African music icons of previous generations, such as Fela Kuti and Miriam Makeba, were and are well known for their ability to speak truth through music. They’ve also inspired many across the world by revealing political realities in Africa through their art and in their lives. Today however, the various national scenes enjoying a boom across the continent tend to accommodate musicians with a pop shine and carefree hooks in order to survive in a global commercial industry. This has created a vacuum in the pop space for socially-aware musicians. Enter Nigerian band VILLY & The Xtreme Volumes, a group who strives to open the world’s eyes to the political and social realities of the continent through a catchy and danceable repertoire.
From their EP Let’s Play released in August comes ‘E Dey Pain Me’ an Afrobeat track with soulful melodies. VILLY cries ‘How you go chop and clean mouth and talk say it good, how you go treat your people like say we b fools’, questioning corrupt systems in Africa. ‘Mama’ covers stories of insecurities and jungle justice that takes place in Nigeria. In this song VILLY talks about rape, attacks on students in reference to Boko Haram, theft by government officials. The message of Gbolaka (gunshot) is clear, “it’s time we start fighting and it’s time we start demanding for our rights.” VILLY suggests that a corrupt act by government is a gunshot at the people and that it’s time the people reclaim power from corrupt leaders. ‘Make Me Mad’, takes people on a frenzy whenever the song is performed. The song is fast becoming the group’s signature revolution song and was recently featured on BBC World News.
In their live performances, such as the one above, VILLY name drops leaders and officials who are thought to have acted or are continuing to act counterproductively toward the betterment of their nations. VILLY & The Xtreme Volumes are on a crusade to champion their cause and are taking the message straight to the people. They might just be that spark that is needed for African Pop to reawaken its political roots.