Circa 2017 was an impressive period and a very important point of reference when discussions are to be had about the shift in the soundscape in the Nigerian music industry. Earlier music streaming platforms like SoundCloud made it relatively easier for the set of artistes who are today known as ‘alte’ to garner the cult following they now boast of.
At the time, they “created a style of music that was not easy to define.” They gained popularity for fusing diverse sounds spanning genres like: Afrobeats, Blues, 90s pop, RnB, Soul and most recently, Fuji music. Santi – in an interview with Yemisi Adegoke in 2019 – described his music as
“every genre of music with an alternative twist.’’Cruel Santino
Since the music was norm-breaking, it ordinarily made sense that there had to be some form of never-before-seen branding for these new artistes. What came with the music was the adoption of retro and somewhat edgy fashion styles like: dirty sneakers, baggy pants and flamboyant, attention-demanding hairstyles. Artistic expressions in ways like these differed from the (mainstream) norm that we were used to. Predictably, we all loved it – some of us still do. In a way – in my opinion – the attention listeners paid to the music shifted from the quality of the songs that were put out to how aesthetically pleasing the branding was.
“how dirty are his sneakers?’’
“how crazy are his dreads?”
“how many holes are in his trousers?’’
“how many candles are in his videos?’’
Some new artistes in the last few years have modelled their careers around these forms of branding. For an artiste, artistic expression can present itself in several ways. The music scene is rapidly experiencing change and there is no one way that fits all. Everyone claims to not want to conform to the norm, but how far outside the box do you have to go before you look ridiculous?
The form of personal branding you choose to adopt as an artiste could be a demonstration of how you intend to connect to your audience; but there is a disconnect where, and when, your so-called aesthetics is tagged ‘ridiculous’ by those you wish to appeal to.
Victony, for instance, in a set of photos he released after his debut into the music scene, is seen placing an inhaler in his mouth in a wrong way. My friends and myself have had long discussions about what the picture meant exactly and why nobody on his team pointed out its demerit(s).
The new signee to D’prince’s Jonzing World, Ruger, wears an eye patch. This is a very interesting way to brand as an artiste.
Personally, I think artistes should pay more attention to, put the brunt of their efforts into, if you will, their music; rather than go all-out with over the top branding, they should put in that work and let the music do the talking. Branding is good and important, but the art is always the most important part.
This isn’t a pass for artistes to neglect or be shoddy with their aesthetics (you will always need a brand, especially considering the number of artistes in the industry today, hustling for a spot on the mind and playlists of listeners), but there’s a thin line between innovation and ridiculousness, and that line should be walked with caution.