A former resident member of Fela Kuti’s Republic of Kalakuta, Eno Louis, is craving for the rebirth of Nigerian Union of Musicians (NUM), as a way of making music business more professional and economically viable for practitioners.
Louis noted that the present Nigerian musicians have no union, saying that, the Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN), as presently constituted, is not a musicians’ union.
“The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) is an association strictly for medical doctors. A nurse or a laboratory scientist cannot attend NMA meetings or register. So is the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other unions. A union for only Nigerian musicians is needed, urgently too.”
Louis, who started music by playing in school with Chris Okotie as a drummer recalled that “in 1960, the Nigerian Union of Musicians (NUM) stopped the Federal Government from engaging a Jamaican musician to perform at the Independence Day celebration.
“The Jamaican had a hit “Melody d amour” that shook the entertainment world then and our ‘leaders’ taught it wise to bring him to Nigeria. It was quickly overtaken by events, and our very own Victor Olaiya performed at the ceremony.”
He said PMAN today has Sound Engineers, Graphics Artists, Event Managers, Marketers but they are all lumped together in an association of strange bed fellows.
“A musician’s union is a union of musicians. A dictionary definition of a musician is a man/woman who plays a musical instrument and pays his/her bills from his/her musical activities.”
He noted that miming, rather than live music is the order of the day, averring that a musician must learn the rudiments of music.
“As we cannot reinvent the wheel, any other definition of a musician is null and void. This lack of a musicians union has eaten so much into the fabric of musical entertainment in Nigeria, that miming (pretending to sing), is now the order of the day. The multi-nationals who should know better now get a DJ to play CDS while “musicians” pretend to sing.
“This leaves millions of musicians unemployed. Imagine a doctor pretending to treat his patients, a broadcaster pretending to read his news, a journalist pretending to write, or a driver pretending to drive.
“Playing an instrument on its own has spiritual and healing characteristic (like David in the bible who ended up writing the longest book in the bible, Psalms).
“The enthronement of mediocrity in our society today is due to lack of determination to excel. A musician must learn the rudiments of music. The major scale, minor scale, diminished, etc. Where would Nigerian music have been without Rex Lawson, Fela kuti, Osita Osadebe, Victor Olaiya, IK Dairo, Bobby Benson, Dan Maraya Jos, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Victor Uwaifo, Beckley Jones of BLO, Tee Mac (Afro Collection) Segun Bucknor, Oriental Brothers, Wrinkers Experience, One World, The Strangers, The Wings, The Hykers, Bongos Ikwue, and Sunny Okosun?”
Louis recalled that back in the day, EMI Records (located on Wharf Road, Apapa), immediately after signing contracts with artists, gave them a Ford bus with a full set of instruments after which a tour commences immediately to promote the single released. Hence, hits like ‘Fuel for Love’ have stood the test of time.
“I met Danny Lan when I went with my band to Ihiala. He jammed ‘Fuel for Love’ with us, playing the guitar solo exactly the way he played on the record.
“A record company in England, Honest Jons, recently re-released my song ‘Move/hot love’ I recorded in Afrodisia over thirty years ago. Willie Nfor played Bass Guitar, (Willi arranged “Awilo”). An advanced fee of a thousand dollars was paid. Tony Grey too was re-released on this label.
“A collection of these songs among others (monafinni, turego, etc) is currently playing on Voice of America (VOA). A rebirth of Nigerian Union of Musicians is inevitable and long overdue. Just the way Jimi Hendrix Guitar solos inspired American astronauts, Nigerian musicians (not DJ/Artists) must inspire our youths,” he said.