By Anote Ajeluorou
The revolution in Nigerian music is heavily rooted in America-influenced hiphop styles that manage to retain a certain local flavour through the use of local languages and nuances. It’s this cross-over influence that has endeared it to many so much so that nightclubs and the airwaves are saturated with it. Which is good, as it delivers great entertainment value, with its attendant reduction of foreign music influence.
Now, the duo of two brothers, Michael and James Osehan, known as Izon, are redefining the cross-cultural currents in Nigeria’s music. In what they call ‘trado-contemporary’ music, they have done a remix of ‘Iworiwo’, the music of highlife master, Jim Rex Lawson, also of Izon or Ijaw extraction, like the two brothers, which is in a singles. The video has also been made, with Akin Alabi as producer.
In a recent chat, the two brothers, who could be mistaken for twins, said remixing Lawson’s track ‘Iworiwo’ was their own way of paying tribute iconic Ijaw musician who loomed large during their growing up years as their father always woke them up every morning with his music. It, therefore, made huge impression on the young minds and that remixing it was partly to ensure its iconic status and to say that traditional ways of life should be given a place of pride among youths.
According to them, “Our music is a fusion of traditional and contemporary – trado-contemporary music. In the music as we have rendered it, there is fusion of English, Yoruba and Ijaw languages. While growing up as kids, our dad used to wake us up with Lawson’s music every morning. So, this is a flashback to those good old days we hear so much about”.
Izon is not new to the music scene. They had their first outing in 1999, as ‘School Boys’ trio, with a song, ‘Edeise’, which means ‘most cherished, love for a woman’; for them women made enormous contributions to the world and that they needed to be praised for that. Christian Dior was marketer and promoter at the time. They also used to perform at DTD Lekki Sunsplash.
However, they could not sustain the tempo because of what they regarded as poor management, which they said “did allow them to explore back then. The challenge was not being able to go back to the studio. But the passion persisted in us. We started performing early; we did a song about Ajegunle. But like we said, we had terrible loopholes in terms of management. Now, we’re back to restructure our style”.
Michael and James described life back in the slums of Ajegunle as “‘tedious’ but ‘interesting’ growing up in the ghetto; but we couldn’t beat them so we fled from it but the ghetto experience was pleasurable to us. If you could cope in Ajegunle, then you can cope anywhere else. But it can suck you up if you have no proper parenting”.
The duo had also had a spell in movies; they featured in Silver Spoon and described it as a brilliant experience
Their manager, Shodayo Olorunsogo, is passionate about the Afro-centric approach his artists, Izon, have taken to music, noting, “We want to revive the real Nigerian music; we’re looking back at our own roots. As much as we’re enriching global culture, we want to reaffirm the real culture of Nigeria through the music we play.
Olorunsogo said Izon’s remaking of Lawson’s Iworiwo was going back to the roots, adding, “People do music to make money, but we want our music to be evergreen. We don’t want it to fade away so easily. We’re doing music for music sake but with the hope that we will also reap from it. That is why we’re doing music in the trado-contemporary way – highlife”.
The duo also has a socially-conscious mindset that yearns to reach out to socially-disadvantaged persons in society. According to them, “Our plan is to reach the needy in society, those who are homeless. Most of our concerts will be charity-based so we can help the needy, the less privileged in society”.