by Olutosin Adetola
Naira Marley as Zeitgeist
Naira Marley’s persona is quite the phenomenon raising debates among friends and family members, in the streets, and the mass media. And various misconceptions and interpretations of the controversial musician abound. Even now, critics have entered the debate. So far so good there are Carl Terver’s “Has Naira Marley Defeated The Hypocrisy?,” Dami Ajayi’s “Naira Marley, Marlians, and his aural pornography,” and Didi Cheeka’s “Naira Marley: Zeitgeist of Poltergeist.”
The Marlian group has received criticism by a large section of society, known for arrogant morals, who reel out stereotypes, dismissing the novel cultural expression as obscene, lewd, obnoxious and voyeuristic. Even good-intentioned intellectuals who lay siege on the Marlian Theorists take the well-trodden path of the conservative boomer.
It is however amusing that Naira Marley and the Marlians are a response to the rising tide of disillusionment and nihilism we are entangled in hitherto. The society and its superstructures have failed a teeming population of the young, who have lost confidence in our decadent, good-for-nothing society. Hence, they react by reveling and romanticizing vulgarity.
Didi Cheeka refuses to separate art from artist in his essay – alluding to Naira Marley as an “alleged fraudster” and an obscene figure. He refuses to see Marley’s oeuvre as a form of protest; Fela, unarguably, is the ideal.
For him, Fela employed anti-intellectualism and voyeurism to frustrate the Victorian morality of his day espoused by Nigeria’s political class, but Naira Marley is in league with this same political class he seeks to oppress with his music. But Cheeka ignores the vision that the conduct of the Marlian principal and his adherent is a reflection of our degenerate dispensation; thus, marking the degrading slurs of Naira Marley as erroneous, resonant with a generation of psychologically defeated people.
But vulgarity, earlier mentioned, is an art form same with the Theatre of the Absurd. Cheeka throws a jab terming NM’s lyrics as “a torrential descent from taste to trash.” Meaninglessness is a form of art; it correlates with absurdism, which attempts to explain human existence.
The blend of epicurean orgy with hedonistic dalliance and pleasure is a creative approach to modernity – no matter how unappealing it is to the erudite literatus enmeshed in mechanical discourses. Marlians have a stark and befuddling encounter with the Nigerian society – from being a victim of police brutality, to being profiled for using an iPhone and a flashy car at 23. This is captured in the song “Am I a Yahoo Boy?.” Naira Marley makes mockery of a deeply hypocritical society that derives pleasure from victimizing and labeling young people who are merely a reaction to the dystopia it has created.
Consequently, a great number of young people are bemused. They are like Sisyphus who angered the gods; the gods retributively burden them with a boulder rolling down an inclined plane. When they roll the boulder to the top, the gods roll it back to the bottom, and the process is repeated all over. This metaphor depicts the absurdity our youth are besotted with. Naira Marley came to resolve it – with the glorification of hedonism, party and satire.
Naira Marley projects the subconscious in a Freudian manner, unveiling the hypocrisy of the Abrahamic precepts, which suppress and dis-incentivize the sexual nature of man. The thinkers who are critical of the Marlian expression merely entertain a visceral grouse with the trend by way of moral high ground.
The demonization of the sexual behavior of man is a fantastic attempt to engineer man to a robot. This is the recipe for a chaotic world of violence and sadism like the psycho-analysts conceived. The glamorization of sex is a precondition for a world of bliss – a form of escape, which is a vision of the philosophy of a Marlian.
Critiques that view Naira Marley’s artistic proselytization as mere amplification of vulgarity, and the sexual objectification of women, fall behind the line of critical examination. The über-commercialization of sex by capitalist merchants is a right punch-bag to turn to. Yet, isn’t NM an influence of it, too? None is holy. The subliminal part of our ego, which we alienate, has been normalized and rendered tangible. The bubbles of our faux morality is busted. Hypocrisy is demystified. A riposte to the phenomenon is, seemingly, a condescending dismissal.