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Editorial: Letter to a Young Nigerian Musician

Dear Young Nigerian Musician,

People keep saying talent is not enough. I keep agreeing to that.

Last year, I delivered a talk, titled Music in Africa at the SWITCH Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

SWITCH Conference is organized by a very energetic and vibrant young Portuguese entrepreneur, Ricardo Sousa, who is 20 years old. Ricardo is well-connected in Portugal. He has strong links with the Mayors and Immigration Chiefs. Ricardo looks like an old man now, because he is over-worked. There was a synergy between me and Ricardo, so I was invited to come and speak about ‘music’ at the conference. I don’t know how it went down, but a lot of people keep telling me that the talk ‘makes sense’ to them. Somehow, I doubt it.

Few weeks ago, while in Lisbon, I got a message from a very young Nigerian musician. His name is X He is very talented. He knows what he wants. He is a mover. He told me that he needed help. I bluntly told him that I don’t help people financially. That I don’t have any money. He understood. X made me feel comfortable when he told me that he didn’t need my money. He needed a push from me. I felt relaxed and I was in. Anything else, apart from money, we are good to go.

He met Don Jazzy. And Don Jazzy is backing him financially. How? He had met Don Jazzy at a party. He had gone to Don Jazzy and collected his phone number. He had tried calling Don Jazzy after they met. Don Jazzy never picked up. He called for a week and the Godfather didn’t pick his call. X went into depression. He felt his dream was fading away. He was completely demoralized. One day, his phone rang: Don Jazzy was calling. That moment, X’s life changed. His persistence paid off.
I know the sort of spirit X has. Since I returned to Nigeria to work with X, I have also met other young musicians. None of them could match X’s persistent and diligent spirit. He is also very resilient. He is a hardworker. He can run down the battery of your phone. He is very inquisitive. He can call you from any phone and I don’t understand why I usually pick unknown phone calls and end up, hearing, ‘Sorry, it’s X.’ I do not pick unknown numbers, but each time I do, it is X. And he is always sorry.

X is a yard-stick to measure how diligent Nigerian musicians can be. The young ones, basically. He told me how long it took him to get his song, As I Am, produced by Samklef, recorded. And he has the same thing I believe in, chakra, that strongwill to get everything that you want. He gets everything he wants and he knows how to get it. He puts his mind to work and he channels his energy into realizing his dreams. No matter how good your song is, if you do not have the kind of strong will that X has, you will keep working from one studio to another for a long time. Yes, I met another very talented young musician who has done music for 10 years. That is a story for another.

This letter is not for X. It is for you who keep waiting for manna to fall from heaven. It is for you, who always wait to have your pants washed by someone else, keep waiting. Your talent will be washed away. Sometimes, I find it very amusing that a young musician like you, would want to wait for someone to invest in your talent. No, my dear, your talent na your business. And we have already had enough terrible wahala with young musicians, who end up as ingrates at the end of the day. It’s either they abandon you when they think they have hit stardom or sack their managers, the ones who have made them. Or the ones who have no past history will suddenly emerge saying they have great talent. No. You have no great talent. You just have a great team that worked their asses off to make sure that you are ontop the ladder of success and if you ever attribute your success to your talent, then you are gone.

You need to wake up. Your voice can kill Celine Dion in her dreams, but if you do not have the zeal and that amazing willpower to pursue people till they do something for you, then you are gone. For sometime now, I’ve thought of you. I’m terribly worried about you. You may have given in all your passion to record that song in 3 hours in the studio, but I also, know a certain Nigerian music band that has been recording one particular song for the past 4 months. They haven’t done anything else, but channeled their energy into that one song and they have a strategy to make it work.

Dearest young musician, you sit there infront of your laptop, reTweeting every Tweet that comes your way, admiring Justin Bieber and thinking that Nicki Minaj is part of the Illuminati because she is very successful. Your demons will catch up with you and no one will hear about you. Shebi they have given you access to publish all your songs on hulkshare.com, abi? Keep doing it and keep thinking that that is the place where you have to exhibit your genius.

-(Onyeka Nwelue)

(In Addition, As an upcoming artist if your music isn’t on top Nigerian Music Blogs, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world, do better keep pushing, push your music on the streets (especially if you are in Nigeria). One thing i know for sure is HARD WORK PAYS, if you stay home hoping for a miracle you are deceiving yourself, waiting for people to tweet your music at you, maybe you should be a Web designer or in the IT field.) � Tayo Olatunde

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