American Idol – the Anglophone West Africa version
I was a bit surprised when I noticed that none of the performances featured any African songs and was curious enough to skim through the profiles of the contestants. One of the questions that they are all asked is ‘ Favorite Artistes’ and with the exception of one general response which I think read something like ‘a wide range’ all of the contestants named singers like – Usher, Alicia Keys, Maxwell, India Arie, Jill Scott, Celine Dion, Beyonce, Whitney Houston.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against these singers and love their music just as well…but for the West African Idols, shouldn’t we be showcasing some home-bred African talent.
I understand that the contestants are entitled to their own opinions and pick THEIR favorites…but did none of these people grow up listening to Ebenezer Obey – that ketekete song is an all-time classic or Sunny Ade – Ori mi ye o ja funmi or Aiye nreti Eleya mi o or was it Victor Uwaifo who sang if you see Mammy Water o. There is Majek Fashek Send down the rain and a few other songs which now escape me. I can’t believe no one has even sang Onyeka Onwenu’s One Love or that song in Ibo called Bianu…I don’t know what she is saying since I don’t speak Ibo but that is a song…whatever I am doing whenever I hear that song (and like I said on Bella’s blog, it’s been a while)…I am put in a trance. And don’t even get me started on Fela or Femi- I can’t believe that there have been remixes of soulful songs by American singers and no one has thought to remix a Fela song…I would love to hear a soulful version of Animal in Human Skin…Animal dey wear agbada. Someone told me (and I don’t know how true it is) that there may be copyright restrictions in terms of Fela songs these days but please if someone on West African Idol can do a version of Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely by the Backstreet Boys(?) surely something can be arranged. No one has thought to do Bongos Ikwe’s Only Last Night I had a dream or I have been searching for – speaking of which I am searching CDs or LPs or Bongos Ikwe’s songs
One of the highlights of the American version of the contest is when the established singers come forward to encourage the contestants…I have to admit that I have not watched American Idols seriously but I do remember one season that Barry Manilow showed up and a few of the contestants performed his songs with a little bit of coaching from him. Here’s an idea – I don’t know the name of the singer who performed the theme song for New Masquerade and sadly did not spend anytime in the East when I lived in Nigeria, but someone who did told me that he was quite a popular musician in the East back then…I am not sure if he is still alive and kicking (pray he is) but wouldn’t it be a special treat if they had him on the show the night someone performed an R and B or soulful version of Oyi ba beer bwo bwo (I know that my spelling of the lyrics is awful so I won’t go further). I think it would be a great and special treat because for one thing it would put the spotlight on a little known Nigerian artiste and bring back a ton of memories…I mean anyone of those contestants and all Nigerians of a certain age who lived in Nigeria know the New Masquerade …it is forever etched in our collective memories and there is nowhere in the world where you would hear the theme song and not stop and wonder…yours truly heard it playing in someone’s car on a side street in London years ago and did a double-take walked over to the car which was about to take off and made a new friend.
Another idea would be to have some excellent instrumentalists on the show-Kunle Ajayi and Tee Mac come to mind – and have them perform an accompaniment to whatever song. Kunle Ajayi does a wonderful instrumental rendition of Heaven Come down wouldn’t it be great if one of these contestants performed a lyrical version with him in the background. I don’t believe there are any restrictions on performances of religious songs such as this since a couple of the American Idols have performed Christian songs…but then again, I am not sure about these things.
Also, I don’t know whose idea it was to call the show West African Idols for one thing with the exception of Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone the rest of West Africa is either Lusophone or Francophone. Even the website that they have up there is not translated into either French or Portuguese so many of the people in the non-Anglophone countries would not be able to follow whatever it is that is going on since a large majority do not speak English…but then again what is there to follow since all of the contestants are from the English speaking part of West Africa.
I think the West African Idols would have been a great idea – but it is it has lost its authenticy when it comes to Afrocentricity – I think it would have been better if they had just called it the American Idol – the Anglophone West Africa version