#ENDSARS: Why Music Remains An Important Tool Of Documentation And Activism

December 11, 2020

It is a common saying that art imitates life, but sometimes it goes beyond that. Through different civil right movements in history, music has played a vital role in serving as an ever potent channel of activism, and an alternative means of documentation. 

Over the past few months, the entire globe witnessed the #EndSARS protests both on the streets of various cities in Nigeria as well as online. During the protests, we saw and heard of the unwarranted killings of protesters and passersby in various cities by police officers and army officials during a protest against police brutality. To make things worse, we witnessed the horrific Lekki Massacre live-streamed on our phones, and also in person. International media, international Human Rights agencies, eyewitnesses, survivors, and a select few local media outlets extensively covered the events of the 20th of October, 2020, and there are no doubts as to what happened that evening.

 In the presence of overwhelming evidence, the authority figures made and are still making conscious efforts to suppress the truth and distort the facts. This has taken various forms, from attempting to “regulate” social media under the guise of “Fake News”, to targeting identifiable protesters; denying some travel, baselessly arresting and unlawfully detaining some, and tactlessly freezing the accounts of others. 

In the face of such tactless and deliberate denial of the truth, we have only one duty; to keep re-stating the facts through every medium available to us, as an act of resistance to injustice. Music has always been a vital tool in important moments,, and it remains so now. Here are a few songs currently documenting the recent events and, continuing the activism in the face of oppression:

20.10 20 by Burna Boy

 “20th of October 2020, you carry army go kill many youths for Lekki”

Burna Boy makes a simple but necessary statement summarily reiterating the events that occurred on the evening of October 20th, 2020. That line more than any other is very important when you consider that following the massacre at the Lekki Toll Gate on that fateful day, the Lagos state government, and the army embarked on a campaign to refute the claims. , Thankfully, such denial has been continuously contradicted by the denying parties. The line remains a perfect reminder to the consciousness of every listener of what happened, especially when the authority figures continuously make efforts to gaslight citizens into doubting their own sanity as to what really occurred thatnight. Lastly, the inclusion of the recordings of that night’s shootings at the end of the song assists in preventing the erasure of the horrific massacre which we all witnessed.

 Johnny by Falz

Originally released last year, Falz detailed the travails of the youth facing police brutality in “Johnny”. This year, following the #EndSARS protests, and the Lekki Massacre, Falz who has been very vocal and on the frontlines, takes it a notch further with a vivid video for “Johnny”, blending an accurate visual portrayal of police brutality in Nigeria with actual footage Nigerian police officers killing and brutalizing citizens with some footage being as recent as last month. This is very vital when you consider that the Inspector General of Police held out that officers of the Nigerian Police Force exercised restraint, and used reasonable force at all times.

Gangland by psiv

Gangland details the modus of the ruling class; the use of force to silence any form of opposition to their antics,deliberate and concerted acts of implicit and explicit violence to maintain the status quo of oppression, corruption, and censorship of anything that opposes their interests. 

The chorus lines, “You know the wave man, welcome to Gangland”, and “I’m in the 234, that’s the mad land” allude to the antics of the government in a country where anything goes. We have witnessed the blatant denial of the Lekki Massacre in the midst of overwhelming evidence, the attempts to “regulate” social media in order to censor free speech, the undue freezing of bank accounts of identifiable protesters, and most recently, the targeting of identifiable protesters and undue arrest and unlawful detention of such persons, amongst so many other examples. Gangland is a reminder that we know all that is going on, and we see it clearly.

Barawo by Ajebo Hustlers

Barawo just like Gangland mirrors the modus of the ruling class and the displeasures of the masses. As Ajebo Hustlers figuratively put it “Angry mob, dem kill Barawo”. “Barawo” which is slang meaning thieves, captures the corruption and oppression exhibited by the ruling class on the disadvantaged citizenry. Throughout the song, Ajebo Hustlers detail the cutthroat nature of the Nigerian society, capturing the mixed feelings of anger, hopelessness, and survival experienced by the average Nigerian citizen. Barawo is a brilliant reminder of the ills present in the Nigerian society, and this is particularly necessary at a time where those perpetrating those ills are using every means at their disposal to fight people speaking against injustice.

20.10.20 (Wahala Dey) by Chike

Dem dey kill us, soro soke… wahala dey” 

Chike reminds us that we need to keep speaking up. In 20.10.20 (Wahala Dey), Chike wholesomely captures the issues at hand; elected officials deliberately siding against the innocent citizenry, the deliberate attempts by authorities at suppressing the truth, and the need to keep speaking up and demanding answers. With a viral video displaying various highlights of the #EndSARS protests, as well as the addition of actor turned politician, Desmond Elliot’s disgraceful speech at the Lagos House of Assembly, Chike matches the right visuals with his lyrics, thereby evoking the right emotions in listeners.

20.10.20  (Remember this) by SoulBlackSheep

“Remember this, remember this… youths dying on the streets”

SoulBlackSheep reiterates the lines above in a heartfelt manner on his song 20.10.20 (Remember This). Very important words, we must not forget the events of the 20th of October, 2020. Incorporating the recordings of survivor narrations, 20.10.10 (Remember This) brilliantly documents the Lekki Massacre. The lines “Soldier please, I’m on my knees… I’ve got no gun, not a threat to you” explains the plight of the unarmed peaceful protesters that were massacred by the Nigerian Army at the Lekki Toll Gate on the 20th of October, 2020.

Honourable Mention

FEM by Davido

With a very simple message, Davido’s “Fem” became an anthem at the protests. A simple, yet instructive one-liner, “Fem” was a clear message to the politicians who kept camouflaging as if they sided with the people; for example, the governors doing photo ops at protests, only to later deny the killings of peaceful protesters despite overwhelming evidence.

The author of this article, psiv, is a multi-genre Nigerian artiste using his music to make a difference.

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