Dear Nigerian Dancers
It is to you I address this post, and it’s purpose is to ask if you have ever thought about protecting the right to your works that you create? I have seen you in hyper-creative moments, jumping at making dance video covers of popular musicians on Instagram, you’ve become one of the reasons Nigerians buy data. All that the musicians do these days, is throw up a song for grab, while you offer your talents, time and services for free, probably you think that may give you exposure, you are even grateful when it is appropriated and exploited, you do not bother about your intellectual property, you do not ask for remuneration nor insist on a mention when you dance in these videos, have you ever wondered why Clarence Peters and his ilk still manage to brand their names on a work they’ve been paid for? You create and it sometimes becomes trendy without your name on any of the videos.
Guys. Let’s take a moment to talk about pop dances and intellectual property.
Know this. Whether you are being paid millions or nothing, you own the right to your works. When you choreograph for a music video, make sure your name is written in bold form somewhere within the clip, either the name of the choreographer or that of the company, whether it is for a movie, for a theatrical production, for a musical, for an advert, for a fashion show, for a carnival, or even when your dance becomes the object of contemplation in a photographer’s image, consider it a collaboration and sign an agreement to that effect.
Are you aware that to attract copyright protection for your choreographic intellectual property, all you need is that your choreography be both original and in its material form, and the materiality of dance can be that your dance is named, written down or documented in a music video for instance. Here I refer strictly to original forms, and in this part of the world, we know that music and dance goes hand in hand, music and dance renders visible the multiple juxtaposition that shapes daily life, in the process it becomes the relic of an archive, it becomes a code for social participation.
Let me say this in another way; in Nigeria we are social animals, and there’s always a reason to party, during these social events therefore, the people have needs for social language, which are usually articulated in body expressions, we know that the ability to express oneself within trendy musics, is almost a form of social elevation. At weddings for instance, that a bride or a groom is a better dancer, is a thing of pride, so dance for us signifies an experience that is constantly on the move because it is a part of life. Therefore, this flow of creative energy that dancers help the society to shape, equally accounts for the instability of reality, and the dependence of reality itself on the sounds, melodies, dances and social codes that domesticates it.
It has become imperative to reflect about the innovative and new ways, at which dancers are shifting and updating the discourse of music videos, of theatrical productions and other live performances, which include parties, religious gathering and night clubbing. How through their dance practice, they make it possible for the non-specialists to enjoy our dances, own them and use them, but now, we must insist that they give the credits to dancers and not singers. Make it clear that the singer in most cases, have simply jumped on an opportunity to appropriate what belongs to some nameless dancers or choreographer. Olamide isn’t a dancer, I do not doubt that through his genius renditions, he might have been instrumental in formulating the words for some of these dances, which is a noteworthy collaboration, but lately we attribute dance forms to him and other singers, as though they invented them. Why? Because the real inventors of such dances are invisible, yet these ghosts never come out of their hideouts to claim their rights.
When we look carefully upon the African continent today, in various regions, we could see new and similar trends of creative energies expressed in dance. In recent times in Nigeria, the new creative energy brought by the exuberance of the 90s babies, in the dance and music scene has brought about a constant proliferation of dance styles which are now all packaged under the umbrella of Naija Urban Dance or Naija Crase. They usually come with their distinguished styles and material forms, which are easy to reproduce, till it become part of a people’s corporal patrimony; a patrimony that is often a seamless blend of the trends found in Galala to Azonto, Alanta, Kukere, Alingo to Kwaito, Pantzula, Sbhujwa, coupé decalé, Zuglu, Yorobo, Dombolo, Makossa, Kuduro, Shoki, Gweta etc.
The latest of this being the Shaku Shaku, a clear cut innovation of the hyper creative Westsyde Lifestyle collective, a creative coalition under the head choreographer and creative director; Yemi Oshokoya. Shaku Shaku was documented and made popular in the “WO” Music video by Olamide, and have since become a thing, not only in Nigeria but in the African world.
In conclusion. Yemi, and the rest of you who are actively involved in the process of marking time, follow the footsteps of Tight eyes who have done a lot in codifying Krump dance and owning its narrative, begin to disseminate your work on platforms that you own, start becoming a brand on your own, because if you don’t, just like the number of dances I’ve mentioned above, in the near future we shall only be left with dance inventions without an inventor, and that will be a pity in 2018, where the canons of documentation are all at the tip of our fingers.
This post is pretending to be a wake up call.