If music be the food of love, play on, give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die” – William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.
Those poignant and timeless lines of the most quintessential Playwright history may ever record capture the very essence of music and the exerting force it commands over human emotions. It reveals how indeed one can glut to something as fleeting as sound. For Shakespeare, he is not only going to surfeit to music but he is equally prepared to die. While I was still raveling in the profound appeal of those words, I was late to realize that he (Shakespeare) had employed the use of a conditional clause – ‘if’ at the beginning of those lines (whoa! Shakespeare you did it again).
It would imply therefore that Shakespeare was not certain of the qualities he was attributing to music which is that of being “the food of love…” That caution of uncertainty was enough to redirect the trajectory of even this piece. But the question remains; what is music? And does it assert any influence in our lives?
It has been difficult for authorities to agree on a definition that capture the dynamics of music but Wikipedia succinctly defines music as “an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound and silence”. Music is an age-long tradition. History holds that the primitive men were wont to hum nice tunes in expression of whatever situation they were in. Today, music is the centerpiece of many religions. In fact, the Christians hold it to be true that singing is the only preoccupation of heavenly beings. Not only that, music in the form of trumpet blast will announce the end of time.
Music is more than art, music is life. Friedrich Nietzsche in Twilight of the idols says in very strong words “without music, life would be a mistake”. Music is life because it has the power to be your friend, heal your cares, calm your fears, make peace. Again, it is life because while others do music for a living others manage musicians to eke a living.
Music has undoubtedly undergone tremendous evolutions and Africa with its rich blend of culture and tradition is home to music. Our moonlight tales incorporated fine elements of music and all our celebrations are fitted with corresponding rhythms.
A generation back, we were blessed with beautiful tunes like ‘joromi’ from the legendary Sir Victor Uwaifo, ‘yonder please’ by the grandiloquent Chris Okotie (now reverend), ‘bolanle’ by Junior and Pretty to others done by King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Mike Okri, Oliver de Quoque, Evangelist Sunny Okosun, Majek Fashek, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and a host of others.
Today, our music industry parades people who with digitally mastered vocals and beats identify as musicians. When brought on stage, they simply hum to the DJ’s play, throw their sunglasses to the crowd, sag their trousers, pull off their shirt (ladies too) and the performance is over. They do not know jack about music and have not taken the pains to do so.
The most worry is that they have ‘creatively’ desecrated the sanctity of music with their crass and debasing lyrics. Profanity has become a distinct quality of their songs. For them, creative lyrics is one that stupidly glorifies sex, wealth, drugs, gangsterism and violence. There is almost nothing that enriches the soul in their songs. It gets most irritating when they churn out their music videos. Half naked (sometimes stark naked) girls adorn our screen “shaking what their mama gave them…” Immodest show of wealth marks their sense of a good music video. At best they spit some lines that purports to thank God for those vanities and vices. What mockery!
Now, due credence must be given to the handful of artistes that endeavor to extol virtues, feed the soul whilst giving us rich entertainment with their songs. It is for sake of these that Maya Angelou reflected “music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness”. These artistes have with their sweet melodies returned the pristine essence of music. They have produced what lovers of good music can surfeit to.
Musicians must realize that their artistry is a vocation that must uphold a duty to the society. They must never lose touch of the fact that they are worthy collaborators in a person’s socialization process. So while others continue to wallow in their discordant tunes others rise above these filtered filthy sounds.