The term ‘Popular Culture’ holds different meanings depending on who is defining it and the context of use. Brummett describes popular culture as the aspects of social life most actively involved with by the general public. It is decided by the interactions between people in their everyday activities: mode of dressing, greeting rituals, etc., and is ever subject to change.
Popular Culture can also be defined as the sorts of expression and identity that are frequently encountered or widely associated with a specific society at a given time. Ray Browne define the term as consisting of all attitudes, behaviours, beliefs, tradition, and tastes that outline the people of any society. So popular culture appeals to people because it provides opportunities for both individual happiness and communal bonding.
The history of music in Nigeria shows that music arose from a functional purpose, often performed to mark ceremonies like weddings and funerals. Workers used work songs to motivate themselves as well. Hence, music was a way of promoting diligence within the society and appreciating the sweetness of marital consummation among other things.
In the 50s to 70s, the southwest part of Nigeria employed tons of parables, proverbs and metaphorical allusions in their music. The thematic preoccupation of said music was to instil morals values like honesty, kindness, perseverance, respect, compassion and gratitude.
However, in recent times, the theme and language of Nigerian music have changed drastically. Contemporary music centres on lust and infatuation dubbed as love; it celebrates reckless activities and amoral behaviours such as glorifying substance abuse, prostitution, nudity, violence, fraud and cybercrimes.
It is pertinent to state that Nigerian old music was not without its own vices, however, unlike contemporary songs, they were unpopular, refined and conscious of the impact they might have on their immediate environment. Songs like Yahooze (2007) by Olu Maintain, Living things (2016) by 9ice, Apala (2017) by Qdot, Wo (2017) by Olamide, Fall (2019) by Davido, Soapy (2019) by Naira Marley, and more recently Cashapp (2020) by Bella Shmurda lack are raw, provocative and have zero regards for whatever impact may arise from consuming their content.
Majority of Nigerian musicians employ indecent words in their lyrics mixed with danceable beats to stimulate and attract the youth, thus creating a negative influence on the character of the youth to interact in various debauchery.
In spite of the decadence, it is worthy of note that there are a few modern Nigerian musicians who use music as a tool for effecting positive change within the society. The thematic concerns of their songs range from explaining government failures, true love, hard work, modesty and decency. Albums like Moral Instructions (2019) by Falz, Boo of the Booless (2020) by Chike are some of the current music that falls into this category.
The gradual changes in culture due to cultural assimilation and youth susceptibility to trend can be said to have influenced musicians as individuals; consequently, they create music that reflects the society in which they live.
It is worthy of note that the irresponsibility of the government is instrumental to how society has changed. The bad state of affairs in Nigeria (unemployment, poverty, insecurity etc.,) has somehow changed the mindset of young people who no longer believe in hard work and education.
It is both ironic and disheartening that music that has been a vehicle for driving positive change and influencing positive popular culture has now become a tool for promoting negative popular culture. It is important that we return to the old standards—not in terms of quality of sound production and delivery but in terms of lyrics and thematic concept. Musicians should compose songs in the spirit of societal reformation to impact moral views on the young generation and encourage holistic human development.
Also, relevant authorities should not hesitate to ban songs promoting all forms of moral decadence in the society.
In conclusion, musical themes usually reflect the societal standard. Therefore, the government needs to do better in terms of fixing the challenges of unemployment, poverty, insecurity and so on.
Ogidi Wisdom is a graduate of Covenant University. He received a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literary Studies. He also holds a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Lagos. He is interested in observing new trends in the society and writing about contemporary realities using literature as a framework.