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Abisola Alawode: 9 Lessons Nigerian Musicians Can Learn From Prince

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The world is currently mourning the death of star musician, actor, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Prince Rogers Nelson aka Prince. The prolific pop star endeared himself to many through not just his music, but also through the way he conducted himself in the entertainment industry. Below are some lessons to be learnt from the career of the man referred to as ‘The Innovator’.

Discover what it is you want, early
Since the young age of 7 when he wrote his first song, Prince always knew the direction he wanted his life to follow. He constantly released demos that were not successful until he had his first hit at 19. Since then, he never looked back. Nigerian musicians these days all want to ‘blow’ instantly. Forgetting that it took the most successful artistes decades of hard work and determination to get to their present positions.

Create your own identity
Prince understood that he was the only one in charge of his own identity so all he did, his antics and the way he carried himself were all geared towards maintaining his identity as Prince. In fact, he was able to carve a niche for himself so recognisable that anyone who chose to copy his style without his blessing would be called out immediately.

Know your craft
One thing that set Prince apart from other musicians was his understanding of music. While it is not known if he underwent any form of formal musical training, his reputation as a multi-instrumentalist was never in doubt. According to Wikipedia, “His singing abilities encompassed a wide range from falsetto to baritone and rapid, seemingly effortless shifts of register. In addition to this, Prince was considered a guitar virtuoso and a master of drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, and synthesizer. On his first five albums, he played nearly all the instruments.” How many musicians today can boast of playing one instrument not to talk of two? Learning to play an instrument gives you more depth as a musician in an era where performing with your CD playing in the background is considered ‘normal’.

Don’t be afraid of controversies
Over the years, Prince never shied away from controversies. Instead he somewhat courted them. According to Tom Leonard of Daily Mail, “He loved to spark controversy, posing naked on the cover of a 1988 album. He wrote about masturbation on one song, which so upset Tipper Gore, wife of the then US Vice President Al Gore, that it moved her to set up the Parents Music Resource Centre to monitor ‘pornographic’ lyrics in songs. This in turn led to the creation of the ‘parental advisory’ sticker for albums.

Re-invention is the key to longevity
Prince started his career in the early 60’s and till his death in 2016, he was still considered relevant in the music industry. How did he manage to stay relevant? The answer is quite obvious. The word ‘boring’ could never be attached to Prince’s name. He constantly re invented himself. Music critics rapidly found it almost impossible to categorize Prince because his style changed not just from album to album but from song to song. Prince delighted in showing off his dazzling musical versatility. He also went through a stream of stage names and personas including Jamie Starr, Joey Coco, Alexander Nevermind and, simply, Christopher. Whatever he called himself, his feminine features including dark eyes, huge eyelashes and a flirtatious smile, made him a huge hit with female fans.

Being eccentric helps sometimes
Everyone agrees that Prince was eccentric. He often indulged his love for the colour purple, using letters and symbols for words, and famously renaming himself ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’ or just ‘The Artist’ – one of his supreme acts of pop star pomposity. Regarding his name change in the early 90’s, he stated that “The first step I have taken toward the ultimate goal of emancipation from the chains that bind me to Warner Bros. was to change my name from Prince to the Love Symbol. I was born Prince and did not want to adopt another conventional name. The only acceptable replacement for my name, and my identity, was the Love Symbol, a symbol with no pronunciation that is a representation of me and what my music is about.”

Never settle for less
Unlike so many pop stars, Prince was nobody’s fool when it came to handling his financial affairs. Said to be worth $300million, He fought fiercely to protect his creative independence, battling with his record label over control of both his material and his name. Appearing in public during his legal battle with Warner Bros, Prince would ram home his point about record company sharp practices by inscribing the word ‘Slave’ on his cheek.

Keep the fans and every other person guessing
No one could guess Prince’s next move. Well, except those on his team. Even they were not privy to full details of his plans. Was he black or white, gay or straight, a party-loving extrovert or a shy recluse? For decades, not even his most devoted fans could make up their mind. While this may not work for everyone, the fact remains that a little mystery concerning yourself and your career wouldn’t hurt.

The ‘God’ factor is important
With all his eccentricities, I’m sure most did not know Prince was a devout Christian. He was also a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He also went on various evangelical missions knocking on people’s doors in suburban Minneapolis to discuss religious faith. Religion informed every part of his life.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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