Awarding-winning artist, musician, producer and performer eLDee's fifth solo album, Undeniable, has achieved critical acclaim since its release last month. While listening to this immensely enjoyable album, two songs in particular stood out to me. These tracks, Wash Wash and Zombie, are not only notable for their musical quality, but also for the astute observations they make about modern Nigerian society.
DOWNLOAD Wash Wash (mp3)
Most online reactions to Wash Wash – see the YouTube comments, for example - focus on the hilarity of its lyrics. The last time I was in Nigeria, “wash” was used to describe praising or hyping someone without really meaning it. eLDee elaborates on the term in a song with such catchy lyrics that it became something of a street anthem, prompting him to bring out a “na wash” line of t-shirts.
Wash Wash is a jocular rap in pidgin English that mocks the Nigerian habit of trying to appear more successful than they really are. Appearance is the most visible marker of class, and class discrimination - referred to as “classism” - is a glaring reality in Nigeria where marked distinctions exist between the rich, the incredibly rich and others. Classism is seen in Nollywood productions where class differences are obstacles to one true love, or where a poor villager struggles to be accepted in the big city. This satirical piece on the “Nairaba tribe”, a small but very influential Nigerian ethnic group that loves money so much that their name comes from the Nigerian currency, perfectly illustrates the kind of mentality eLDee makes fun of in Wash Wash.
With lyrics such as “when in the club I chill in VIP”, “see me, I only fly first class”, “I only wear human hair”, “it is from Dubai, me I don't ever shop here” and “when I dey shop I no dey ask for price, Wash Wash mocks the attitude and behaviour of those belonging to the fictitious Nairaba tribe as well as those who pretend to belong to the tribe. Surprisingly, religion and politics are also criticised towards the end of the song. A man “sent from the Lord” asking you to give him money due to his holy connections is lying, and so is the man who asks you to vote for him because he shares your plight.
http://content.omroep.nl/ghettoradio/musicblog/eldee_zombie_ft_k9.mp3 Zombie, ft. K9
The track Zombie on the other hand is an excellent party jam that also functions as social commentary, and quite probably inspired by a track of the same name by the pioneer of afrobeat, Fela Kuti. Fela’s song was a biting criticism of the Nigerian military institution in 1977, but eLDee’s focus here is on corrupt police officers and politicians.
In eLDee’s Zombie we hear about two everyday exhibitions of corruption and the abuse of power. First is a police officer who resorts to brute force when a civilian refuses his demands for money. Then there's the senator who can’t travel by car without his siren blaring in order to clear the road for his convenience, even in slow traffic and even when he’s not on official business. When his haste causes a minor accident, this leads to a scene where the senator promises to “deal with you in this country” and presumably has someone arrested due to his arrogance.
Both Wash Wash and Zombie describe scenarios that are familiar to most Nigerians. At a time when most contemporary Nigerian music focuses on how made, successful and rich the singer is (I must mention that eLDee does a bit of this in Category, for example), it is refreshing to come across pop music that offers something more than just a great beat.
Undeniable is available from iTunes. Android or Blackberry phone owners can also download it via the Spinlet app, and if you’re in Nigeria you can pick up a hard copy at one of these spots.