Awon eyan Loma nrin NiLe
Ma te mi Mole oooooo
Ma te Ijele mole
Ko maba dobale
Iwo loma fi Eko le
O ma fe’ko le fun awa
Fu awa soldier
Meta meta gbosa
(‘Ask About Me’ – Mohbad)
For those who do not understand the Yoruba language, the above-listed lyrics talk about trials and tribulations and how an individual resolves to remain dogged irrespective of the precarious circumstances that the person was going through. Seeing the entire lyrics of the above-mentioned song and listening to it, it is undeniable that there was immense talent and potential behind the golden voice of Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, better known to Nigerians and the world as MohBad.
The “Imole” king used his art to narrate his experiences – largely pessimistic – to the world. The majority of his songs, especially after 2022, were tunes/hits with deeply ingrained messages passed across by the singer. Could the universe not sense that he was reportedly going through trying times and come up top for him? Well, it is now a case of “if we had known” or “had we known” – making an inutile recourse to history.
The alleged circumstance around Mohbad’s death is not shocking, especially for anyone who has followed the hip-hop scene (from which Afrobeats partly got its origin) across the world. Controversies, conspiracy theories, gangsterism and violence are part of what fuels that genre of music worldwide. It is ironic that during this period in which many Nigerian youths are mourning the unexpected and unnecessary demise of a talented superstar, police in the city of Las Vegas, situated in the U.S. state of Nevada, have arrested and charged Duane “Keffe D” Davis for allegedly planning the death of Tupac Shakur, 27 years after the death of the iconic American rapper. It sounds wild, isn’t it?
But beyond the rogue nature of the music industry, one of the issues that has taken the central stage following the demise of “Imole” is the unabating bickering between talents and their music labels/records. This was evident in the case of the late Mohbad, who claimed that he had an irreparable situation with Marlian Records and its hobnob, Naira Marley.
Writing on X (formerly Twitter) in October 2022, the late singer allegedly “coordinated some of the attack(s) as he instructed the boys to beat us up”, adding that the “Soapy” crooner was “fully present throughout this event”. Earlier in February 2022, the late Mohbad claimed that his former label boss should be held responsible if he suddenly dies. According to him: “If I die woh na Marlian music and Naira Marley kill me.”
Unfortunately, this is not the zillionth time that we have been piqued with tales of ramblings between music talents, music executives and heads of music labels in Nigeria in recent times. On this not-too-legendary list include the highly celebrated Wizkid when he left Banky W’s EME, Kiss Daniel who could not get deals and had to change his name after he exited G-Worldwide Label, Runtown after he took a walk from Eric Many Entertainment, Brymo after he left Chocolate City, May D after he departed Square Records, Harrysong after he left Kcee’s Five Star Music label, Iyanya after he left Ubi Franklin’s Made Men Music Group, Cynthia Morgan after her working relationship with Jude Okoye’s Northside Entertainment went sour and Vector after he exited YSG Records.
Indeed, the list of fall-outs is so exhaustive that space would not permit this columnist to list all the feuds between music eggheads in the last decade.
This one-too-many feud, particularly with the latest one that has purportedly led to the death of a promising talent, has led to the question: what is the way out? Ideally, conflict is part of what constitutes law and order in society and cannot be overridden. But even with all forms of disagreement, people are expected to after a period of bickering bury the hatchet for the sake of peace. For peace to reign, there has to be some sort of regulatory framework to create an enabling environment.
Now, I do not think that there is a need for a regulatory commission like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for political parties or the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) which regulates media practice in the country. The establishment of a regulatory body to regulate creative talents will most likely stifle these acts from expressing their ingenuity wholeheartedly.
The Nigerian music industry, for example, is already self-regulating with the existence of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria. PMAN, as the group is colloquially known, was established to guide, protect and promote the interests of musicians in Nigeria. Under the Trade Unions Act, the organisation also has the responsibility to regulate the practice of the music profession in the country. However, it appears as if PMAN has been redundant for years with little or no influence in the music industry. Years of internal squabble saw different factions emerge to take the helm of the organisation’s leadership. Despite the recent reorganisation and revamping of the music leadership body, it has acted impotent in resolving the several issues that have plagued the industry in the last five years.
Therefore, this is the time for PMAN to rise and ensure it protects the interests of all musicians, who, ordinarily by default, are members of the organisation, from the angsty hands of music label records. This appeal is being made following claims by the late Mohbad’s management that the singer “was in court to retrieve the majority of his songs and unpaid royalties which were wrongfully held by Marlian Music”.
We all witnessed recently how Hollywood writers under the aegis of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) undertook a 146-day strike following stalled negotiations with major studios in America over pay conditions and the use of artificial intelligence by production companies. The 2023 strike by the writers was just five days shy of becoming the longest strike in the guild’s history.
While no one is advocating for industrial action (some of us cannot do without listening to Nigerian jams every day), it is apparent that PMAN – just like the WGA – needs to be more assertive in agitating for the rights of its members. On never-ending matters such as copyright, Nigeria has a robust 2022 Copyright Act and the association should be at the forefront of ensuring that the provisions of the act are fully implemented to protect its members. PMAN also needs to wade in to resolve the nagging between music talents and record labels to ensure that the former remain solely focused on exhibiting and entertaining Nigerians with their craft. Of utmost importance to PMAN should be the drafting of a framework that will help it assiduously achieve its goals.
To augment the Copyright Act, a legislator in the House of Representatives has already raised a motion in the hallowed chamber to prepare a framework that will protect the rights of creative acts and their works.
More importantly, Nigerian musicians, particularly the “reigning acts”, need to come off their high horses and all work together to safeguard their interests and that of the industry. Part of the measures to ensure that includes them joining PMAN and ensuring they give the association strong backing. Only when the musicians get to do this that auxiliary professionals in the industry get to accord them the needed respect.
But for now,
Won fe kami mon ibeyen
Opon ti sun finally
Opon ti sun finally,