Unsung Heroes of Nollywood: The Score


So…I was sitting at my favourite corner in the cyber café that evening (I had exhausted the data on my modem and I had work to do). After an hour in the café I realise I was not being productive. I needed to bully myself to work, and most importantly to work even with all the senseless chatters around. I decided to listen to music and the purist in me chose Mozart. I had not brought my ear plugs so I contributed to the din around by turning up my system’s volume. “Ah ha” I thought to myself. But to my chagrin, after another 4 hours of staying in the café I had not done any work. Not that the Mozart did not work. It did. In fact it worked so much that I spent the next 4 hours discussing concertos, symphonies, classical music (generally) and movie scores.

You see, what happened was that right behind me, sitting beside a friend (who also loves classical compositions) was Adam a young man I was about to meet. Adam is the first human I’ve met with more knowledge of classical music than I have. I was impressed. We finished with the concerto composers and went into movie scores composers. It wasn’t until I was vaulting to my room that I realised that in all the 4 hours we discussed, we never mentioned one Nigerian composer. We had not recalled any Nigerian movie score which we consider the composer to be absolutely brilliant. Perhaps we should have thought of soundtracks. Maybe we would have remembered Essence’s work with the Super Story soundtrack. We would have laughed. But why? Hers was just a song. A carefully composed song that captured the full crux of Super Story franchise. So was her work less passionate than Hans Zimmer’s Pirates of The Caribbean score when it is equally implanted in the hearts of all, old and young? Don’t we have equivalents of Alexandre Desplat? Or at least a John Williams or even someone who aspires to be like Brian Tyler?

The last time I doubted the intelligence of movie score composers in Nigeria, I was jolted back to the reality by the composer of the score for the short film Blink. The reality is that we do have intelligent composers, we just have chosen not to reckon with them. In composing the score of Blink Onyekachi Banjo proved that we do have intelligent minds who calm down to understand themes and see possibilities while composing. This is no different from what Brian Tyler does. The only difference here is that Onyekachi Banjo is a Nigerian and the project was a short film. Maybe it would have been more challenging for him if it were a full movie, but he is a living example that we do have composers in our ranks and great composers in the oven. His understanding of the sync between sounds and sights is truly brilliant. I doubt if anyone has bothered to search for the OST (Official Sound Track) of a Nigerian film online just for the sake of listening and appreciating it. I am not left out here. As a habit, I do listen attentively to scores when watching movies, but recently I realised that I deny myself that pleasure whenever I am viewing a Nollywood movie. Make no mistake, I don’t miss out listening to the scores in short films, truth be told, that sector of movie making in Nigeria is so ignored that it is endangered. We lack good composers. However, what we lack in score composers we make up in soundtrack composers. There is a slight difference in the two. Basically, in Nollywood we run to a musician or songwriter to compose some lyric and sincerely speaking, the output of such collaborations are poor. But wasn’t there a time when the famed Hollywood had movies with terrible scores? Should the efforts of those who try be allowed to go to waste because we haven’t built the ear for musical scores?

My verdict is simple. Very few persons (and when I say few, I mean FEW) have tried against all odds to establish themselves as good composers in Nigeria, and less have ventured into score production. Sadly most of these good composers who understand the essence of the elements of music (note: they do not only understand the elements but also the essence) end up as mere musicians. I for one believe that the talents of Dare Art Alade, Cobams Asuquo and likes would be better suited for the score composition industry. This does not dispute the known fact that musicians still do OST’s, but I won’t consider Pharrell Williams work on Despicable Me 2 or John Legend’s work on August Rush on the same pedestal as I would Mark Mancina’s work in the same August Rush. If we do not bring this endangered few to the fore front and celebrate their works, I am afraid that nobody would want to travel on this path less taken. On the contrary we’ll have more and more mediocre in the movie score sector. A movie is a package. A joint effort. It doesn’t lie on only the director, make up, producer or director of photography to make an excellent movie. No. it lies on the corporation that lies amongst all of them. It lies in the understanding of the concept and the interpretation of the concept by ALL the key players in the movie. A good movie is one where all the sectors perform outstandingly well without leaving any department behind. So if you ask me to mention one thing missing in Nollywood today. If you ask me to mention that one thing that is sincerely lacking in Nollywood, I will waste no time in pointing to the direction of scores. Good scores. And maybe we lack good scores because we haven’t built the appetite for it. Maybe we lack good scores because we haven’t learnt to appreciate the composers already have.

The other day. I saw Adam again. I had to stop myself from raising a discussion on composers again. “Not yet.” I said to myself. Not until we raise our own great composers. I won’t discuss great scores with Adam until we learn to discuss, appreciate and encourage the minute composers we have thereby creating the atmosphere for more to venture into that industry.

Written by Innocent Ekejiuba

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