YOU CAN’T PUT CYNTHIA MORGAN IN A BOX
In an interview recently she vehemently declined the tag ‘’Female Artiste’’ because the tag as far as she’s concerned simply limits her abilities in the mind of the average fan and pre-empts the life span of her career as short lived and she’s not having any of that! According to her she’s an artiste pronto! And wants to be seen and accepted as any other male artiste. She refused to be boxed into the age long female stereotype of the weaker sex and one to be treated delicately and with caution. At first contact though her looks may likely give her away as a ‘’Bimbo’’ which means a stunningly attractive girl who is unintelligent. But on careful rumination, nothing could seemingly be farther from the truth!
Her brash and overwhelmingly attractive appearance does not help matters one bit and can only invoke nothing but the animal in any man with the intent of going at her without bothering about preambles. Her ubiquitous come hither looks of the typical red light district girls is a characteristic that haunts the men everywhere she goes. But the truth is that the tag of a ‘’Bimbo’’ is nothing but a gross misfire by anyone who entertains such possibility because in this case her looks belies a helluva pile of passion and energy that would shock even the most manly among us. By the sheer force of her actions and exploits since making her foray into the music industry a few years back, she has been sounding it loud and clear to all who cares to listen that she’s here to stay and she’s taking no prisoners. For anyone who has been following her fast rising career in the last couple of months and years would definitely not miss the fact that there is a clear warning in the air that reads ‘’You Can’t Put Cynthia Morgan in a Box’’!
Jamaican female dancehall legend, Patra was the first to introduce the female folk to the genre which was predominantly a male affair before her; it must have been a near impossible venture for a female who is regarded as the weaker sex. This is even more so as the genre is regarded as a rugged, aggressive mode of self expression for inner-city youths of Jamaica fashioned after the American Hip-hop. A peep into the lyrical content of dancehall generally would reveal blatant and unabashed anti-establishment content with all the violent and gangsterism trappings that informs the American hip-hop music which powers the fight for social justice for which the two genres are known for. Patra was able to break into mainstream recognition in her native Jamaica and indeed the world stage which includes Africa and Nigeria in particular. She became a hit among the men who find her aggressive sexual overtures appealing and exciting all at the same time and this fuelled a revolution of sorts among the few females bold enough to openly embrace her music and the fewer still who were to go into dancehall music as a career. It should be noted that society frowned on the somewhat softer sexual content in the emerging dominating pop music era of the nineties much less the brash sexual content of dancehall music.
No doubt the females had a hard time as dancehall artistes as they struggled with the inherent male domination as well as a society that wasted no time in branding them as sexual perverts and rebels. The only notable figure who proudly, against daunting odds to hold the touch for female dancehall acts in Nigeria was Lady Viper, a terribly talented toaster who gave Patra a run for her money back in the day. Lady Viper had a somewhat successful run as the only female to rule the female dancehall scene in Nigeria. She ruled every show and concert, matching the male counterparts pound for pound and her rugged and bold outlook was something that stood her out but gave her more homely female folk the jitters. She held the nineties spellbound with her compelling sound and stage antics. Other female dancehall cats that made a measure of impact also back in the day apart from Lady Viper were Lady Phlow and Bunmi Sanya, two great dancehall toasters who showed great promise but were probably discouraged by the unfortunate apathy that greeted the music especially as a woman in a typical African setting or else could not muster up the courage that helped Lady Viper survive.
It is on record that Bunmi Sanya nevertheless was the fiery female voice that supplied additional lyrics to Lt. Shotgun on the remix of his hit song ‘’Baby Jowo’’. Lady Viper stayed for a while holding it down for dancehall until she dropped out of sight and none has been able to take her place ever since until late 2012 when a certain attractive damsel with the- devil -may -care attitude and insanely talented Cynthia Morgan made her foray as a dancehall replacement for Lady Viper who took her exit a long time ago. It didn’t take too long for all the keen industry watchers to realize that we have a new dancehall sensation on our hands and the music aficionados one after the other cannot help but reminisce about the Patras and Lady Vipers of this world on account of the fast rising Cynthia Morgan. And ever since she has never disappointed as her career has recorded a phenomenal rise in a relatively short time on the scene.
The beauty of the industry is that although the trend every now and again experiences a lull which sort of dulls the trend, but yet there is a chance of surprises that stuns everyone and turns the fortunes around. Every now and again an artiste rises from nothing and quickly climbs to the top to seize the spotlight while everyone stares in amazement. The story is the same the world over. From The Beatles, Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson to 2pac Shakur, they suddenly happen on us like a bolt of the blue, make the entry in blaze of glory, pleasing us to no end and suddenly as they rose they make their exit leaving their legion of fans with memories that refuses to fade. This would seem as the norm but there is always an exception and this is where the onus of this piece lay, in the compelling presence of Cynthia Morgan which holds the possibility of lasting for very a long time.
In the Nigerian music scene, few female acts have had the privilege of making phenomenal rise, hold all spellbound for a while and left suddenly as they came while others have been able to endure for a long time and still kicking and making music still. The big deal is not in their longevity but in the quality of their art which earned for them instant attention and the attendant success. These ones are special and they seem to pick the right time to make their entry as if powered by some celestial influences. As Cynthia Morgan appeared, she seemed to have picked just the right time to make her presence felt, at a time when cats had shied away from the genre and buying into the pop/hip-hop that seemed to have taken over.
The Nigerian fan seemed to have had enough of the spineless and bland pop explosion and frantically waiting for some fresh and different sound to cling to. It was at this time that she made her entry to the roaring applause of all. Incidentally at this same time, a certain young dancehall cat by name of Patoranking under the auspices of another dancehall cat, Timaya also showed up to lend weight to the wave of dancehall rejuvenation taking hold of the scene. Another factor that has contributed to her instant acceptance is her versatility and her unpretentious delivery which has continued to excite her fast growing fan base and also thrilled industry watchers alike. Before the advent of Cynthia Morgan, the industry had already given up hope of any chance of a revival of dancehall music in Nigeria much less in the female scene. More so as we failed in the last couple of years to experience dancehall music on the international circuits where the like Shaba Ranks, Buju Banton, Shaggy of days gone by held sway. The dwindling fortunes of the genre was palpable everywhere, even though it was still thriving in its native Jamaica. Even the bubbly London circuit which boasts a generous dancehall material back in the day has suddenly dried up giving way to what is known garage music. But then hope was not lost here in Nigeria as a few roots reggae acts like Righteousman, General Sammy P are still holding it down for the genre and with the benefit of hindsight of course, now it is clear that it was only a matter of time before the genre gets a reprieve by way of a Patoranking and indeed in the female category by Cynthia Morgan.
In spite of the poor female representation in Nigerian music scene generally, there still are some local daughters who has made loud and impactful entry into the scene. Their ingenuity should be commended against the backdrop of a favoured male domination. Some of the notables are Onyeka Onwenu, Funke Celion Dion. Onyeka Onwenu blew up in with the pop explosion of the eighties and earned for herself such prefixes as Elegant Stallion and Lady of Songs which has made her one of the strongest musical forces to reckon with not just among her female folk but the male counterpart. Her appearance on the scene when she did was like a breath of air. She came as if to respond to the longings and yearnings of the people and she was accepted wholesale along with her music which met the general public on the best possible disposition. Her overwhelming influence has endured till this day influencing a whole generation of budding artistes both male and female. Funke Celine Dion is a painful and regrettable but unforgettable memory that has refused to dim after a rather long time.
In retrospect, Funke’s impact as an artiste would seem like a dream waiting to be realized or one that was never realized. Her exploits back in the day was every young artiste’s dream. She was like an apparition. She came in a blaze of glory and suddenly left like the morning due at the behest of sunlight. She might as well have been referred to as a fluke, a sort of apparition, but all is left to the imagination because the only song she gave us was a masterful interpolation of Celine Dion’s classic ‘if That Is All It Takes’’ which instantly became ground breaking hit and classic in its own right just as the original. Posterity has refused to let go of the memory of that one song or the sheer power of her personality. Looking back now Funke may well have been a ghost for the seemingly faint memory she left behind after she stepped off. Folks never stopped talking about her and the industry never stopped imagining what she would have become in time, judging from the depth of her talent and charisma.
It is no longer news that Cynthia Morgan like Patra and Lady Viper before her, offers the same if not more breath of fresh air but has repeatedly sounded it loud and clear that she’s here to stay and that there is plenty where she’s coming from. The industry is waiting with bated breath as she makes to unleash herself and bring back the female representation in dancehall genre. Unknown to many, she has diligently paid her dues doing cameos on other artistes joints and winning critical acclaim and respect from the underground crowd which is regarded as the real people. Her blatant disregard for her sex has seen her doing stuffs without fear with the male folk and winning accolades and winning more cameo spot with a small band of some not so well known artistes like rapper Jhybo who could not help but give her space to shine in quite a number of his songs which promptly put her in a sizable mainstream attention and since the she has capitalized on that to capture the right attention which would eventually give her career the needed push required and attention it deserves. Obviously she is right now in our faces and we cannot complain because we are enjoying every bit of her as she has eventually brought relief for the annoying level of mediocrity which has become the trend in the pop scene in recent times.
After Patra blazed the trail for female dancehall artistes in the 90s with a hugely successful career, many other native Jamaican females became bold enough to venture into the supposedly male terrain. A huge number of females took to dancehall in a happy mood to celebrate the transition from mournful, protesting roots reggae variant as championed by Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and the rest. Though many found female incursion in reggae/dancehall music as a bit distasteful because these so called female disciples had to get into the male mentality to get anywhere with their craft and coupled with the brash sex that was deployed and exhibited to accompany the music. Yet the artform thrived and churned out a large number of female superstars. But after Patra, the female noise dipped a little and attention as it were shifted to none other place than Nigeria where we beheld the emergence of Lady Viper who is described as the carbon copy of Patra but the reality of it is Lady Viper was a phenomenon in Nigeria dancehall circuit.
Regrettably though many of the current dancehall acts who call the shots today know little or nothing of the artiste and that is a big shame. This brings to light our poor documentary of music history in Nigeria. Lady Viper never ceased to amaze her fans with her knowledge of the ‘’patua’’ lingo as well her proficiency in toasting. Some allege that she must have had a link in Jamaica and that is responsible for her success in the genre. Although she had a brilliant run in the business, she suddenly disappeared at a time when the genre was picking up for the females and also blowing up in male category too as so many male stars had begun to appear on the scene like Blackky, Daniel Wilson, Lt. Shotgun and others. The scene had begun to look up with an obvious bright future but with just Lady Viper as the only female. Some said she bowed as a result of a refusal of other females to join the fray. While others claimed she got married and others still are of the opinion that she travelled abroad for greener pastures.
The genre for the female folk became quiet while their male counterpart had a ball until late nineties when a certain Jamaican hit the world stage with her own variant of dancehall music. For many fans, its been a long time coming. She recorded an instant success as the world had been waiting patiently for a change and she picked just the right time to make her grand entry. Her name is Diana King and her dancehall variant tinged with a little bit of pop instantly found a willing audience who had not gotten over the unforgettable memories of queen Patra. Her clever mix of pop music and dancehall was the perfect recipe and what’s more, the watered down lyrical content had just the right mix of soft sex and agape love theme that became irresistible to her legion of fan across the world. All over the world she is regarded as the most successful dancehall artiste who was able to win a sizable chunk of the highly conservative US market since Patra in the 90s. With a bit of regret though, it is safe to submit that in the history of female category of dancehall music, the genre has produced only three successful artistes and Jamaica supplies two, Patra and Diana King and Nigeria presents Lady Viper.
However, with all due respect to the genre and those unsung underground female dancehall acts who contributed their bit to the growth of the genre, we would like to state here that Nigeria is about to unleash another world class female dancehall act who is good and ready to take her place among stars. She has in the last couple of months been supplying ample evidences in that direction and keen industry watchers are busy putting notes together to hail the new queen of dancehall music perhaps not only in Nigeria but indeed the world. Her abilities in the dancehall business is nothing but monstrous and pundits are still at a loss in a bid to figure her out. Her personae and savvy has left many in a state of awe and her skill and energy is mind lowing, leaving even her male counterparts confused. Just when you smile and thought you at last had her figured out she just comes at you from a whole new dimension and leaves you breathless.
Born Cynthia Ikpomwonsa Morgan in Benin, Edo State on September 23, 1991, and Cynthia aka Marshal Morgan connected with music for the first time at age three in her mother’s band. She however at that tender age soaked a lot of musical influences that would shape her musical taste in the years to come. She grew up with music in sight and in between the years she started singing with her church choir and graduated into a back up singer. She began recording professionally in her native Benin at the age 16 and in no time she started getting airplay and interviews on local radio stations in Benin. After becoming an underground terror and regional star in her native South South, she began to hunger for bigger things.
In 2008 she moved to Lagos where her doggedness and determination saw her hooking up with some underground hip-hop cats who could not resist her unusual talent and ruggedness and of course her undeniable hunger to express herself in her chosen career. She met another hip-hop powerhouse, Jhybo who gave her early cameo spots to shine and which she did and quickly caught the attention of the hip-hop community with fresh dancehall flow which she cleverly strung on hardcore hip-hop beats. Word has it in some quarters that it was Jhybo who discovered her owing the closeness and collaborations between the two, but Cynthia used the platform judiciously to further gain mainstream attention. Ever since then she has been recording and dropping singles which has been burning the charts silly and sending her profile on a one way ticket to the top. According to word on the streets, Cynthia Morgan inspired the coming of Northside Music owned by Jude Engee Okoye which is said to have been in cooler since the days of P-Square. Evidently she is the first lady of Northside Music and the only artiste of note there.
Her purity and uncompromising stance when it comes to her art both off and on stage are some of the ingredients that put on a fast pedestal to the top. She has actually made most of the male counterparts except a miserly few to look like caricatures with pro-pop dancehall style. Also her aggressive tom-boy look has given her a great deal of acceptance and position among her male counterparts as the lone female in the game. Her versatility and breath taking lyrical skill and depth has set her apart as a force to reckon with and this has to a large degree blurred the lines between dancehall and hip-hop as far as Cynthia Morgan is concerned. Even her deliberate pop venture as we beheld in the hit single ‘’Don’t Break My Heart’’ is yet another plus which offers a lot more to say for the artiste. This are the bold innovations which she has been able to bring to bear in her art and incidentally too, these are the very foundation on which her career is built and which also serves as a constant reminder that you can’t put Cynthia Morgan in a box, period!
Describe your music career prior to when you met the artiste Jhybo and
Before I met Jhybo I was steadily recording and after the track
Run Dia mouth with Jhybo I was a bit known nationwide in Nigeria. The track gave me a wide recognition and introduced me into the music industry.
You have ventured into highlife/Pop music like you did on your hit single ‘Don’t break my heart’, also you have received great accolades as a Dancehall/reggae artiste, How do you describe yourself as an artiste and also tell us about these musical journey.
The music journey has not been an easy one. Ups and down. In all I
would say I am grateful to God and everyone that has been instrumental to
my success. I am a very versatile and distinct artist. I call my sound ”
The Cynthia Morgan sound” I do all genre but my forte is
Dancehall/Ragga/Reggae. Basically I can’t be put into a BOX. I am always on a mission and always full of surprises. The journey to my music just
started. I am taking my fans on a splendid ride.
Artistes you have featured on their songs said you have great work ethics. Tell us how you work on your songs and also creatively deliver on the songs you are featured. Also tell us all the songs you have featured on, the ones that come to mind.
Well, music is all I do. It is my business; it is all I got, so I have
to treat it as such. Whatever puts food on your table is what you should
not play with. My music is my business and as such I take it seriously.
When I record I get inspired by the beat and my environment. I bring in my
alter ego when recording “Killer Marshall” and He is a beast/monster on the Mic. I call him HE because that is exactly my recording alter ego. He goes crazy and wild, no limit nor boundaries.
Thus far, what are your highs and lows in the Nigerian music industry?
My high in the industry is a huge number of fans listening and
recognizing my craft. My low is when I felt like quitting years ago just
not knowing when I would get my breakthrough.
Let us shed some light into that controversial comment made about you. Those saying maybe you did transplant. It must have hurt badly knowing fully well that they were so wrong. Tell us about it.
It really does not hurt me, controversy comes with my music; it is
what I signed up for. The people that know me know the truth and that is
all that matters.
What is your take on the low female representation in the Nigerian music
Years ago there were only a few in the music industry, and now it
is getting better, Thanks to the likes of Tiwa Savage , Omawumi and others
that paved the way. Right now, I can boldly say the females are holding it
down, it can only get better. I am very happy that I am part of this
movement. Once upon a time the movie industry was dominated by men, but today females rule.
When should we expect an album from you and where do you see yourself in a years’ time?
My album should drop this year. I see myself as the biggest export
from Nigeria to conquer mainstream American music.
List the Nigeria artistes that make you want to work extra hard.
Psquare, Wizkid and Davido
it’s your first time on Star The Trek, what will you want to leave with the audience that will see you perform?
I am bringing in my best. My alter ego “Killa Marshall” after my
performance everyone would know, Cynthia Morgan is here to stay and of
course they would want more of me.
– Felix Smuv Abattam/Sesan Adeniji