S&x, violence, drugs, politics, religion and just plain loud noise have all been grounds for music censorship.
Whether referencing taboo subject matter, challenging the government and commercialism or just upsetting the masses (directly or indirectly), musicians are targeted out of fear of their power over listeners, hence the banning of their songs.
The charts have often been a battleground between the artistes and the censors. No shortage of musicians have found themselves with one or more banned songs to their name, showing not just how far artistes will go to with the battle over music censorship, but how far the censors will go to keep them quiet.
Clean versions of songs are still proof of how free-to-air censorship is still implemented. NBC (National Broadcasting Commission) has, over the years, banned songs in the country and according to them, music must retain certain level of decency and these crowd favorites didn’t quite make the cut. They tagged the songs as “Not to be Broadcast” and banned them from being aired across the Nigerian airwaves. The songs include:
Davido‘s ‘Fall’ and ‘If’ (Remix)
Davido’s “If” and “Fall” had been doing very well in the airwaves when they were released in February and May 2017 respectively but NBC had deciphered his cryptic lyrics after a few months. He had hidden provocative words like “I Go Chook You/ Chuku Chuku” in child-like melodies though it was seemingly meant for adult consumption with the violent and raunchy double entendre. The song was eventually banned.
How did the singer react to the ban? He kicked no dust about it and went on bag awards and break records internationally on those same songs. Call that success!
Falz – ‘This is Nigeria’
Another song that was banned by Nigerian authority was that of Falz’s ‘This is Nigeria’ in August 2018. The song was inspired by “This is America”, the momentous music video by Hiro Murai and Childish Gambino and just like the former, it instantly became one of the biggest music and pop culture moments of 2018. From the Muslim Rights Concern group (MURIC) leading a petition against the song to NBC’s ban and Twitter’s overdrive reaction, ‘This is Nigeria’ got people talking and held the No.1 position on Youtube’s Trending list many days after its release. It was laced with vulgar lyrics, ”this is Nigeria, look how we living now, everybody be criminal.”
How did the singer react after the ban? Three months after, Falz threatened to seek legal redress to the tune of N100m if the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission failed to lift the ban on his song. He maintained that the song, which seemed to be the butt of controversy since its release, was socially conscious music that talked about the current situation of Nigerians in the country. In 2019, he went on to release another song, which is similar in meaning, titled ‘Talk’.
Wande Coal- Iskaba
In 2016, Wande Coal had decided to reward his fans with the single titled ‘Iskaba’, which was a joint effort featuring DJ Tunez and produced by Spellz. Unfortunately, NBC had banned the song, stating its reasons as the lyrics being vulgar. Lines like, ”Girl you de make me kolo, shaking the a$$ like kolo” in contravention of Section 3.6.1 and 18.104.22.168c” were quoted in the letter. See a copy below:
Olamide – Wo
The 28-year-old rapper, who is signed to his own record label, YBNL, had returned to Ladi Lak in Bariga where he was raised to shoot the video of his single, ‘Wo’. The Federal Ministry of Health said that the video to Olamide’s “Wo” violated the Tobacco Control Act 2015 and tweeting the information via its official Twitter page, the Ministry of Health claimed that the video, which features ghetto scenes in which youth are seen smoking, encourages second-hand smoking. They also said that anyone who violated the law would face the risk of a fine and jail term of not more than one year. The rapper was at risk of N3 million fine, one-year jail term over the video, according to the tenets of the act.
— Health Ministry NGR (@Fmohnigeria) August 18, 2017
This is not the first time that an Olamide song will be banned by the Nigerian regulatory body. In 2016, just a few months after the ban of one of his songs ‘Shakiti Bobo’, NBC also banned, ‘Don’t Stop’ which is a track off Olamide’s 5th studio album, Eyan Mayweather, for its vulgar lyrics. Defending the decision at the time, the NBC said the song was banned from being played on the airwaves for its ‘obscenity, being indecent, vulgar languages, lewd and profane expressions like ‘wa gba ponron’, ‘I just want to hit you now’, ‘je kin wo be…”
How did the singer react to it? He said that he never intended to cause harm to music fans with the song. The ban didn’t mar his singing force and he has gone on to sing other songs which, thankfully, were not banned.
9ice’s – Living Things
In 2017, 9ice’s “Living Things” had being heralded as an admirable comeback at least till singer, Falz’s outburst against artistes glamorizing the internet-fraud lifestyle. Though Falz never mentioned any names and 9ice isn’t the only artiste with a song praising the culture, the nerve to name drop celebrated quick-money earners booked him a spot on the NBC’s list of banned songs from the radio. How did the singer react to the news?
Well, he expressed surprise that his song could be banned because according to him, most of his songs promote hard work among youths and not illegalities. He further said that he was not aware of the ban till it was brought to his notice by the newspaper as he had been out of the country for various tours and gigs. He exclaimed, “My song has been banned again? I am surprised that they banned my songs because most of my music is to inspire the youths to work hard and ensure they do things the right way. I don’t sing songs that would encourage anyone to do the wrong thing. I have been in this industry for a while and I know better than to do such because I know a lot of people look up to me in the society.”
Eedris Abdulkareem – Jaga Jaga
A‘battle’ had raged between popular Nigerian musician Eedris Abdulkareem and former president Olusegun Obasanjo and it all started when the singer, on September 2004, had released a song titled ‘Jaga Jaga’. The song was a satirical retribution of the government in power led by then president Olusegun Obasanjo. Eedris sang about the decay of Nigeria at that time categorically talking about how the poor were suffering while the rich continued to live large.
Before one knew it, the song had become a certified hit that was been sung by masses from the streets of Potiskum to the ghettos in Ajegunle. And soon, the government came calling. According to several sources, then president came on TV to address the song. This was the beginning of the war of words between the ex-president and Eedris. Wikipedia even reported that the song was banned from radio on the orders of Obasanjo.
How did the singer react to the ban? 16 years later, he returned with an updated version of the latter, showing how little progress the nation has made. However, it’s very shameful that the same problems he sang about almost two decades ago haven’t been fixed.
Were the censors right? These banned songs caused controversy at the time, but they ultimately beat the authorities, earning their place in music history. Of course, the ban did very little to affect the artistes and/or their songs since we no longer rely so much on radio for deciding what’s hot and we live in an era where music taste is left to the listener. In fact, the ban gave them an increase on their streaming figures given our internet savvy generation.
The truth is these artistes can do better. They can sing songs without them breaking the rules stated above. People are hugely affected by the music they listen to. The words in songs do NOT need to be there! Kids are affected by the music they listen to as well– do you really want your kids listening to that stuff? It’s really hard to listen to that kind of music and not cussing.
Though these songs are still being played in parties and night clubs, it is important for the government and artistes to always have the general public in mind, as a better society should be their ultimate goal.