There are a handful of very good music video directors working in Nigeria today — Bobby Hai (see Dat Nigga Raw - O Chukwu), Kemi Adetiba, Patrick Eritobor aka Patrick Elis (see Holla at Your Boy), Toka McBaror (see Dipo - Be Your Man) — but chances are that if you ask any Nigerian below the age of 30 to name one director the first to spring to mind will be Clarence Peters. Not only is he the most prolific director around — we wouldn't be surprised if someone did a count and discovered he'd directed more vids than all other directors combined — but he is widely credited for raising the creative bar in the industry.
His most recent vid is for Wizkid's runaway cross-generational hit Pakurumo (from his debut album Super Star). The screenplay is by Clarence and Banky W (Wizkid's mentor, who also appears in the vid, along with other well known Nigerian musicians, Skales, Tiwa Savage and Mo' Cheddah, and the popular actress Funke Akindele) — and it is, without doubt, the best he's worked from. The cinematography might not match that of his most visually accomplished, 2Face's Only You, but this new video gets full marks for the richness and execution of the idea.
What do you do if you're asked to direct a music vid? Obvious starting point: What's the song about? The decision, then, is whether to interpret it literally (the most common option), or aim for something more impressionistic, or try something even more oblique, abstract and arty (still the least-trodden route in music vids). And, whatever the route, figure out how to capture the mood of the song.
But what's left out, too often, is a strong central idea. Which is why too many vidz end up delivering more of the same. Over-kinetic camera work, bunch of images with fast cuts, some fancy after-effect work in the editing stage, etc. A visual spectacle but no fully-formed idea to tie the whole thing together, besides the song itself and the artist. Or, when there is an idea, it feels perfunctory. To be fair, coming up with a strong idea for every single commission is far from easy. It it was, every video would have one.
Clarence and Banky W took the basis of the hit ("Pakurumo" roughly translates as move closer and dance well; it's a slang term popularized by Fuji musicians), noted the fact that its cross-generational appeal is unusual for Wizkid (the dude is massively popular, but mostly with young music fans; he's only 21 himself), and hit on the idea of "introducing" Wizkid to this older, more "traditional" audience, a group that probably hadn't heard of Wizkid until Pakurumo cut across the generations.
The set up: What if, by mistake, Wizkid turned up to perform at the wrong venue, in this case, an owambe party where, normally, the audience would expect a more "traditional" performer, say someone like Fuji musician Wasiu Alabi Pasuma?
Now that's an idea! Full of comic potential that, in this video, has been mined to the fullest, with the comedy based on observed Yoruba behaviour (so no need to overdo it by getting people to "act" funny). This is how owambe parties play out, and this is exactly how an "older" crowd would react to a "strange" young dude dressed like Wizkid ("Who is this?"). And they've peppered the script with recognisable comic details, such as the reaction of the party guests standing in the food queue to another who's served more than her fair share of meat, and then her reaction; plus familiar expressions like "small boy", "I will deal with you" and the most common Yoruba expression of astonishment "ehnnn!" (ask a Yoruba friend to teach you how to say this).
I don't want to over-analyse it, but very few music videos incorporate and celebrate as much Yoruba culture as this does, or do so as entertainingly or in as modern a manner. I can't remember laughing out loud to a music video in a long time, and we hope you enjoy it, too. We also hope it gets the recognition it deserves come awards time. Comedy is one of the hardest genres to pull off, and Clarence Peters gets full marks for doing it so very well.
Photography by Tobbie for TCD Photography