By Tobias Strahl. On 19 March, 2016 Nigerian singer Àdùké and two of her fellow musicians, a violinist and a percussionist, entered a small stage in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. My first impression was that of just another singing Barbie. An artificial product in the best sense of the word as they are omnipresent not only throughout Nigerian charts. So much to my own prejudice.
More than a few people in and outside Nigeria pretend that young singer Àdùké, who gave her first public performance in 2010 only, is something like a rising star within a competitive Nigerian music scene. It is hard not to believe so, although it has to be emphasized that the common and contemporary understanding of “star” in relation to music business for sure is not applicable to Àdùké and her art.
The graduate in history and strategic studies from the University of Lagos, surprisingly, is not popular throughout Nigeria for songs of unrequited or broken love, for music videos in which she performs half or completely naked, in, on or under fancy roadsters – what is as widely as mistakenly understood as sexy.
The singer and songwriter rather caught countrywide attention with her song “Hear The Voice” (2012), in which Àdùké, in the best manner of the genre, criticizes the harsh social conditions which most of her Nigerian country fellows have to face every day. The attendant video clip fits the massage: Posing in an Occupy-Nigeria-Shirt Àdùké performs the refrain “Here the voice of the wailing masses / they are wailing for food they are wailing for water / here the voice of the wailing masses / they are wailing for light they are wailing for shelter”.
Àdùké knows how to make a guitar talk, but in her hands it turns into more than an average instrument. The six string western guitar becomes the all too well known ikon, the object of adoration and hope – and the singer with the voluminous and powerful voice is perfectly aware of that. Listening to “Hear the Voice” in a live performance is simply breathtaking. The word “performance” here meets his literal meaning: Àdùké actually becomes the rage and the beauty of her song. What appears to be slightly overproduced in the official music clip is a sound soul shaking and stirring experience if performed live by Àdùké and the small ensemble of musicians using voice, guitar, violin and percussion only. The singer unfolds such a strong presence; her being soon seems to exceed her physic appearance; the performance finally turns into a gospel. No doubt, Àdùké belongs to the old tribe of Jubal and if one hasn’t been a believer anyway he or she would have been baptized on that very evening.
Àdùké’s message as singer and songwriter is as simple to understand as it is difficult to internalize on the backdrop of Nigerian reality: “Have no fear” is the sublime subtext or open message of all of her songs. In Àdùké’s presence at least it is easy to follow.