#ThoughtivityOpinion: On Good Music And The Curse Of Knowledge

One of my biggest peeves on social media is people who argue about how a musician who makes specific niche music isn’t as popular or isn’t selling as many records as another musician who does popular music. These people then take it further by attributing it to the fact that Nigerians have terrible tastes in music. I am all the more reminded of this issue because Nigerian musician Simisola “Simi” Ogunleye recently released her 2nd studio album, and plenty of people who have listened to, in all honesty, a very great album, have been going on about how social media did not shut down with talk about Simi’s album the way it shuts down when someone like Wizkid releases another single or Olamide releases his latest “fart noise” ( which admittedly sounds nice when accompanied by a fire beat from Young John the wicked producer). Their major contention is how a “meaningless” song with like “Iskaba, Iskelebete, Iskoloboto” will get more downloads than the nice songs in the Simi album.

In their book “Blue Skies Red Seas” Bolu and Lanre Onasanya talk about a phenomenon called “the curse of knowledge.” They described the phenomenon as “when we know (or love) something, we find it hard to imagine not knowing (or loving) it. And we have difficulty sharing the knowledge with or we become intolerant of others because we can’t readily recreate their state of mind. In other words we cannot understand why the average Nigerian prefers Wizkid to Brymo, because we know and love Brymo’s music and can’t just imagine that anyone would not know Brymo or like his music. So whenever we are confronted with the fact that a large part of the population does not in fact enjoy Brymo’s music, our curse of knowledge takes over and we dismiss the rest of the people who don’t like that song we like as “not knowing good music” (in other words lacking knowledge/ intelligence). The fans who do this have been so afflicted by their curse of knowledge that they cannot just realize there is absolutely no way an Asa who charges ten thousand naira for a regular ticket to her concert can genuinely complain if her music doesn’t enjoy mass appeal. Talmabout she has already determined that her music is going to be for an elite group. So all the Stans jumping up and down our timelines because we would rather talk about 9ice’s “Living Things” as opposed to Beautiful Nubia’s “Monkey Wear Shoe” are just wasting their time. It is not that we don’t like Asa, it is just that “Living Things” has a higher likelihood of breaking the ice in a conversation (because of its mass appeal) than anything Brymo or Simi can put out.

Sometimes when I introduce myself to people as a blogger, the first question they ask me is “is your blog like Linda Ikeji’s blog?” “No, It’s not” I defensively reply “I tend to deal with social issues, while she does gossip”. Then I say to myself: “There is no way I would ever want to blog like that sellout in a million years”. However, from time to time I look at the millions of clicks per day that her blog generates with the gossip on it, and compare it to the few hundreds that visit my own blog with all my long and painstakingly researched opinion posts and social issues, I cannot help but feel more than a little jealous and angry at Nigerians who prefer to read tripe than to read something useful that can better their lives. So in some way I do understand the thinking of those Brymo or Timi Dakolo fans who will not allow those of us who are trying to enjoy our “Gbera” to have peace with their complaints over “trash music” generating more buzz than “good music.”

It doesn’t mean they have valid grounds for complaints though, because the music business is like the blogging business. If you want your stuff to get a mass appeal, you use the formula for getting mass appeal for your work. If you want your work to create its own niche/ unique following, you use the formula for niche work. There is no creative arts industry in the world where you can have your cake and eat it too. If you want to be Simi, be Simi without compromise, complaints or apologies. if  you want to be Olamide, be Olamide and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for it, but complaining that your Brymo music isn’t getting Olamide traction is just you being an insufferable jerk. I mentioned in a piece I wrote that we call a particular musician a “good /deep musician”, because their music fits in with our own tastes (which in turn is influenced by our economic class, social status, upbringing and the social circles we move in). So when you are complaining about the kind of music someone likes, you are also shaming them for their social status and their economic class. If Small Doctor’s music doesn’t appeal to you, you are probably not in Small Doctor’s target demographic. However, you won’t realize this because your curse of knowledge has affected you so much that you think you are now part of the “suffering masses” because of that one night that you were broke and you couldn’t buy fuel for your generator, which meant that your smartphone stayed dead and you couldn’t come online and tweet.

So dear Brymo or Asa fan, we have seen you with your two cars, two smartphones, two University degrees and your twitter account (Oh! You don’t have all those things? I am sure your parents do, duh). We are already jealous as hell of you and we already want to be like you when we grow up. Please don’t use your curse of knowledge to oppress us and make our lives (or at least our social media timelines) any more miserable by complaining about the kind of music we should or should not like. Of course the problem is not with the musicians themselves (because I am fairly sure I haven’t seen Asa, Timi Dakolo or Beautiful Nubia come on the internet to complain that their music is “not trending” like “Wo!” or “Penalty” or “Fall”), it is the fans that just drives one off the wall with their incessant griping. What those fans don’t understand is that the reason why the kind of music they like isn’t trending is because it is so good that making it get mass appeal would be watering down its quality So that Simi song that you like and you think nobody else does? That is your curse of knowledge speaking, so keep it to yourself. Be happy that people are not buzzing about it because if she makes it so that everybody likes it, the quality that drew you to it will no longer be there and you will hate her for it. Nuff said

PS: this writer is a two college degrees, two smart phones and a twitter account owning “member of the elite” but he is on the ‘Wobe’ side because he is a selfish person who knows that if his AVICII, Asa, Brymo and Passenger playlist were to suddenly become “trendy songs”, he would have nothing to use to show off his poshness and his good music tastes in elite company.

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