For over 15 minutes on May 7, 2023, Afro-pop Musician, Tiwa Savage held the world by storm when she serenaded millions with her musical artistry during the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at Windsor Castle in England.
It was the first time a Nigerian artiste would perform at the royal coronation, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
At that event, over 20,000 people attended the coronation concert, while globally, more than 18 million people viewed her performance. Decked in a beautiful green-coloured flowing gown in honour of her country, Nigeria, Tiwa thrilled the audience with her beautiful voice rendering ‘Keys to the Kingdom’, a song she recorded with another Nigerian artiste, Oluwatosin Oluwole Ajibade, popularly known as Mr. Eazi, and featured on Beyounce’s album, ‘The Lion King’. The high point of her performance was the two Batá (talking drum) drummers who came to play beside her, leaving the well-packed concert’s attendees screaming for joy and asking for more.
Tiwa Savage is not the only Nigerian artiste making waves on the world stage. Nigerian singer, David Adedeji Adeleke, popularly known as Davido, is another Nigerian music artiste who cannot be pushed aside when it comes to his achievements in the Nigerian music industry and globally. He has had over one billion streams on the music platform, Spotify. He is also classified as one of the most streamed Nigerian artists on Apple Music.
Burna Boy is another Nigerian Afrobeat musician making waves on the world stage. A Grammy Award-winning artiste, Damini Ogulu always shuts down concert venues anytime he performs outside the shores of Nigeria. He made history some years back at the Legendary Madison Square Graden, New York, with his ‘One Night in Space’ concert, which was sold out, and also hit a million viewers on YouTube just six days after the show.
Another Grammy Award-winning Nigerian singer and songwriter is Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, professionally known as Wizkid. He is undoubtedly one of the music stars making Nigeria proud on the music scene. His fourth album, ‘Made In Lagos’, which was released in 2020, has sold 500,000 units in the United States alone. Since its release, the album has recorded 322 million streams on Apple Music, 229 million streams on Spotify, and 227 million streams on YouTube. It also recorded over 140 million streams on Audiomack, over 40 million streams on Boomplay, and over 20 million streams on Pandora, making a total of over 1 billion streams on Digital Service Providers (DSPs).
Oluwatobiloba Daniel Anidugbe, a.k.a Kizz Daniel’s ‘Buga’ hit track, featuring Augustine Miles Kelechi a.k.a Tekno, became more or less a national anthem on the lips of millions the world over. Even President George Weah of Liberia, Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, and former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo of Nigeria amongst other prominent personalities have shown us their dancing skills through ‘Buga’.
Another Nigerian singer, Temilade Openiyi, who is professionally known as Tems, broke into the industry with her single, ‘Try Me’, in 2019. She has since released other singles like ‘Crazy Tings’ in 2021, ‘Damages’ in 2020, and ‘Higher’, in 2020, among others. She became the first African woman to win in the Best International Act category at the 2022 BET Awards. Her hit collaboration with Wizkid, ‘Essence’, shot her to international prominence in 2021 and earned her the number-one spot on Billboard’s Next Big Sound Chart.
Another Nigerian Singer making waves globally is Asake. In August this year, he practically shut down the 02 Arena in London, England, with a sold-out concert. The crowd was so massive that it led to a stampede during which two fans were crushed to death. The surprising part of Asake’s phenomenon is the fact that he sang most of his songs in the Yoruba language. Artistes such as Olamide; Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike, popularly known as Phyno; Ayra Starr; Yemi Alade; Oluwatosin Ajibade, known as Mr. Eazi; Divine Ikubor, known as Rema, and Simisola Kosoko, known as Simi are other musicians making waves and big money on the international music scene.
Most of these musicians, having made a lot of money from their music, cruise in the latest automobiles that money can buy. Some of them have private jets to boot. Naturally, they become role models to millions of Nigerian youths. And this is where Nigeria, as a nation, should be concerned about the lifestyle of many of our music stars. On the dark side of the money and fame is the fact that most of them use drugs to be able to perform and face huge crowds at concerts. It is for this reason that some parents dissuade their wards from the klieg light.
Rather unfortunately, the Nigerian music industry has become synonymous with drugs, crime, cultism, and early deaths, mimicking the same trend all over the world. It is becoming a dangerous trend in Nigeria, whose music landscape used to be calmer and more morally upright. Things started to nosedive with the emergence of certain genres of, music and practices that mimicked that of Western artistes. I will give some examples.
Pop music star, Michael Jackson, died on June 25, 2009, from cardiac arrest due to a propofol overdose that was administered by his personal physician. Many believed that Michael Jackson had been struggling with an addiction to pain medication since his scalp injury from a fire and cosmetic surgeries. His death was ruled a homicide after investigations found that his doctor had been administering propofol, a powerful surgical anesthetic, for 60 days in a row to combat his insomnia. The coroner found lethal levels of the drug in his system.
Another young singer died at the age of 27 from substance abuse. Amy Winehouse who was reported to have struggled even before she became famous for alcohol addiction, dabbled into hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine and continued to use alcohol to numb her mental health issues until July 23, 2011, she passed away from alcohol poisoning.
Incredible vocalist and pop star, Whitney Houston, had a long history of drug use due to the pressures of fame, a history of sexual abuse, and enablement from people around her. Her addiction was very public and she was reported to have sought treatment for it at least three times. In February, 2012, Houston was found unconscious, face down in a bathtub at the age of 48. An autopsy revealed she had Xanax, Benadryl, marijuana, the muscle relaxant, Flexeril, and cocaine in her system, which led to her drowning in her bathtub.
Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, was also infamous as one of many young musicians who died from a drug overdose. Jim Morrison had a long history of alcohol and substance abuse, which was a lead cause of his death at the age of 27.
Jimi Hendrix was a heavy drug user and especially abused LSD i.e., Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, a powerful substance that changes the way users sense the world around them. For some days prior to his death, Hendrix had been in poor health due to fatigue from overwork, an influenza-related illness, and a chronic lack of sleep. On his final night, he had been out partying and consumed amphetamines. When he arrived back home, he took 18 times the recommended amount of sleeping pills. The next morning, he was found unresponsive and covered in vomit. On September 18, 1970, Hendrix passed away due to barbiturate-related asphyxia from his vomit at age 27.
Janis Joplin’s life was also tragically cut short at the age of 27 from a drug overdose. In what appears to be a ‘club’ of famous musicians, actors, and artists who died at that age, usually from a drug overdose, Joplin struggled with heroin addiction and tried to get sober several times. Unfortunately, on October 4, 1970, her road manager found her dead in her hotel room from an accidental heroin overdose.
Billie Holiday, one of the most influential jazz singers in American history, had life plagued with drug and alcohol abuse. As a child and teenager, she had been raped multiple times and used alcohol and drugs to self-medicate the pain from trauma. Her first husband introduced her to opium, which developed into a heroin problem. She attempted rehab a few times, but her sobriety never lasted long. In 1959, she collapsed and was taken to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with very advanced liver cancer and also went into heroin withdrawals. She died shortly after as a result of alcohol and drug-related complications.
Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana, battled with drug addiction for most of his life. According to a family member, Cobain had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had a painful digestive disorder, and he used heroin to relieve the pain. He went to drug rehab in 1992, but relapsed and survived several heroin overdoses over the next few years, when he began having suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Right before his death, he left a detox center and flew back to Seattle. Cobain was found dead in his home from a shotgun wound and an autopsy found heroin and valium in his system. He was also only 27 years old.
Back home, our own Ilerioluwa Oladimeji Aloba, better known as Mohbad, has sadly, joined the league of Club 27. The sad news of his untimely death has been trending on social media, with his fans calling for justice under the hashtag #justiceformohbad over what they believed to be a murder by industry rivals. Was he a drug user? Yes. He openly took drugs in some of his music videos. Was drug usage responsible for his death? An autopsy done last week will reveal the cause of death when it is eventually made public. What is however sure is that he fell into the hands of a deadly gangster by the name of Akeeb Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley in his bid to become a superstar. Mohbad, a young boy from a poor family, was passionate making music, but without the needed funds, had to look for a record label that would promote his music and turn his dream into reality. His journey in search of fame led him to Naira Marley and marked a turning point in his career.
Ordinarily, Naira Marley should have been a person of interest to the Nigerian authorities the day he left the United Kingdom to relocate back to the country. He is a known gangster and he did not hide it. He uses drugs and facts are now emerging that he is also into drug sales and distribution in Nigeria. Although he was arrested and charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) on May 20, 2019, it was on charges bordering on money laundering and credit card fraud.
Born in Agege, Lagos, on May 10, 1991, he relocated to the United Kingdom along with his parents at the age of 11 but found himself in one of the deadliest communities in the U.K. He grew up in Peckham, a deadly community known for drug, crime, and gangsterism and it is on record that he was arrested and detained by the UK Police on 124 different occasions. When the heat was too much on him, he came back to the country only to establish a record label while his rapidly expanded followers called themselves ‘Marlians’.
Unfortunately, Mohbad was signed on by Naira Marley’s record label, and it is alleged that he wanted to pull out when he realized that there were underhand secret tasks that he had to do that did not sit well with his conscience. But the group won’t let him go, as they feared that he would reveal their secrets. Many have alleged that he was hounded, harassed, and threatened until his death, prompting Nigerians to call for investigation into the cause of his death, and justice for the late crooner. In an ironic twist of fate, what Mohbad wanted, he got after his demise.
It is time for the government to take a closer look at the music industry, particularly the master-servant relationship between record labels and upcoming music stars. Many have complained that most of the young musicians unknowingly signed themselves into slavery and are exploited by record labels and promoters. Even decades-old music superstar, King Sunny Ade, went through hell and back as a young boy playing music in the early 70s in the hands of his promoter, Chief Bolarinwa Abioro.
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Music and drugs are like 5 and 6 the world over. The likes of Fela Anikulapo Kuti and Ayinla Omowura are known names in the music industry in the 70s and 80s that gave their best while under the influence of Marijuana and hot drinks. They loved women too. But when musicians now transit from habitual drug users to sellers and distributors, it is time for the government to look closely into the industry that promotes vice under the guise of entertainment. Many youths look to these musicians as role models, not seeing the whole true picture. On top of all the problems bedeviling our dear country, we can’t afford to have drug peddlers as role models for our young ones.
Rest in peace Mohbad.
See you next week.