URBAN, MTV BASE’S AND SOUTH AFRICA'S CONSPIRACY AGAINST
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Nigeria was just an ordinary consumer of popular culture music from other regions. We did have occasional local champions like Blakky, Alex O, Felix Liberty and co but their success was restricted to Nigeria with rare flashes in other West Africa countries. Most of them were not smiling to the bank though. The Fela’s and Sunny Ade’s were on a class of their own, mostly classified into world music category and not popular culture
The aggressive entrance into the Nigerian market of South African music channels like Mnet’s Channel O became an eye opener for many Nigerians. We were amazed not necessarily because of the monotonous house beats and awkward repetitions, but on the quality of their music videos. Most Pan-African Music awards of that period favoured largely Southern African artistes.
It was not until Femi Kuti’s bang bang bang track (previously banned in Nigeria) won a major continental award that the pop culture world and the rest of Africa began to take Nigerian music seriously.
FAST-FORWARD; today, apart from oil, politics, banking and telecommunications, Nigeria’s entertainment and music industry has grown to become a very lucrative sector. Nigeria has grown further to boast of Africa’s best and largest music industry. The greatest irony is that South Africa played a major role in propelling Nigeria’s music industry; how? The production of world class Nigerian music videos started when Nigerian artistes began flooding South Africa to shoot cheap but quality music videos. This trend has still not abated, though we now have a number of competent Nigerian producers shooting great music videos in Nigeria.
Nigerian artistes have become crowd pullers almost everywhere in black Africa and the Caribbean, even in Franco-phone regions. And so why am I writing this?
It’s about two international music channels, MTV base and Trace Urban.
Several weeks back some music promoter friends of mine visited Trace Urban’s Lagos office to drop music videos for a promising Nigerian artiste and guess what? They were rejected; not because their music video or song quality was poor but they were told that TRACE urban’s quota of Nigerian music videos have already been exhausted for the month. A Non-Nigerian insider at TRACE urban’s Lagos office-being a fan of Nigerian music, eventually opened up and explained what was happening.
The insider told the Nigerian music promoters that Trace Urban has been put under pressure to promote their African host country’s music. Trace Urban’s African headquarters is in South Africa. According to our insider source, there have being complains by ‘other African countries’ that most pan-African music channels only want to play and promote Nigerian music. And so TRACE urban now has the mandate to promote South African music by any means.
Trace Urban’s AFRICA 10 is one of such platforms; the idea is to bombard the countdown show with mainly South African, plus other African songs and very few Nigerian songs. For those who watch TRACE Urban regularly, you’d notice that several popular Naija hit songs are never aired on the channel for fear that it may over shadow other South African songs. And in order not to curtail any suspicions from Nigerian fans, the people at TRACE ensure that from it’s very few collection of Naija songs on its AFRICA 10 countdown, at least one of them make it to number one.
TRACE Urban has just introduced a new one hour show called BEST OF SA HIP HOP, showing on Saturdays and Sundays. One hour of non-stop South African music, nothing on Nigeria.
Another source revealed that TRACE URBAN’s predicament may be similar to MTV base’s. MTV base also has it’s African headquarters in South Africa, and their top man Alex Okosi, a Nigerian. Word has it that Alex Okosi was also accused of using MTV base for promoting Nigerian music, many pointed to Nigeria’s continued hosting of MAMA awards as evidence. MTV’s management subsequently canned its hugely successful MAMA awards because many South African companies did not see and viability in sponsoring it and a Nigerian company (Glo) refused to sponsor MAMA if it was not going to be hosted by Nigeria. Instead Glo decided to pitch its tent with MTV’s Big Friday show, while MTN periodically sponsors Street Request the only other Nigerian oriented show on MTV base.
For the South Africans, MTV base created a show called House warming, a one hour show, aired twice on weekends on prime time and with no major sponsors.
The only other time MTV base broadcasts an hour of Nigerian music is on 'MVP Naija' aired early morning Saturdays at about 4am when the whole of Africa is still fast asleep.
Every nation has the right to promote its music and culture to the rest of the world but there shouldn’t be a deliberate attempt to stifle other nations seen as a threat.
After all, Jamaica a tiny Island nation has for long enjoyed unlimited access into main stream music pop culture through Reggae and Dance hall without any hindrance...so why not Nigeria?