Rema’s ‘Are You There?’ Demonstrates Growing Anger of Nigerian Youths
By Adedapo Adesanya
There is a trope that isn’t true that many music listeners peddle: they say Nigerian new generation artists don’t make socially conscious music but the reality is that they don’t listen to these songs. New school leader, Rema, might change this narrative with his anger-laced street bop, Are You There?
The track, which is one of the singles from his 2022 album, Raves and Roses, had Rema singing about youthful frustrations, inequality, hedonism, and corruption rife in the Nigerian state.
“People dey talk say na only woman I sabi talk about so leave me make I talk about am,” he starts the three minutes 13 seconds long song drawing a parallel with how Nigeria’s youths are finding solace in hedonistic appeals to subsidise the frustrations of living in a place known for its multidimensional poverty, police brutality, and worrying developmental and social problems.
What compliments a song like this better than a video that breathes life into these messages. A masterclass from arguably Nigeria’s hottest video director, TG Omori; Rema represents a light hidden under a broken bushel.
The video opens with a baby crying in a cot with a motion toy dangling above — a clear answer to the country’s epileptic power supply which has been frustrating most Nigerians alive since their birth. Rema, we see is making himself the voice of change in a shanty town, a Rooster’s Coop that a considerable number of Nigerians are trapped in.
Are you there? Are you there there there? Are you there? Are you there there there? he quips in a frustrating manner into the void with a megaphone.
Rema makes it clear that Nigerian youths are industrious and reminiscent of the courageous protest that they carried out in October 2020, tired Nigerians are seen carrying placards with messages that read every single thing that Nigerians as early as the 1960s generations have clamoured for.
Orchestrating a demonstration, Rema infiltrates a gathering of political elites. We see him stand up to authorities who have made the nation’s wealth their own. He idolizes the passionate revolutionary that we are too cowardly to be. He is also not afraid to stand up to the resulting consequences of his actions.
What does one expect of a politician who turns off the news displaying another bomb blast in a moment of joy? What sympathy do we extend to such a person who gleefully celebrates while the nation is plunged into chaos? One must reflect on this because this is what many Nigerian youths feel if anybody cares to listen.
Wake up, wake up, are you there? are you there? he sings as a politician caught in the melee screaming for his life amid the ruckus. With that action, he emerges as a justified icon and this is how the state keeps creating dubious heroes due to their ineptitude.
There is no telling who the song might have inspired but that is soon quelled as the police — the fixer arm of the Nigerian government — is seen bulldozing the shanty town where our hero emerged from. In the process, innocent people have to bear the brunt but staying true to his beliefs, Rema stays and confronts these men in black but when a police officer promises to bring down his wrath, he flees the scene and probably the country. A story we’ve seen too many times.