Nigerian Music: How the music you listen to is made in Nigeria

Wizkid

If you are currently reading this now, and eager to learn about the knowledge contained in this page, then chances are that you listen to music in many forms and are open to what goes on behind the scenes.

Music creation in this age is a sophisticated process that goes way beyond the talent and the videos on social media showing an artiste recording. It’s more dynamic, technical and if it is to be explained, it would sound like another language, akin to rocket science.

Ever wondered why images of Don Jazzy or Psquare in a studio will feature huge, impressive, and complex equipments, the likes of which you have never seen in your life, and most probably never will unless you have business that involves creating music with a huge budget?

That’s because it’s more than meets the ear, and you are right to be inquisitive.

 

Teaching you about music creation, I will be as plain as possible, exclude all the big words, and try to sound as non-cerebral as the message can allow as I pass it across.

Let’s go.

Generally speaking, an album passes through many hands before reaching yours. It goes through the songwriter, musician, the producer, the mixer and masterer.

A musician gets a feeling for a new song, after some inspiration that can come from a thousand places. It might come in diverse genres, depending on the disposition of the singer, or the specific ability of the musician. Sometimes, it’s down to genre preference, with a singer like Wizkid being disposed to pop music, or a fusion of genres.

He or she grabs a notepad (either electronic or non-electronic) and proceeds to create the lyrics. Songwriting is a skill that is rarely taught: musicians more often than not tend to write instinctively, absorbing their ideas about form and structure from the music that’s around them, and relying on inspiration for their melodic and lyrical direction. Or if a musician is well-connected and have the right amount of cash to spare, he can employ songwriters to give him lyrical compositions for him to get the right song and nail the right vibe.

 

The musician gets the song, and heads off to a producer to record. The producer acts as a collaborator and shepherd through the creative process. The producer is the audio engineer who records songs in multiple takes, usually tracking each sonic element separately. Great examples of these producers include, Cobhams Asuquo, GospelOnDeBeatz, Del B and LeriQ. These individual tracks are then delivered to a mixing engineer who combines the best takes, adds effects, and puts them back together into a coherent song.

When the mix is finished, and the single is more or less complete, it’s sent to a mastering engineer. This where everything becomes a technical blur. Many musicians only have a faint idea of what is being done at this point. The mastering engineer’s job breaks down into roughly two parts—a final edit of the music, and preparation of the files for release.

However, in layman’s terms: The equipment used by the people who record and mix music is far more sophisticated than the equipment most listeners own. Professional audio engineers operate out of carefully calibrated rooms designed to eradicate odd resonances and echoes, and their speakers cost more than your car. But since so few people can listen to a record in such a high-end environment, the music must be adapted to sound as good as possible in all the forms and spaces it will eventually occupy—7″ vinyl, MP3 files played from laptop speakers, or movie theater surround-sound, to name a few—and each of these platforms has different requirements and restrictions.

 

Laptop speakers can’t get very loud, and it doesn’t take much volume on a high or low note for them to start bleating or fuzzing; movie theaters, on the other hand, demand huge dynamic range, with big, booming bass levels. Essentially, wherever you hear music, whether it’s in your car or over the credits of your favorite sitcom, that music has been adjusted by a mastering engineer who’s thinking about the acoustics and logistics of where you’re sitting and how you might want to feel there.

In most cases in Nigeria, the mixer and masterer are the same person. The functions are lumped together and performed by a single individual or a company. Zeeno Foster, Sheyman, Mr Chdo, Suka Sounds  are some of the popular names.

Now that’s it. You have knowledge of music production. Say ‘Thank you’.

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