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MUSIC-NIGERIA: There’s A Message in the Sound

Toye Olori

LAGOS, Jan 21 1997 (IPS) - Fusing the lively sounds of Nigerian pop music with lyrics on development issues has gone a long way in bringing about awareness on family planning and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

“The rationale behind the use of music in the promotion of family planning and condoms is that it entertains and relaxes people while passing on the message,” says Wole Sarumi, Marketing Manager of a local non-governmental group, the Society for Family Health.

“When you interlay music with (messages on) condoms and family planning, it makes the listening audience start thinking about the programme,” Sarumi explains.

Top Nigerian musicians have lent their voices and unique sounds to the spread of population messages.

Onyeka Onwenu, one of the top female musicians, and Sunny Ade, another big name here, started the ball rolling eight years ago when they produced two extremely popular hits ‘Choices’ and ‘Wait For Me’.

Now, other local musicians have joined the chorus of using their music for development. Two ‘Fuji’ musicians, Kollington Ayinla and Ayinde Barister, currently have hit tunes out to promote family planning.

‘Fuji’ music originated from Islamic tunes sung by Nigerian Muslims during the month of Ramadan – the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which no food or drink may be taken between sunrise and sunset.

Koranic students sing the songs to wake Muslims early in the morning to prepare food to begin the day’s fasting.

Ade and Onwenu’s album, ‘Wait for Me’, was sponsored by John Hopkins University in the United States which has a programme in population development and information.

Onwenu, who is known here as “the elegant lady of Nigerian pop music” composed and arranged the two tracks on the album devoted to family planning.

‘Choices’ asks couples to take a role in carving out a better future by not having unwanted children. “This is the time when we have to make a choice. Take a stand on the kind of world we want. Is it love with peace of mind or children we are not prepared for? We can make that choice,” says the song’s lyrics.

“You know making love is beautiful, but don’t forget you can make children sometimes when you don’t want to… There are ways of making love without making children. That is family planning… This is the time we have to make a choice,” the popular tune continues.

The track ends with the chorus, “Choices, Choices Choices, we can make that choice”, with ad-libs in Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Edo, Pidgin English and other Nigerian languages for more effective communications.

The other tune ‘Wait for Me’ focuses on teenagers and their future and advises them to plan well to avoid early marriages and teen pregnancy. This track is sung in pidgin.

“The two musicians are unique in their music and have large audiences. We blended their different musics in producing the family planning tracks in order to capture their audience,” says Adebola Adejo, programme officer with the Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria (PPFN).

“We have to use this method (music), because there is more of a listening audience than a reading audience,” adds Adejo.

“Sunny Ade is a well known polygamist who now tells his audience he knows the evil of polygamy, given how much it costs him to take care of his large family. This in a way helps others who plan large families to think before jumping into it,” Adejo told IPS.

According to the PPFN programme officer, music has been instrumental in the jump in family planning awareness which stood at 45 percent in 1990 when the Ade-Onwenu album came out, to 75 percent awareness by 1993.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populated nation with an estimated 104 million people.

Contraception prevalence also increased from 3.5 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 1993, Adejo said. “For PPFN, it was a very good project which has raised awareness of family planning much more than the use of pamphlets and handbills. It targetted the family, youths, men and women.”

Now, musicians also are singing about AIDS to promote the use of condoms and safe sex.

“Junior and Pretty, a pop group, and Pasuma, a Fuji group, have voluntarily started to sing about condoms without our commissioning them,” says Sarumi of the Society for Family Health.

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