It’s been 23 years since the one and only Abami Eda left us. The king of Afrobeats left a lasting and admirable print in Nigeria’s history. Known widely for his unique brand of afrobeats and highlife, and an estimably obstinate appetite to stir up trouble against the powers that be. “The man who carried death in his pouch” (Anikulapo) never shied away from rebuking the system of his time and their methods which he found as largely corrupt and repressive, prompting him in 1977 to record the iconic album, Zombie, as a lash out against the Nigerian military, that spiked the attack on his Kalakuta Republic abode. Fela was the activist his time needed and relied on and he never failed to berate fiercely with the voice he knew all too well to speak with: Afrobeat.
Fast forward to 2020, Nigerian millennials are witnessing the subtle re-incarnation of baba in a man – albeit his famed brush with the law and explicit ‘un-Nigerian’ themes his songs have been accused as covering – who has taken the music industry by surprise in recent times. The “Soapy” crooner, Naira Marley, can be another great Nigerian musician-activist and voice to the youths in a time when corruption continues to eat deep into the roots of our dear nation despite the raging anti-corruption fight and what, with our democracy carrying the humble and all too familiar stench of authoritarianism, under a leadership that hasn’t failed to give out mixed signals of its anti-youth policies and attacks on young people through ‘the law’.
But Azeez Fashola is no Fela. Not yet, at least. Although, with the voice he has managed to garner with his equally unique blend of afrobeats and hip hop since the catchy “Issa Goal” became a national hit in 2017, and with the backing of his enormously faithful fan base – Marlians – Naira Marley has all the rough, diamond edged markings of the activist that this present socio-political dispensation yearn for, to speak firmly and melodiously scathing, if need be, in the heedless ears of our erstwhile unrepentant ruling class.
For one, he has something baba never did – the might of social media. Other striking similarities are: both are from Yoruba land; schooled abroad in London; lead a polygamous lifestyle (Naira Marley has two wives and counting, Fela married 27 in one day!); both have had run-ins with the law and both imprisoned under Muhammadu Buhari leadership (Fela was arrested over 200 times!). And even though comparisons to a legend and beacon of hope in the struggle for equality across Africa and the world might seem to some members of our older generation (who simply cannot vibe to Tesumole) a tad too preposterous and a feeble, disparaging attempt at equivalency; the controversial Agege-born business law graduate cum musician has ample time to find the right voice that is required to broker some sort of change in our dear country.
This article was written by Oliaku Wisdom; connect with him on Instagram via here