Thursday, May 19, 2022

Nigerian musicians Vs Journalists: The Love-Hate Relationship

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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This week we have seen people rise up in defence of Wizkid, who was in the spotlight due to allegations made against him by Osagie Alonge, the Editor-in-Chief of Pulse Nigeria. The case played out like a movie. On Monday, Osagie’s Loose Talk podcast was released. On Tuesday, the country was up in arms against the depth of information that was shared. The podcast would later be deleted and edited, with Osagie claiming threats against his wife. It would end with him offering apologies to Wizkid and a number of people he mentioned on the podcast.

Once again, we have a case of a Nigerian journalist and a musician being at the center of the news due to a journalistic mishap. The relationship between both parties is an interesting one; they need each other to commoditize the art and sell the celebrity, but they are also wary of each other. The musician is wary that a day would come when the journalist would peel back the curtain to reveal their sensitive business. Your favourite music hero is the villain in somebody’s story, but it isn’t news because the journalists are unaware. Journalists are wary of the musicians because they can be inadvertently compromised by the rich stars to favourably present them to the masses. They love the music, but the musicians are more than news sources. They may have the power to compromise.

Yes, music stars generally make more money than journalists. And money can be a hard thing to refuse for a lot of pressmen who work a thankless job in an industry that is insecure and changing so fast. No one is guaranteed anything. Sometimes, the temptation to sell your soul becomes too much.

It is this wariness that defines interaction by both parties. They love each other for what they represent to each other. But they also know that they possess the power to hurt each other. Journalists generally know too much – especially journalists with access. The best culture journalists in Africa possess so much access and information than can’t be shared with the public. Some things are too delicate, too sacred, too sensitive to be sacrificed on the altar of “I’m being a fearless pressman.”

After all, at the very center of showbiz is the curation of larger-than-life persona. When the curtains are opened, some of the unearthed knowledge are hurtful. It potentially has the power to hurt the business. This type of power in the hands of a reckless person, only leads to chaos and negativity.

As a journalist with some experience, I have discovered that the best way to go about this work, is to focus on getting the best content out, instead of glory-hunting. Our work isn’t about us, we aren’t going to be stars by chasing the stars, but we can shine by being vessels of truth and content.

Over the years, while studying the biggest music journalists in the US and UK, I discovered that they aren’t anti-artists or anti-popular opinion. Neither do they reveal too much. Matter-of-fact, they are buddies with the musicians, which allows them to properly get into spaces where they can tell great stories.

The only problem here in Nigeria is that when journalists become friends, they lose their sense of duty, and begin to alter the truth. You can both be a friend and a journalist. Fighting never helps anyone, instead it takes away an opportunity for growth on both ends.

Critiquing a piece of art isn’t an opportunity to go against the artist with a view to get people to say, “Guy, you are the realest.” No. That’s glory-hunting. It’s a chance to properly assimilate and give people a better understanding of the art. It’s not a fight.

You don’t have to prove that you are good to anyone. You simply have to approach your work daily with your best foot forward, and try to tell the best stories or analyse art the most objective way. And trust me, you don’t know more about a specific project than its creator.

Critiquing is your personal emotional reaction to and an intellectual analysis of a piece of art. You’ve three tools: evidence, insight and context. Use them wisely, but understand it’s not absolute FACTS!

Respect doesn’t come by attacking an artist. It comes by being the person with the best and factual understanding of the art, and conveying that to everyone. That way, you grow, and you gain that respect and clout. It’s how this thing works.

A troublemaker is a troublemaker. Have you ever seen a troublemaker tell the best stories? No. They exist as a pillar of discord, often making the most noise, but never getting the best work. What they have as a proud record is their trouble.

I have great relationships with a lot of artists and their managers. I have been in their spaces, eaten their food, and drank their Henny. But I have learned about processes, marketing, and creation strategies. I have seen their souls, and understood their work better.

Take for example: Many musicians don’t set out to create hit records for this market. They have specific targets, and they make music accordingly to reflect that. If the song achieves what they wanted, then they are successful. But we won’t understand that if we don’t engage.

If you want clout and respect, then we need to approach our work from an insider perspective, with a view to turning that to education for outsiders. We need to be better at gathering information and defining art in the most objective way possible. Let’s get out of our heads.

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