SATIRICALLY YOURS: Big Boss Jigga Man: The Don of Nigerian music pirates
Not many people look back to the ‘90s with fond memories. That’s because it was terrible times to be a Nigerian. The country was ruled by a military dictator whose sunshades guaranteed that he only viewed the country in one unsettling shade of grey.
Very few things survived under the oppressive reign of the military regimes. Actors only featured in movies with the titles such as ‘Living in bondage’ and the grass over most of the country turned a depressing shade of dirty brown. It was depressing times made even more depressing by one alarming fact. Somewhere, somehow, the Nigerian music industry died.
It’s hard to place when exactly the last real Nigerian song was heard. What is undeniable is that somewhere between the last Danny Wilson hit and the first Plantation Boys record, a record span of almost ten years, people simply stopped singing. What was there to sing about anyway? National heroes were being hung. The Super Eagles had been banned from playing in the Nations Cup and somehow, a million people had found time to march in Abuja in support of a “morphing cap” candidate. No Nigerian looked forward to singing and even fewer had the means too. All seemed hopeless, until someone stepped in to save the nation. His name was ‘Big Boss Jigga Man.’
Most people might be unaware of who the Big Boss Jigga Man is, but odds are there are legacies of him still lying around in their homes. Big Boss Jigga Man is the name behind the first batch of pirated audio CDs that slowly began to creep into the Nigerian market. It started out with a Boy Band CDs that could typically be bought for 300 naira. Albums of West Life, the Backstreet Boys, and Michael Learns to Rock gently began to ease into the homes of most people. These CDs appeared in many ways to be the same as the original versions, except they were a lot cheaper and they carried the signature, tucked behind, beneath the copied glitz of the album, of the maker of the pirated copy: Big Boss Jigga Man. Music pirate.
As the years went by, the influence and appetite of the Big Boss Jigga Man grew in turn. Soon, Nigerians could not only buy CDs of Western boy bands, they could also buy albums of their favourite rappers. Ja-rule was available for 200 naira, so also was Eminem, Jayz, and Outcast. With audio CDs so readily available and even more affordable, more people began to consider the option of buying CD players. Tapes were tossed out the windows and turned into strings of kites and replaced by glittering pirated albums. Nigeria, a country that had sat in silence for almost a decade, had rediscovered the joys of music. Like any half starved man would do, they dived right in without a care of the possible after-effects.
Ten years later, we are once again a nation of music. Many Nigerian artistes might hesitate to admit it, but there is no denying that the early influx of pirated CDs which began years ago, contributed in rekindling their love for music. More importantly, it opened up a Nigeria audio market where people were more willing to pay money for an audio CD, provided the price was below 500 naira-a fate that seems likely to remain for yet another decade.
As for Big Boss Jigga Man, it is hard to know what exactly happened to him. His name is no longer found on most of the pirated CDs. There are some who claim that he was arrested after he foolishly began to publish his address on the pirated CDs that he was making. A few whisper that he is currently locked in a basement by music executives where he is forced to listen to nothing but marching music and songs by Chichi of Africa as punishment for his excesses. Others suggest that he was taken out by the Chinese music mafia, who are willing and capable of creating pirated CDs that can be bought for an even cheaper 100 naira. Is any of these true? That, I do not know.
What I, however, do know, is that his story, like most things Nigerian, carries with it the dual Nigerianesque standards that the world has come to grudgingly recognise. Any nation might consider the Big Boss Jigga Man a financial piracy terrorist, but here in Nigeria his case is likely to be viewed differently.
For giving us affordable music when we had none. For triggering the rebirth and musical minds of our youth. For helping us once again find the Sound of Music. For doing all these and still remaining largely anonymous, the Big Boss Jigga Man is bound to receive our silent thanks. Big Boss Jigga Man: Pirate. Rebel. National Hero.