On Tekno’s Rara
Kayode Faniyi has written a very inspective take on Tekno’s Rara with the title ‘What would Fela make of Tekno’s Rara?’ – a piece that probes the style and ideology behind the song in comparison and contrast to Fela’s beat, Afrobeat (and its philosophy) and style. Conclusion: Tekno tinkered with the style and has gotten a ‘B’, but on ideology falls below ‘D’, failing to understand the intricacy of the genre and commit to it.
On the flipside, there are reasons, not defense of this. And my piece is not a reply to Faniyi’s but only takes cue from it, flashlights into the intrinsic qualities or non-qualities that make the song a foil and a hit at the same time.
A titular ‘Tekno, the millennial artiste and tradition’ will serve as a template to an understanding of the matter. Tekno and some artistes of his generation fall out of the reins of tradition, being artistes that operate within the limits of the influence on their artistic lives. Boys who go about with demo CDs more than practising one or two musical instruments; start-ups who are more inspired by rushing to the studio than by seasoned progenitors; artistes schooled on the cooked beat. Their craft in music suffers from a severed link with tradition where certain fundamentals have not been incorporated into their development and personalities as artistes. The age is part of the corruption: the journey between talent and creativity to craft is reduced by tech and Caesar and mass consumption.
Irrespective, the likes of Tekno have been able to break from the box and create signature style music, the trick even, to key into the consumption psychology of the fan and the zeitgeist. Rara, an unaccomplished attempt at Afrobeat still has its own merit, the more apparent, that it is a hit song by our standards. In other ways it is a representation of the age that scores a few points. The song enters into the sound debate contributing to the assimilation of Afrobeat into Naija Sound. On the frontier of ‘wokeness’, so to say, it picks up the gauntlet, however nonchalantly, where there has been a decrying of the dearth of social consciousness in our music. And if it doesn’t reintroduce Fela to the new age – I’ve seen the Y2K babies do the trancelike Fela steps to it – it gives us something to dance to.
Most songs come spontaneously to the artiste; sometimes the artiste premeditates on a certain kind of song he wants to do. And sometimes, too, songs that come from the former are manipulated to fit the expectation of the latter. I am not sure which category Rara falls under. A thesis may suffice to begin an extrapolation on the three theories which nobody has the time for, but the making of the song Rara reveals one thing: the artiste’s and producer’s ability to enter into the nuances of our music, take a ride in it, and produce a song like Rara.
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With the song, Tekno, too, enters, individually, into the genetic combination of the kind of evolution our music needs and brings out that music that we need for the process that not only satiates our appeal for sound but is in sync with the spirit of the age. (Something quintessentially captured in Davido’s If.) On the incompatibility of the lyrical content – from ‘NEPA no bring light o, generator wan tear my ear’ to ‘Oluwa wey dey bless me o, shey im go bless you too’ – Tekno represents his age in the psychology of contra-parallel identity: to combine jaiye with seriousness in one song, much like the Pentecostal youth who dances shoki and twerks to praise and worship songs. The ability, in short, to wear different skins without introspection.
Rara wins on three fronts: (1) let there be dance, (2) activism: giving us something to think about (‘generator wan tear my ear: issues of environmental health), and (3) being a representation of its time in conforming to the inevitable cultural and artistic forces that created it.