In my teenage years, some of my peers and I would go regularly to the main recording studios in Lagos, aiming to get noticed and picked as recording artistes. On one of those occasions, we were present when a leading performer of the era was recording a song called “Papa’s Land”. He invited us to join him in the studio to record backing vocals on the song, which became a hit in Nigeria (and possibly in other African countries), but we turned down the offer.
Why did we do this? I guess we didn’t see ourselves fitting into that particular picture. The artist was well supported by a major record label that had just lost Fela Anikulapo Kuti. They were looking to launch a market competitor. To be honest, I don’t think I would have participated in the recording, even if it had been Fela who invited us to join in. Perhaps our reluctance was also due to our sheltered upbringings.
“Papa’s Land” was an attempt by the artist in question to position himself as a politically aware social commentator. The song’s lyrics addressed the rights of Africans to be leaders in the land of our forbears, which is a reasonable point to be made, especially in the era of Apartheid in South Africa and the Ian Smith government in the nation that eventually became Zimbabwe.
The song’s musical genre wasn’t to my taste (and I guess my peers felt the same way), but we were also wary of the simplistic nature of the song lyrics, from our point of view. Reflecting on the situation several decades later, it seems to me that there haven’t been that many changes regarding the large numbers of people that think in a similar way to what the artist expressed in the song, however.
Slogans such as “Make America Great Again” and the Brexiteer equivalent – “Taking back control” seem to be tapping into the same mindset that felt uncomfortable to my peers and me as teenagers.