The Buga Dance

By Prof. Terhemba Shija

There’s a new craze in town called the Buga Dance. It is perhaps our country’s latest and most expansive contribution to world culture. Nigeria does not offer anything in half measures.  The buga is a sonorous generic tune that provokes all sorts of dance steps, the quick, the graceful, the acrobatic, the twerkish, and you name it, all adding to the temporary ecstasy of a people desirous to escape from nagging problems.

Last weekend at a wedding in Makurdi, my wife and I were called upon by a mischievous MC to join in the buga carnival. The same MC had banished every other song throughout the duration of the ceremony and regaled guests with countless repetitions of the buga. His fuss was like the frantic efforts of  a sex-starved celibate, who may just have discovered the joy of sexuality at old age, and was making up for the time lost.

Of course, the buga has been a robust social media sensation since the young Yoruba artist, Kizz Daniel launched it in early May this year. It has continuously topped music charts across the world in the past three months of its existence. I understand that the YouTube and the Tik-Tok platforms have recorded tens of millions of viewers and also received millions of videos of people dancing buga in a global competition tagged #bugachallenge. I may not know how much that would translate to in terms of profit, but I should imagine that the 25-year-old Daniel is surely on his way to becoming a billionaire.

The buga is in many ways comparable to the baka dance of the Tiv people. Both dances are classless and are patronized by people of all ages and status. Presidents and prime ministers clamour to display their dancing skills of buga in presidential palaces just as much as jobless alaskas with little data flaunt theirs short videos on Facebook. Politicians, traditional rulers,  Christian and Muslim clerics, grandparents, the young and the old are either recruited or have volunteered to join the bandwagon. The buga bug has bitten people of both gender across races, tribes and classes  in different continents of the world, thus stringing the human race together in one contagious global fever.

The rich and the powerful, who engage in either the buga or the baka appear to me as people who commit class suicide, if you could permit the use of Marxist terms. Otherwise, traditionally, the upper class lay claim to the ownership of elitist brands like the jazz, blues, country and the likes. Same way, certain elegant traditional African music genres are associated with royalty and the praise of wealthy people. It is amazing how the buga which is obviously a variety in the genres of the vulgar and trivial, has arrested the bourgeois class. Similarly, the Tiv baka thrives essentially in the domain of the local and the poor, but has over the years ingeniously engrafted heroic songs composed for the rich by the likes of Golozo, Tondo Kumbur and Pevkyaa Zegi and  elevated itself to an ensemble worthy of the attention of powerful people. The buga and the baka are therefore, soul-mates in the cross- generational and inter-class initiatives.

Kizz Daniel is no doubt an artist of genius, but he is also a creation of the social context of the Nigerian bourgeois society where easy money comes to those smart enough to grab the reigns of power or secure inflated government contracts. The content of the song implicitly validates the existing social structure, behaviour and vocabulary in rhythms and a melody that intoxicate and distract critical scrutiny.

Millions of children of poor people are falling over one another dancing gleefully to the music that urges pampered ajebotas to wake up and unabashedly flaunt their wealth. It is cast in the same celebratory tone like earlier catch phrases like “pepper them” “knack them” “hammer” “I don get alert” circulating in Nigeria to exemplify the arrogance of the rich in the midst of penury. The buga dance is a classic self-congratulatory tune for the nouveau riche of our time. So wake up, don’t sleep. Collect your money.
Collect your money Gbera. Gbera. You suppose to jaiye, jaiye. Lemme see you de buga (low, low, low). Lemme see you (go low, low low. Buga won.

Prof. Shija is a Nigerian academic, poet, novelist, critic and politician. 

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