Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Nigerian Music: We asked a mental health professional about making music and smoking marijuana


“Your favourite artists don’t need to get high before they make high quality music.”

For many years, Nigerian artists have been throwing weed into their music, and their lungs. It’s almost generally accepted that musicians have to smoke weed. While there are a couple who don’t and tell you that nobody should, many others scream about it in the music and capture their smoking moments on Instagram. For the culture.

There has never been many clear documented cases of artists expressly falling down and losing their lives to the use of marijuana. But Nigerian legend, Majek Fashek recently came out of rehab, after almost losing his life and career to alcohol and marijuana addiction. Pop singer Runtown in 2016 decided to stop smoking marijuana.

Still, despite the growing awareness of the side effects and health concerns related to the abuse of marijuana, many popular musicians continue to not only use it, but also love to showcase the practice on their social media.

A very popular photograph of many artists is one where they capture the smoking moment, with weed in the air. From Wizkid to Davido, Burna Boy and Phyno, there are photos on the internet which capture them smoking. Olamide’s album cover for “The Glory” album portrays a man about to light up his smoke.


“The truth about the immediate effect of marijuana use is that it improves your appreciation of music amongst other things,” explains Lagos based medical professional, Dr Ajayi, when I spoke to him via telephone. “This is one of the reasons why artists, musicians writers, most times indulge in the use of the substance.”

The use of marijuana is a sub-culture within the music industry, with songs written about it, and if you look closely at concerts and music spaces, you would find marijuana users all around, taking a puff, and enjoying the music. Dr. Ajayi, who studied Medicine and Surgery in Obafemi Awolowo University, and is currently a Senior Registrar at the Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos, is also a music writer for Olisa.TV. He has experience of the music industry. “It’s seems you can’t be a contemporary urban musician without using marijuana. They portray smoke in their music visuals, very thick smoke, that you would know that this is more than that of cigarettes. They also reference it in their music.”

Marijuana is illegal in Nigeria. In November 2016, a Federal High Court in Lagos sentenced a 20-year-old newspaper vendor, Muyideen Olarenwaju, to one-year imprisonment for dealing on 1.9kg of marijuana. He was prosecuted by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

In the music industry, the drug and its derivatives and multiple strains are seen as creative necessities, which aid the discovery of inspiration. A pop star, who spoke to Pulse on condition of anonymity for an earlier article, reveals that he and his friends cannot create music unless they are under the influence of weed. But Ajayi disagrees with that, stating that music can be created without marijuana.

“I say no. There are musicians who have never used marijuana and have still gone ahead to make good music, and showed consistency in their craft. The whole idea of people saying you must smoke Igbo (marijuana) to make good music is a myth.” Dr Ajayi says.


Many young artists fall for this in an industry where smoking is popular. Seeing their successful idols use marijuana, young creatives harbour the misconception that they need to tap into that level of enhanced creative state, to make music. But Dr Ajayi says there are physical and mental health implications of consuming marijuana.

“The relationship between marijuana and psychosis is well established,” Dr Ajayi says. “There’s also a huge relationship between the use of marijuana and schizophrenia, a severe mental illness, is established. Of course not everyone who smokes it will have schizophrenia, but it increases the chances”.

“Smoking marijauna also gives you all the problems of smoking cigarettes. The lack of a filter means that you would be exposed to a harsher smoke. Your respiratory system is affected, terrible coughs and respiratory tract infections. In the long term, you might also develop cancer.”

Despite all of this, many Nigerian musicians continue to use marijuana as a stimulant for creativity. And while the industry can promote it as a lifestyle and recording aid, it is totally unnecessary. Just ask Dr. Ajayi: “Artists don’t need to get high to create high quality music. It is dangerous and bad for your health.”

from - Nigeria's entertainment & lifestyle platform online

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