THE ISSUES, THE SHORTCOMINGS
For a while now, I decided not to write, as I have been busy working on myself. I had to be selfish if I was to make anything out of my singing career, Vocal Studies can be very hectic and I had to give it my everything. I apologize for keeping my readers waiting and promise it’ll get better.
Firstly, I realise that speaking the truth could get me in trouble, as the saying goes, “the truth is bitter” and so I fear I could get myself a lot of enemies for stating what is the truth.
Now to the matter…… I want to talk to my Friends and Colleagues, Nigerian Classical/Operatic singers both upcoming, famous, big or small.
Sometime ago, I interviewed an established Nigerian Musician and Teacher of Music, Dr. Stephen Olusoji, a Pianist, Composer and Lecturer of Music at the University of Lagos. One who has produced thorns of established Nigerian Musicians who are currently making waves in Nigeria and in the diaspora. Dr. Olusoji stressed this grey area, that forms my topic of discussion today.
He said and I quote;
“Students come from different musical backgrounds and it will be quite difficult to access their levels of musical achievements without taking into cognizance that Nigerian students are hardworking, ready to take up challenges but impatient to learn the right techniques, rather it’s a tussle to absolutely chase money and certificate (without substance)”.
End of quote.
Before i begin, let me reiterate that, Nigerian singers sing quite well and are very talented. However, we lack the standard vocal training required to break into international Opera Houses. Can we get there, Yes! Do we have what it takes No! Until we learn the right way and like Dr. Olusoji said, the Nigerian singer isn’t ready to learn due to impatience.
Late Dr. Chinwa once asked me, why our Singers still do not show any glimpse of improvement even after attending several master classes, he gave me so many reasons, but we dwelt on this particular one for over 5 hours, deliberating on the matter, as if we had the solution.
Here it is…..
The Voice is a very lazy instrument and so it takes a while for the results of a new Vocal Technique to begin to show. A lot of the times, it requires discipline and most of the times, rigorous practices, for the voice to begin to adapt, like my Teacher would always say…. “The voice stays where you put it”. For some, it takes a longer period of time; for others, mostly singers with good placement naturally, it takes a shorter period for such techniques to sync. Now, this is the luxury the Nigerian singer lacks; TIME!
After a Master class, you notice that singers begin to sound very good, suddenly, the sound becomes very Operatic and everything changes, but in a matter of months, it’s back to the bad technique. The Nigerian singer has gotten tired of it, the problem is IMPATIENCE, the time to sit down and practice the new technique and the time to work at perfecting it. Upon a call, for the next gig, we throw the new technique in the trash, as it would stall the performance. So the Nigerian singer picks up the old bad technique and heads for the show, after all, who technique epp? the audience does not even know if he’s doing right or wrong, if it sounds right in their ears, it is not a problem, as long as 100k hits the bank. How long will this go on.
This is how we have attended several master classes and still, we still sing the same way, no improvement.
Like Dr. Olusoji said, the chase for the money is the problem, I blame it on the economy, if the POLI-THIEF-SHANS played their part, maybe it would have been better of.
In a nutshell, it isn’t about the number of Master Classes we have attended or the number of ABRSM or other Certificates we have acquired, as you can sing with a bad technique and still pass some of these examinations, but the question is, are we ready to learn?
My comrades in the art, as much as i agree that money is very essential, it is time we quit this mad chase for money and begin to work on our skill, my few weeks in the United States were very heart breaking for me, not because I wanted it so, but for passion, I wept at how much we lack in Vocal training, and Performance Practice, but there is light after the tunnel, we have hope in Joseph Oparamuike, who is currently working hard to achieve this, alongside our shining stars, Agatha Onyinye Ibeazor, John Eclou, Omo Bello, Chidinma Okum-Emulo, Andrew Egbuchiem and others, who are currently studying and would come back to impact on our talented singers.
I hope we would be patient enough to learn when the time comes.
I just touched you where it hurts,
I will write again!