities making to portray the good image of the country? ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM writes

Patriotism is a virtue. It is portrayed by people of different fields of endeavour, including musicians of note. Just as European artistes are known for raising their countries' flags high whenever they sing or shoot their videos; few African musicians have the burden of promoting the cultures and achievements of their fatherland.

One of such African ambassadors is Akon. As depicted in his brand of music, Akon, a celebrated Senegalese artist, is proud of his origin. This musician of note uses every available opportunity to sing about his country, always smiling with passion and selling the country's culture to the world.

Though his personal lifestyle has been variously criticised by some music followers, he is seen as one of African's sons in the diaspora as he helps in raising the image of his country and Africa in general.

Though he has lived all his life in the United States of America, Akon is almost synonymous with the the refrain, Senegal, West Africa. His remix with Davido in Dami Duro is a testimony of his passionate allegiance with Africa and his brothers "at home."

Furthermore, Shawn Kingston is a Jamaican artiste who started from the Ghetto but didn't forget his roots. Though a lot of fans and admirers would rather see him as an African-American, but interestingly, he is a Jamaican.

The questions on the lips of many Nigerians are: Do we have Nigerian musical celebrities who are so patriotic that they launder the image of the country? In response to the above questions, Adebayo Omokafe, a music lover said some Nigerian celebrities were not living up to the expectation of a lot of their fans and upcoming artistes.

"Are you talking of 'worthy musical ambassadors?' Are you kidding me? Come on, a whole chunk of them are representing themselves. They are not encouraging the upcoming generation of musicians. They are not projecting the country's image. There are no sterling ambassadors for our young ones to emulate. Hypocrisy and corruption are what people celebrate," he said.

Again, Wyclef Jean will always be remembered for the right reasons. Though he accompanied his parents to the United States of America at a tender age, he didn't forget his roots. He renders songs that depict his culture. As a mark of patriotism he doesn't forget to always wave the Haitian flag at every available opportunity.

He became so popular that he once contested for the presidency of his country but lost during the tsunami. He is renowned in his country for raising funds for those affected by the disaster. A great ambassador, you would say.

However, according to Nigeria's foremost artiste, Kelly Handsome, a lot of artistes are patriotic to their fatherland in many ways.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, he said, "It is patriotism when you sing in your dialect and invest the benefit or proceeds in your country.

When you bring up young talents who have no means of making their future bright, it is patriotism. I do my best to sell my culture, even with the mixture of Western flavour," he explained, advising other Nigerian artistes to see their fatherland as a priority. He also said he was working on a song titled, Africa Unite, which, according to him, is aimed at letting the world know what Africans have gone through over the years.

"Musicians build America, so why can't we build Africa. Undoubtedly, a musician can have patronage as a brand ambassador. Your culture also depicts your patronage. In movies, sports and other social industries, there are symbols of patronage," he said, adding that everyone should watch out for his new album, Africa Unite.

Also speaking, Waconzy, another renowned artiste, said, "No matter what you do, people will talk. So you don't have to listen to gossips. Patriotism is a thing of the mind. While some pretend to love their country, others show it in the open. Artistes are symbols of unity. Anything we do has drastic effects on our fans; that is why we must live by example. And there will be a better place for us all. Nigeria is great and we must be patriotic as artistes," advised.

It is time for Nigerian artistes to see themselves as worthy ambassadors of the country as they represent the country through the musical genre. As ambassadors they are expected to promote the country's culture and image. It is time to truly celebrate Africa through music.

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