“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” — Plato.
Plato was a philosopher who lived in the ancient Greek city of Athens. Then, Athens still had a hegemonic control on other cities, a control it had to fight successive wars to keep.
Hence, it was a time of great political upheavals, and Plato, having seen the city come close to ruin many times, decided to devise an alternative political system to save it.
He considered a “regulated, wise, courageous, and just” city as the ideal city. Interestingly, since he firmly believed that music had a powerful influence on the soul, he thought good music — music that makes the soul good — could help tremendously in establishing it. If mere music could do wonders, how much more can satirical music do?
Fast forward to hundreds of years after Plato, we can find a state in a situation similar to that of Athens. It is the Nigerian state, a state that is at war every day. Not with outsiders but with itself — its myriad of pressingly undeniable social ills.
In a bid by some unrelenting quarters to establish the ideal Nigerian state, Falz has assumed the musical role Plato had envisaged — even more to the extent of comfortably using satire to drive home his points. From Sweet Nigeria in which he sang This is Nigeria to his latest, Moral Instruction, he has shown he is serious about the role.
In the album’s Johnny, he rebukes the reckless killing of innocent youth in the hands of supposed law-enforcement agencies. He successfully paints the pictures of uniformed individuals who are meant to keep us safe but, to paraphrase his lines, “make bright youngsters drop for no just cause.”
“No break, no gear, no job, no sense” is the most catchy line of Follow Follow whereby he discusses a prevailing mentality among Nigerians. It is the mentality to be negatively influenced by the lavish spending of the wealthy class, to thrive on the vanity of the media, and to do beyond themselves.
Arguably the most scathing track, Amen faces the religious quandary headlong. In a satirical tone, he brilliantly touches upon the enslaving nature of the national religious situation. Religious stewards pull up in Rolls-Royce Ghost, pray in the Name of the Lord, and threaten their subjects with “slowed blessing” if they do not pay tithe, raking in millions in the process.
The crooner likens religion to a drug that can make its users, “people wey he dey fight for turn around against him.” Overall, his grouch can be perfectly surmised in the string of lines:
Church plenty pass school for inside my estate
You sell hope
You sell faith
You sell dreams to get paid
Na congregation money
But dem no go see percentage
The stewards preach being each other’s brother’s keeper. By using offering to set up universities that their members cannot afford, they become the paragon of the virtue they preach, don’t they?
Also, Falz alludes to the fact that Nigerians are the perfect religionists in the world. Why won’t we be in the face of our selflessness and propriety? In Brother’s Keeper, he shows how we have been able to imbibe a rare spirit of camaraderie thoroughly, how we are truly our brother’s keepers!
Every time a well-fed Nigerian does not care about one Seyi, his neighbour who struggles to eat, he demonstrates this spirit. Because of it, Servants of God are too sanctified to break any law. No Nigerian can steal; we are all born again. The traffic is bad, the red light comes on, but a Nigerian carry tanker enter road? He is being his brother’s keeper to his core.
When Nigerian governors do not pay civil servants’ salaries for years but add new benz to their convoys every year, they are being prudent. And when any of our statesmen uses taxpayer money to dey flex, to go buy jet, they are being kind.
When pharmacists sell fake drugs just to make quick bucks, they are keeping their brothers’ — their fellow Nigerians’ — back. Falz’s list of effective brother-keeping roles cuts across diverse professions and does not mind whose eyes are gouged.
Perhaps, the most satirical track of this mouthwatering album is Hypocrite. In it, Falz does not just hit the nail on the head; he hits it on the sides, too. Nigerians are not hypocrites; they are far from being.
“Everybody is a motherfucking hypocrite oh,” he hammers. As a Nigerian, you can be religious and wicked. It is a great combo. A corrupt Christian bloke? Don’t be surprised. A stealing Muslim man? That is great. We identify human rights, but homosexuality is evil? That’s Nigerian.
You are a gentleman at work and with your buds, but you go home and beat your wife? You are the best. You are Nigerian. Our pastors never sin! (How can they ever?) Politicians, most especially during electioneering processes, do like they really care about the masses? It is fine. All these, among others, are normal elements of the Nigerian culture, and there is nothing hypocritical about them!
In Moral Instruction, Falz does not make a noise. Instead, he sings the version of music Plato encouraged — the good type of music. Through it, he teaches the rapidly morally sinking Nigerians some essential truths. His engagement of satire to do so is brilliant; the truths he airs are crucial: we badly need them. Nigerians do not appear to have an awareness of those truths. And for people to be good, they first have to know the truths — better still if they come in a satirical form.
In those songs, Amen, Brother’s Keeper and Hypocrite especially, the artiste puts himself in the shoes of those he condemns. He satirises them. All through, to ensure effective delivery, he assumes the persona of the pastor, of the doctor, the politician, the business tycoon, of even the ordinary Nigerian, and then speaks from their perspectives. At first, he may seem to be merely echoing their thoughts. However, the discerning mind would realise he is instead satirically condemning their acts.
Falz has successfully made the Fela-like image he has carved for himself his safe enclave. For now, he too seems to be enjoying it. Like the dead musician cum political dissident, he appears to be genuinely committed to goading the ruling class into positive actions. Indeed, he has always talked against Nigerian social ills using his scathing lyrics.
However, with Moral Instruction, he does with a more compelling force. He reviews the immoralities in the Nigerian clime. Also, this time, in those pulsating rhythms, in Johnny specifically, he presents us with a question that urgently demands an answer from all of us: if Johnny continues to drop, eeyan melo lo maku (how many people will be left)?