Think of rock music as an intricate genre and all the names that come to mind when you hear the word “Rock”. From Linkin Park’s encore, Kurt Cobain smells like teen spirit, Prince purple rain, Funkadelic Maggot brain, Kings of Leon youth and manhood, Florence and the Machine Lungs, Vampire weekend, Snow Patrol and everything The Cranberries ever made. Ever wondered how these bands came to life? It is accepted rumour that most of the big bands we hear of today all began in a small garage. A group of friends meeting every day after school/work to practise for a few hours and build more on their crafts until their work spread out to the public and then they became who we know them as today. But who would have thunk that rock music in Nigeria originated from a group chat? No kidding.
There is a song titled “Nepa bring the light” I watched mostly on Saturday mornings as a child growing up in the in the late nineties. Remembering that song, the hilarious lyrics and the banging instrumentals sparked a thought in my head, is there an existing Rock Music industry in Nigeria? And if so why is nobody talking about them or helping them bring African rock music into light.
Speaking to Dami Lawal, a founding partner of Rock Nation (a multimedia company created solely for the purpose of promoting rock music in Nigeria and Africa), He spoke to me at length about the emergence of rock music in Nigeria and how Rock Nation tries, in their own little way, to create a market that appreciates Rock Music, and in that same breath bring to light underground talents in the Nigerian rock industry, and Africa, but with more emphasis on the talents in Nigeria.
“It started with a couple of friends exchanging playlists over the years and then coming together to put a face to everybody in the group chat.” He said.
And that was how Metal and Romance was fashioned. The first ever Rock artist and fan convention in Nigeria was Metal and Romance which took place at a lounge in Surulere. It featured listening sessions to songs by Linkin Park, Nickelback, Slayer, and Queen. Karaoke sessions of the event gave birth to the first ever performances by Nathmac (English and Alternative artist) Clay who joined the community in 2011, Threadstone, Onelastautograph (the only metal band in Africa and in Nigeria), and Isomers. Metal and Romance also had an after party that gave attendants opportunity to mingle and network with rocky minds like themselves. Rock music in Nigeria is not big but growing exponentially. An example was the turnout at metal and romance from 2013 when it began up until 2016 which had a tripled turn out as compared to when it originated.
Another event of note is the Rocktoberfest. Rocktober fest began October 24th in 2015 and its annual location is at Freedom Park. It was created for the sole purpose of celebrating the growth of Rock culture in Nigeria and also to give an artist a chance to perform and vibe, as opposed to Metal and Romance which was majorly about partying. The first Rocktober event featured twenty-one bands from far and wide Nigeria that performed on stage. A lot of new talents performed and also former performers like Clay, Plus234, Phrance, Nathmac, Onelastautograph and Isomers who had taken the time to improve on their crafts and come prepared, and with Eps of their own.
Rock Nation has done a good job in promoting Rock music in Nigeria, as well as underlying bodies who contribute to the success of the events they promote, as opposed to events bigger corporations, like Jack Daniels, who host rock events but watered it down by inviting mainstream Rap and Afro-Pop artist with no business related to rock music. This leads me to the next subject of discussion. Rock Nation as a movement has been accepted by fans of Rock music nationwide and there have been increasing demands that events and festivals as such as Rocktober and Metal and Romance be taken beyond states in Nigeria and then Africa. The idea of enterprising is always great and good for business, but there is only one problem The Nation faces in relation to spreading out. The lack of investors or sponsors willing to back up the promotion of events (like Rocktoberfest and Metal and Romance) has been the only setback, and with that solved and out of the way a new age of rock music will be born In Nigeria, and then in Africa.