By Azuka Onwuka
Do you know why no top musician hails from Nnewi?
The reason is simple. I will tell you why presently.
Nnewi has produced numerous industrialists, business giants, academics, technocrats, public servants, politicians, military officers, sportsmen and women and top professionals from virtually all fields of human endeavour. Even in classical music, the town produced Dr. Sam Ojukwu who composed the University of Nigeria anthem and others, but in secular music, no Nnewi son or daughter is heard of nationally. Maybe except Uche Ibeto that was known in the 1980s. But somehow it seems that the same thing that prevents Nnewi people from excelling in music affected her popularity.
Even though many assume that Oliver de Coque is from Nnewi, he is from Ezinifite, a neighbouring town (in Nnewi South LGA). Gozie Okeke of the Elijah na Ndị Amụma Baal fame is from Nnobi, another neighbouring town to Nnewi. There are other musicians like Muddy Ibe and co, who have links with Nnewi but are not from Nnewi. They are known to spend more time in Nnewi than even their home towns because they are always contracted to play at events in Nnewi. Some even resided in Nnewi.
So Nnewi enjoys good music without producing good musicians. Why is that so?
Now here is the reason.
Nnewi men and women drum two statements into their children and young relatives: “Nde Nnewi aha eti egwu. Egwu amahọ ndi Nnewi.” (Nnewi people don’t play music. Nnewi people are not cut out for music.”
Whenever a young man is seen with a guitar, his relatives hold their right ear with their right hand and make these two statements as a warning. These statements are repeated so much that they have gone into the psyche of every Nnewi son and daughter. And when such an intending musician looks around, he or she can truly not see any Nnewi son or daughter that has excelled in music. If the person continues with music, he or she will struggle and fail and then go into another profession.
It is not clear why these statements were coined, but it could be because musicians were seen as ne’er-do-wells who lived as if there was no tomorrow, chain-smoking, drinking, womanizing, night-crawling, etc.
This mindset has worked against the music career of Nnewi sons and daughters for decades. Countless music talents have been killed in Nnewi.
Now that music has become a money-spinner in Nigeria, it is expected that this generation will start “unsaying” those statements and make their sons and daughters see that there is nothing in the blood or gene of Nnewi sons and daughters that forbids them to excel in music. Maybe soon we will hear of a Tu-Face or PSquare or Sir Warrior or Beyonce or Bob Marley from Nnewi. That will be the beginning of a new chapter in Nnewi.