Folarin Falana, popularly known as Falz, got a lot of accolades for his This is Nigeria song and video wherein he lamented a number of social ills so effectively CNN reports that he held a mirror at the Nation. But many in the Muslim community are unable to place his show of a group of girls, on hijab and jeans, dancing with him.
The song, which is actually a cover of Childish Gambino’s This is America released earlier in the month, saw Falz lamenting the Nation’s social issues, but unlike Gambino, his lyrics and depictions were clearer and his message could be heard by all as they came in the simplest and most understandable of language and tone.
From the artist listening to a radio set, the video depicts a man, dressed like he is Fulani, playing local guitar until he stands up, get’s a matchet and kills someone with it, Nollywood style of course.
But verbally, he begins with lamenting how celebrities are treated, saying “just because I am on tv now, person when no get work is checking to see if my watch is original”.
Quickly he addresses the missing JAMB money which was said to have been eaten by a snake, as he shows a depiction of Madam Philomena, as he calls her, picking money around a snake.
Just after someone drinking codeine walks by, he goes into the issue of recession and how looters and killers are still contesting elections. At this stage, about 6 young girls on hijab, one with her hair attachment hanging out, could be seen with him for the second time.
While walking pass more addicts and a mockery of Big Brother Africa, a voice which imitates the call for donations and tithe by Nigerian Pastors could be heard. Understandably as the next verse begins with an allegation of sexual exploitation by Pastors even as the girls with Hijab again appears, dancing.
The ladies at the centre of this complaint continue dancing as the rapper goes into power problem, the difficulty of making ends meet and the lazy youth controversy. For the first time, he talks about Fulani herdsmen and a number of obviously-not-Fulani youths dressed like Fulanis jump on set with machetes.
An ambiguous statement about democracy and a continuation of his criticism of advanced fee fraud as well as SARS oppression and bribery quickly follows, all depicted. The Inspector General of Police “transmission” speech ended the narrative with voice-overs taking the video to an end.
Art, Insensitive or Misunderstood?
While some, especially the youths who are exposed to such information, from the Muslim community have described the use of hijab in dancing on a pop video as insensitive and disrespectful, others who sought to defend Falz have explained that it is just art.
Just art as a defence seems to fall short of the background of the production which is that it is an imitation of an already made job.
In the original video by Gambino, gun violence is illustrated by the shooting of a man sitting on a chair just like Falz’s version. Falz seems to have replaced the murderer with a person wearing a Fulani attire. A church shooting was also depicted in the original video, but in Falz’s version, the church has a different issue which is extortion and molestation. What is established is that he imitated the American video as much as he could and only introduced new issue peculiar to Nigeria, yet depicted in the same way Gambino did his. This may explain why he had the girls on hijab.
In Gambino’s version, he is seen doing almost the same dance with school kids, another impression on gun violence, this time in schools.
Worthy of note is that Falz did not mention the Chibok and Dapchi girls abduction. This may be what he tried to depict in the video using the teenage girls on hijab, dancing with him as did school children with Gambino.
But ACADIP strongman, Bashir Lucas, disagrees with this position, in a piece on his KnowIslam platform, saying
“If they represent the Chibok girls, their dancing shaku shaku makes it very ridiculous like girls twerking in Charlie Puth’s “See You Again”.
Yet, in Falz’s defence, Africans dance in bad circumstances including burial. Africans, yet not Northern Nigerians or Muslims. Muslims also generally do not listen to pop music as it is strictly forbidden to listen to songs with wind and string instrument. It is also forbidden to listen to vain talk and songs, and by some interpretation, this includes songs with positive messages if they are done by a usually vain artist.
As a result of this, Falz’s depiction of girls in hijab dancing was not seen by many as just a localization of Gambino dancing with American school kids, as many do not even know who Gambino is, and are not interested in knowing.
A silver lining?
In the narrative about Boko Haram, fifth columnists have suggested that it is an attack against Christians done by Muslims, in the sense of the general Muslim community, but the facts show otherwise as the group emerged from a predominately Muslim State, was fought by key government officials who are Muslims, including the then President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, and has taken more Muslim lives than the lives of others as the bombing of Mosques filled with worshippers is a regular occurrence.
While the Chibok girls were mainly Christians because of the location of the attack, the Dapchi girls were almost all Muslims.
Falz’s depiction of Muslim girls as victims of Boko Haram would be well informed in the light of this, but the dance steps did not help, especially to those who do not see it as a mere imitation of an earlier work.
A more meaningful picture, to others, would have been a Boko Haram leader doing the dance while the innocent girls stayed innocent. This would have told the story of how immoral the leaders of the sect actually are.