I have wanted to write on this subject for a while but I have never quite been able to put my thoughts together. This attempt may probably end up as scattered incoherent ramblings. I hope somewhere in the incoherency some reason will be found (order in chaos). Change is an interesting subject. It gets mentioned a lot most especially in the field of Technology where ideas become obsolete sometimes even before there is an end product. We are well familiar with the term ‘Change is the only constant in life’. Change is a challenge and is often fought vehemently. Personally, I think the mistake people make when it comes to Change is that they try to adopt it rather than adapt to it. People don’t change, really can’t change but because Change is constant little choice is left. Those who fight change often get left behind after a long time of fighting against it. Change always wins in the end.
As one born in the late 70s I have experienced a life time of changes. Raised a Catholic, I grew up in an era where uncovered hair in Church was taboo (you will be sent out), women wearing trousers to Church was worth a sermon or two, wearing a dress or skirt that exposed a fair amount of flesh to Church was deserving of hard stares enough to bore holes of discomfort on the ‘culprit’. By my teenage years, Rap music was evil, Rock music was strictly of Lucifer (this was considered the hard core name for the evil one), R&B was worldly music (nothing has changed much for to this date). Women were generally expected to be housewives or engage in jobs such as Nursing and Teaching (mainly primary and secondary) – jobs which were considered womanly (for want of a better word). Women who broke out of the mold and became business women, Professors, Doctors where considered the exception.
Fast-forward to this day. The last time I was in Church the women were dressed in their best. Bandage skirts (I just learnt this anew), trousers, dresses lots of inches above the knee, hair uncovered every single taboo of years gone by were broken and no one was complaining, no one noticed. I find the traditional Gospel music a bit too slow in tempo so my favorite Gospel tune is that of the Christian Rock variety (Audio Adrenaline, Jeremy Camp, Avalon). Yeah somewhere around my teens there was a shift in the music industry. Rap / Hip-Hop, Rock, Blues all became mainstream genre and the ‘Gospel’ became a type definition because you had Gospel music cutting across all the genres. It made Gospel music more acceptable into the mainstream.
I recall vividly sitting in argument with a good friend of mine while he told me how if you played rock music backwards you would hear blasphemous words. I remember wondering why the heck I would try to play a tape (yeah it was the era when CDs were still a luxury) backwards and what was going on in that persons mind who made the discovery. Years later when I listen to Avalon or Audio Adrenaline (on CD) I often smile wondering what my friend would think of the music. Apparently as history would teach us, taboos are dropped over time and become the norm and socially accepted. Once it was taboo to give birth to twins and hence they were killed and their parents banished from the community, today people give birth to quadruplets with the help of fertility drugs and we look on in awe and wonder.
Whenever, I hear terms like ‘un-African’ or ‘not in our culture’ I often think ‘for how much longer’? I do wonder how many of today’s taboos will be history by the time I cross another decade. I doubt if it may be that long. The explosion of web and mobile technology plus pay-per-view TV has increased the pace of change. In my teenage years, trends took a while to get to us (friends had to come back from summer holidays which they didn’t go every year and the knockoffs would take time to be produced). Now you only have to open a YouTube video or a Facebook page and the latest trend is staring you right in the face (and you can order them online with your GT Naira Master Card!). Go to the mall and all the kids are either sporting Mohawk haircuts or wearing a riot of colors and skinny jeans all looking like Whizkid (something nice about the colors though). One may wonder the connection this may have with change until you realize that teenagers across the world now think alike. More and more that formerly ‘distinct’ African way of thinking is slowly being eroded as our teens get more and more exposed to technology and the rest of their peers all over the world.
In a couple of years, these teens will be full adults and will drive much of what happens in our society. I daresay we will be heading for the shock of the 60s experienced in the West when parents had no clue what to do with their kids seemingly unruly behavior. The signs of change are already here, Halloween is now celebrated in Nigeria. I recently came across a ‘spring break’ party and concert holding in Kaduna (on Twitter) soon our kids will be more familiar with the four seasons than with our simple rainy and dry season (and Harmattan would be mistaken for a yearly sand storm). I listen and watch (sometimes in amusement) as people complain about western influences and the need to preserve our culture. Change is inevitable; man has always survived by adapting to the changes around him. Civilizations have died, cultures have died (ask the Aztecs) and the only way to preserve culture is to adapt it to these changes. Gospel music expanded into other genres and gained more converts (both to the music and to the message). I think if we really want to keep the good things of our culture we will have to adapt them to the change that is surely coming if not here already.