By late 2016, it had become quite fashionable (you may dare say ‘cool’) for people to speak with a comical, faux Yoruba accent made popular by actress/film producer Funke Akindele and rapper Falz on the hit show, Jenifa’s Diaries.
It is quite instructive that what a large swathe of Nigerians might have considered local, became mainstream in a clime where foreign accent is valuable and for which people pay to acquire.
For years, Akindele had played the show’s lead character, Jenifa — a poorly educated Yoruba girl who came to Lagos for a better life.
But it was the introduction of, and her pairing with, Falz — who brought his broken English-speaking alter ego, Brother Taju, on the show — that further pushed the series to the mainstream, creating more conversation around it and even starting a pop culture trend.
Faltering English and lens-less spectacles, Falz is a versatile entertainer, working as a musician, an actor, and recently, a TV show host — (prompting the singer/producer, Cobhams Asuquo, to hilariously sing at the AMVCA that he’d love to be like Falz, so he can ‘chop from music, chop from movie’.)
And if there was a thing like ‘EGOT’ in Nigeria’s pop culture parlance, Falz would be it, or at the very least, a contender.
Over the years, Falz has proven to be an adept marketer, having mastered the art of effortlessly creating campaigns, generating organic buzz for, sometimes, nonsensical words and movements, making it a part of pop culture – albeit, ephemeral- and then leveraging this buzz to promote his creative products.
The beauty of Falz’s marketing is that it looks effortless and unplanned, peppered with humor and feel-good-ness. And so people, without a reward, join in on the trend. This is obvious from the ‘Weldone Sah’ gesticulation/slang to the latest ‘Sweet Boy Association’ (SBA), both of which eventually morphed into hit songs.
It is difficult to say which comes first: the music or the trend? Falz begins a campaign without giving a clue that a music (product) would follow after many weeks. ‘Weldone Sah’, for instance, was seeded by Falz (and his team) and had gained traction on social media, becoming part of online and offline everyday conversation. And then, boom!, Falz drops a song and a video for ‘Weldone Sah’ – as if that wasn’t always the plan. Or maybe not.
Since the debut of his controversial Childish Gambino-inspired ‘This is Nigeria’, and the subsequent ‘Child of the World’, there have been far-ranging arguments on whether Falz is a misogynistic entertainer who seizes a moment and uses a trend/fad/discourse to his advantage or if he is a woke, politically-conscious activist/new age musician daring to go where others won’t.
His latest trendy song, ‘Sweet Boy,’ a playful anthem for men, has also caused a minor social media scuffle, becoming a pawn in the gender war that comes up every now and then.
But, still, in the face of this argument, one must acknowledge that Falz – as a businessman and entertainer – has mastered the art of marketing, endearing his creative products to many and giving us more contemporary catchphrases and moments.