Select a living artist in any genre of popular music who currently records and performs original music. Focus on one or two aspects of the artist’s identity, analyze how these aspects are expressed in their performances and discuss how they function within their respective music cultures. Your best sources will be music videos, live performances online, interviews and audio tracks.
· To understand how identities are presented through music performance
· To learn how to conduct academic research on current and historical topics
· To develop skills in constructing effective arguments and demonstrating critical thinking
Things to focus on in your research:
Things to consider for your paper:
· Remember the identity categories: cultural, racial, national, political, regional, class, gender, sexual or religious.
Evaluation: Your paper will be evaluated on: strength of your thesis and focus on identity/identities throughout (30%), performance analysis and background research (25%), organization (20%), narrative clarity and grammar (15%), scholarly sources and citations (10%).
David Adedeji Adeleke, better known as Davido, is a Nigerian Afrobeat singer, songwriter and record producer. Davido was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but grew up in Nigeria where he attended the British International School. He returned to the U.S. to study business administration at Oakwood University in Alabama where he discovered his passion for music (“Davido’s Biography”). He dropped out of Oakwood University due to poor grades and returned to Nigeria where he honored his father by enrolling in Babcock University to study music at their newly incorporated Music Department. During his time at Babcock, he recorded and released several singles and an album. His single, “Dami Duro” was a hit in Nigeria and quickly shot him to fame in West Africa. Davido’s fame has continued to spread to many countries around the world, especially those with a strong West African presence, and he travels to these places to perform. I got the opportunity to see Davido live in performance at the Patapsco Arena in Baltimore, Maryland. During his performance, Davido displayed symbols of his national and cultural identities through his outfits, lyrics and dance. While he sometimes challenged those traditions by incorporating more Americanized traits, Davido’s characteristics and actions demonstrated that maintaining cultural ties to Africa, and especially Nigeria, is an important and effective way for him to unify a pan-African community.
I arrived at the Patapsco Arena an hour late and per the usual African way, neither the show nor the pre-show had commenced. Only attendees with a VIP ticket had been allowed inside to enjoy refreshments while everyone waited for the pre-show to start. Once we were allowed inside, we were treated with West African music punctuated with a couple American hip hop sounds with the DJ staying clear of Davido’s music so as to not ruin our appetite for the Nigerian performer. The audience participated in vigorous dancing as well as a photobooth which had props featuring Ghanaian and Nigerian expressions that may be found in recent music such as “Shoki” during the pre-show. It was amazing the number of audience members that I knew. I even found a couple friends that I attended boarding school with in Ghana. It was like a reunion of Africans and people of African descent.
Once the main doors to the concert venue were open, fans rushed out of the atrium, pushing and tripping over each other in order to be in the front rows of the concert. Audience members with VIP status were separated from the rest of the crowd and were comfortably seated with food and drink. The opening act featured local college-level musicians trying to make names for themselves. This diminished the audience response somewhat, as the original songs performed by these groups were not well-known and appeared to be unpopular.
After what seemed like an eternity, Davido came out to his first hit song “Dami Duro” with a Nigerian flag tied about his shoulders. The crowd was ecstatic and, myself included, screamed along with the lyrics. If one looked amongst the crowd, one would have no doubt that the individuals were of African descent. Many could be seen sporting national flags from countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa. The song “Dami Duro” emphasized Davido’s national identity in several ways. First, wearing the Nigerian
flag affirmed that Davido values and maintains allegiance to the country he grew up in (“Davido’s Biography”). There wasn’t much that linked him to the United States except for his western clothes and jewelry. He does wear earrings, which is considered normal and possibly trendy in the United States, but is frowned upon in some parts of Nigeria and West Africa.
Davido also paid homage to the different countries represented among his spectators. This is common among many Afrobeat artists who perform abroad as it gives them a sense of pride and joy to see the extent of the range of their music among the pan-African community. Naturally, the majority of the crowd was Nigerian as Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and where Davido hails from. When Nigeria was called, the crowd erupted with cheers, applause and stomping. Davido waved his national flag tirelessly and this went on for a few minutes. Eventually, everyone participated when it seemed that the motive for cheer had shifted from the call of Nigeria to the dance moves Davido was displaying on stage. He may not be the best dancer, but his fans encouraged and supported him through his movements onstage.
While English may be the official language in Nigeria, people of lower socio- economic status tend to have a weaker the grasp of the English language. As a uniting front, Nigerian pidgin came about (some other countries have a different type of pidgin such Ghanaian pidgin and Liberian pidgin). Pidgin is a made from a fusion of the English language and local indigenous languages. It used to be spoken only by people of the lower classes but has gained popularity among the masses. According to an article written by Francesco Goglia, Nigerian pidgin English is an even more widespread language in Nigeria than the official language of English. Because Davido sang all of his songs in pidgin English, he not only demonstrated his cultural identity, but showed an understanding of the need to be inclusive when performing for fellow Nigerians as well as non-natives; while pidgin may be a bit hard to understand for people
unfamiliar with the language, it is very easy to sing along to and get the general gist of what he is trying to say.
Davido demonstrated another aspect of his cultural identity by peppering the lyrics of most of his songs with Yoruba, his own native language. While a person not of Nigerian or Yoruban origin may find it difficult to understand the individual words, it does not take away from the ambience the music brings, but rather enhances its aura. It gives the music a more authentic feel and brings a sense of awe and cultural awareness, as Yoruba is one of Africa’s oldest indigenous languages that is still in existence.
When it comes to gender and the roles of women in Nigerian performance, Davido challenged the norms of the older generations that view women’s bodies as sacred and not for display by inviting ladies from the audience onstage to perform several dances that originated in West Africa. The first dance that was performed was the “Mapouka” dance which originated from south east Ivory Coast in Dabon. Mapouka used to be performed only at religious ceremonies but has gained widespread popularity in the 21st century and developed into a very sexualized dance (Mohanchen, “Mapouka”). Mapouka is performed by standing on the balls of one’s feet, bending slightly at the waist and rapidly shifting weight from foot to foot. This causes the rear of a lady to bounce in a way that is considered attractive to men. The crowd went wild when the ladies performed the dance. Davido even feigned collapse from the sheer pleasure of watching the ladies dancing which resulted in more cheer from the crowd.
The ladies were also invited to perform “Shoki” which is a dance that emerged in Nigeria and has gained popularity in recent years. The dance itself is not very sexualized although it can be made so, but the word “Shoki” has a very sexualized meaning. The dance consists of dipping
the body low and slowly riding with hands movements to the beat of the music. Davido joined the ladies in performing the “Shoki” dance to one of his songs, “Aye”. Aye has a slower tempo than most of Davido’s songs and therefore provides room for a paced and more elegant “Shoki”. A few seconds after the “Shoki” performance started, more and more people joined Davido and the ladies to stand on stage. Soon the entire audience was participating, including the seated VIP members who stood up to join in. It is worth noting that a good majority of the VIP audience were middle-aged women in their forties. Davido challenged Nigerian values where parents and their children are not regarded as “age-mates”; parents do not like to be treated as friends, emphasizing that the hierarchy must be respected. He challenged these values by unifying the youth and the older generation through dance.
Another dance that invited audience participation was the “Azonto” dance from modern day Ghana. The Azonto dance is hard to describe because it requires the movement of several parts of the body at once as well as some walking movements accented with unique facial expressions. It was pretty exciting to see all the facial expressions and the creativity that comes with performing the dance. It can be used to simulate a marriage proposal, washing and hanging clothes on a drying line, to accuse someone of idiocy and many more. The majority of the crowd performed the basic “fist in the air’ version almost simultaneously. Wale Adedeji stated in his article that “Nigeria has a very vibrant popular music scene that has come to reflect her cultural richness, and over the years this has translated into international recognition.” This was evident through enthusiastic audience reception as well as in the West African dances he showcased.
Davido’s last two songs, “If” and “Fia” were paradoxical in their meanings and messages, both reinforcing traditional values and negotiating alternatives. In the song “If”, the lyrics reinforce stereotypical gender roles from the Nigerian society:
“If I tell you sey I love you oo,
My money, my body na your own oo baby, 30 billion for the account oo o
Versace and Gucci for your body oo, baby”
These lyrics indicate that Davido would be the breadwinner and provider in a relationship. This particular set of lyrics also suggests that Davido would lavish his significant other with gifts as is customary with traditional marriages in Nigeria.
On the contrary, the song “Fia” challenges some of those gender roles. In this song, Davido sings about his significant other waiting for him to provide money and other material things to her. He sings that while he loves his lady, he will not die trying to make her seem like an affluent lady when she is not. He says in his song that his woman must find a way to contribute to the upkeep of the relationship, suggesting a more modern perspective take on traditional gender roles. However, he contradicts himself again and reinforces those roles by singing about how the woman runs to another man to provide her needs for her.
All too soon, the show came to a remarkable end. Before the conclusion of his final song, Davido did a trust fall into the crowd and his loyal fans caught him and pushed him back on the stage. He thanked his fans for coming out to see him as confetti and balloons rained from the ceiling. Davido was ushered off the stage shortly after. The lights came on and the DJ blasted some of Davido’s songs that had not been performed and a brief dance party ensued. Throughout the years, many African musicians have attempted to make themselves more marketable to a broader audience and have tweaked little aspects of their music, including performing only in English. Davido has maintained his cultural heritage, which has brought him success both in West Africa and abroad, uniting all people who love the Afrobeat/Afrobeats/Afropop genre.
Mwaniki, Andrew. “The 10 Most Populated Countries in Africa.” WorldAtlas, 23 Oct. 2017, www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-10-most-populated-countries-in-africa.html.
Clark, Augustina. “Law of the Dance: Legal and Regulatory Framework for Promoting Appropriate Music Content in Nigeria.” Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy, 2015.
Adedeji, Wale. “The Nigerian Music Industry: Challenges, Prospects and Possibilities.”Research Gate, 2016, www.researchgate.net/profile/Wale_Adedeji/publication/299346791_The_Nigerian_Music_Indu stry_Challenges_Prospects_and_Possibilities/links/56f16f3c08ae1cb29a3d0f27.pdf.
Abdulkareem, Fareeda. “15 Nigerian Pidgin English Phrases You Need to Know.”Culture Trip, 16 Feb. 2017, theculturetrip.com/africa/nigeria/articles/15-nigerian-pidgin-english-phrases-you- need-to-know/.
Goglia, Francesco. “Nigerian Pidgin English.” Language Contact Manchester, languagecontact.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/McrLC/casestudies/FG_NigerianPidgin.html.
Mohanchen. “Mapouka - a Traditional Dance.” Mapouka- a Traditional Dance, 25 Jan. 2010, mohanchen.articlealley.com/mapouka--a-traditional-dance-1362186.html.
Nf. “Davido’s Biography: Things You Didn’t Know about Him.” Nigerian Finder, nigerianfinder.com/davidos-biography-things-you-didnt-know-about-him/.
National allegiance to nation-state with distinct traditions, culture and language •Cultural—a way of life shared by a group of people •Racial—based on shared physical traits, sociopolitical narratives •Regional—relationship to geographical location with distinct characteristics •Class—economic status and access to resources •Political—relationship to a power structure •Religious—adherence to doctrine of organized religion Gender—personal conception of self as masculine, feminine. neither or both •Sexual—preference (or lack thereof) in romantic partners •*Social—group membership (must be applied in context with above identities)
Please avoid focusing on: Generational—Millennial/Gen Z/Boomer/etc not validated in academics Youth—a key component of all popular music, not a distinguishing feature of one genre