Why budding Nigerian reggae musicians are finding it hard to break even- Orits Wiliki


Reggae music gained prominence in Nigeria in the mid eighties with the likes of the late Majek Fashek, late Ras Kimono, Orits Wiliki, Blackky, Evi Edna Ogoli, Victor Eshiet and Peggy Umanna (The Mandators) as well as Daniel Wilson (aka Mr Ragamuffin) as forerunners.

Of the aforementioned artistes, Orits Wiliki is one of the most relevant today among his contemporaries.

The musician, who gained recognition upon the success of his 1989 album, ‘Tribulation” produced in part by Lemmy Jackson, would go on to dominate the genre throughout the 1990s

In the last decade, reggae music in Nigeria has experienced a sharp decline partly due to the demise of some of the forerunners and what we like to describe as the loss of commercial appeal.

But, Orits, in this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, maintains that despite the death of prominent Nigerian reggae musicians, reggae is still very much alive. .


PT: Reggae music appears to be fast losing its appeal in Nigeria. Do you agree?

Orits: Well, I don’t agree with you on this because there are more reggae singers than you know. The problem is that they are not given the opportunity to excel.

In the past, with N1m you could move around the whole country to promote your song, but now, N1m cannot do anything reasonable to take you to radio stations.

And looking at the culture of the rasta man, you know they are not people who are flamboyant, these are people who do not have excessive wealth.

They are people who do not believe that they have to live a certain way of life to be heard.

Anyway that does not match the reggae culture, the rasta culture will not buy that extravagant lifestyle which we know does not make sense to some of these DJs and presenters.

So I would say it’s a systemic thing that you are not hearing traditional roots of reggae the way we used to have back in the days. But yes, we have hip-hop which is a form of reggae but not the same as traditional root reggae.

PT: You said that reggae is not having as much support as it is supposed to. What kind of support do you mean?

Orits: Exposure. For example, you have stations that provide probably 30 minutes of reggae music once a week, is that enough to promote the job? No. Whereas there are other brands of music that are heard everyday. That’s why I said the problem is systemic.

PT: Was the system any different in your time?

Orits: Well, while we were up there, the sky was so big, there were no clashes and no birds had an accident running over each other. While I was playing my reggae, Majek Fashek was playing his own style of reggae, Kwam 1 was doing Fuji, Onyeka Onwenu was doing Highlife and Shina Peters. The sky was big enough that everyone was heard and there was no complaint because everybody had his or her own crowd. But right now, it’s no longer so, certain types of music are being played over other kinds of music.

PT : Why are other types of music taking center stage?

Orits: It is about what your thoughts can carry. If you don’t have money don’t even think about bringing your music to radio stations to play except for some few people who are called legendary presenters, who played our songs for nothing. But now we have young stars who are also trying to make a living.

PT : You saidthere are a lot of reggae musicians. Please mention a few of them we need to watch out for

Orits: First, you have to know that reggae is still what you hear everywhere. When you talk about reggae you talk about 2baba, Patoranking, they are playing reggae music, also Seyi Shay, if you listen to her songs, some of her songs are reggae.

So you have a lot of them but they are playing reggae in a different way, which is not the hard core traditional reggae like you know it and that is because reggae is evolving.

If Bob Marley was still alive today, you know that before his death, the songs he sang were not the ones he used to sing. So you see, the world is evolving, and so is music and culture.


PT: What must be done to revitalise the core traditional reggae?

Orits: It is to change the strategy, let’s go back to the way it used to be, where everybody is given a fair hearing. Let people begin to play music for the love of it not for what they can get from it.

There is a lot of good music laying down in the library but they were never heard.

PT: Why?

Orits: Because you don’t have the resources to push it, nowadays. People like Bisola Bello played my record until it crashed, he then requested me to bring another, and that was a sample copy. He played it and played it and played it, that was my ‘Tribulation’ album. I never knew him from Adam but he did that because he just saw a great work and appreciated it. How many presenters today can do that?

We should change our attitudes, that’s the reason we don’t have edifying music in the air.

When reggae was in the air, we did not have what we do now; no drugs and other vices, it was because the songs then were healthy.

Today, people are listening to all sorts of garbage- money, alcohol, drugs, women and lots more. I am not saying that we shouldn’t sing them, but that’s not our culture. It’s a misplaced priority.

PT: Speaking about evolution, what’s new about you?

Orits: A Lot of things are going on with me.

PT: May we know some of them?

Ortis: I tried to celebrate my 25th anniversary on stage last year, but COVID-19 pandemic shattered my plans. We were supposed to celebrate my 25th anniversary on April 29, and in March, the lockdown.

And there are limited facilities to host a lot of people for an outdoor event, because of the NCDC rules.

But I intend to celebrate my next anniversary in 2022 and also launch my twin album, so from December, you will begin to hear some of my new singles from my yet-to-be released album. I recorded more gospel tracks this time around.

PT: Most of your songs preach religious tolerance, are you doing anything different this time?

Orits: No, if you go to my official YouTube page just type, ‘Bring back the money’ with over 6,000 views on YouTube, and there are also along with it other of my singles.

PT: What would you love to be remembered for?

Orits: I want to be remembered as someone who fought the system not with violence but with music.

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