Falz’s ‘Child of the World’ – The rest of the message

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

If I were to count the Nigerian artistes and entertainers I absolutely admire their craft, Folarin Falana a.k.a ‘Falz’ would most likely be in my top-five pick.

Maybe I’m partial to him because we are products of the Law (first). But it is better attributable to his persona, his purely comedic character, and the sheer creativity he invests in all his musical and dramatic productions.

My admiration for Falz is also tied to the how he weaves in lessons around societal issues into all of his songs, even the most comedic of them, and raises conversations on these issues.

For example, in “Wehdone Sir” he cautions against people who live false lives. And in his widely acclaimed cover of Childish Gambino’s “This is America” (in his case titled, “This is Nigeria”), he touches on a myriad of the issues plaguing the Nigerian State.

But this is not to say that his art has not garnered its own criticism. Personally, I have had my reservations with some of his work. Such as in “Something Light”, where the background beat is eerily similar to the 1997/1998 hit “Dangerous” by American rapper Trevor Smith ‘Busta Rhymes’, making me worry whether copyright issues may arise from the catchy Nigerian hip-hop song.

And even though “This is Nigeria” aptly promotes the discourse of raging societal issues, I have wondered if (1) Falz under-estimated the ability of Nigerians to appreciate subtlety in the lyrical formation, and (2) whether his depiction of Gambino’s masterpiece strayed too far from the concept of “fair use” in Intellectual Law, such that actual permission should have been sought, and if indeed such permission was sought.

But that is discussion for another day.

Most recently, Falz has released both audio and visuals for his latest piece “Child of the World”, which depicts the evolution of a church girl into a ‘Runs Girl’.

For my non-Nigerian readers who have failed to keep Nigerian friends (and daily miss out on  the beauty of Nigerian jollof), ‘Runs Girl’ in Nigerian parlance refers to girls who are involved in what may be regarded as ‘soft’ prostitution.

Runs Girls may (or may not) have regular day jobs, do not stand on the streets and are often deemed as highly sophisticated, with ‘regular’ lives. The synonymous factor with prostitution is that bodily satisfaction to other persons is often exchanged by them for financial favours.

Falz’s video of “Child of the World” opens with the beautiful Bamike Olawunmi (of Big Brother Nigeria 3) portraying the protagonist; a first-class graduate, who is raped by her uncle.

While uncle’s retribution is only in being called “Agbaya”, without so much as a slap on the wrist, the rape pushes the protagonist on a downwards spiral, which leads to her becoming a Runs Girl (despite her prayerful mother), and eventually leading to her contract HIV, due to her lifestyle.

The song and its video passes a powerful message: the truth that HIV is not a death sentence. Also, at the close of the video, there are typed messages to the effect that the victim of rape is not at fault, and providing support lines in Nigeria for victims of sexual abuse

However, for the kind of audience that Falz commands and the positive messages he has come to be associated with, it is my opinion that he missed an opportunity in this piece of art to pass other equally powerful messages.

Rather, the song and its video continues to push established stereo-typical narratives, which do little to help the reality on ground.

In the first place, this song promotes a stereo-typical narrative which most of us grew up with; that Runs Girls end up which HIV, and/or being barren due to numerous abortions, and/or being alone and unhappy.

But we all know those ex-Runs Girls in excellent health, with happy marriages, who simply feel the whiff of breeze from a baby sperm, and automatically birth octuplets.

Of course, this post is by no means a promotion of the lifestyle of Runs Girls. Rather, the aim is to point out the single narrative pushed by this song and stigma attached to persons living with HIV/AIDS, that the ailment is (righteous) retribution for past sexual choices.

The sad reality however is that HIV may be contracted from the most ‘harmless’ and mundane sources, such as the careless share of a needle in a salon. Or as a result of being transferred to an innocent spouse, by a philandering significant other – such as uncle Agbaya.

There is also the pity-party narrative this video espouses, that poor life choices are as a result of earlier unhappy events or circumstances beyond our control. Hence, the protagonist became a Runs Girl because she was raped, thereby, choosing to live the rest of her life as a ‘victim’ of that singular harrowing event.

But this is not often the case. Good choices can still be made, despite unkind circumstances which may have precipitated the need to choose. Equally, bad choices can be made, wholly exclusive of preceding unforeseen/unhappy circumstances.

I understand that Falz can only do so much in a 5-minute video. But that is the whole point in the rising expectation we place on creative artistes, of which the likes of Beyonce and JayZ keep delivering on their art.

We expect our creative artistes to keep pushing boundaries, and breaking stereotypes. “Only so much” is no longer enough excuse for mediocrity.

It is preferable to paint the whole picture, rather than paint an incomplete picture, which only tilts towards a particular narrative with its catchy tunes, while failing to raise consciousness of co-existing narratives, which though not equally emotionally appealing, are of equal importance.

Perhaps, properly painting the entire picture would have required a 7 to 8 minute song/video instead. Or perhaps, it could have simply been a 3-minute song and video which showed what ought to be THE proper narrative:

A narrative in which uncle Agbaya is arrested, prosecuted and aptly sentenced for rape.

A narrative in which the survivor becomes a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) despite the rape, without her ever having embarked on that needless journey of being a Runs Girl.

Even a narrative showing the protagonist’s choice to be a Runs Girl without any preceding rape or assault, yet, having enough sense to ensure the proper use of protection with her ‘customers’, and keeping from being cursed with the world’s second scariest disease (the first being Cancer)

But I am realistic enough to understand that for commercial purposes, the adopted narrative is the narrative which is easily the most cost-effective, for the intended audience. 

Hence, the prejudicial spin is perpetrated. And we remain stuck with artistic narratives similar to the stuff of which Tyler Perry (Madea) and “agbara nla” movies are made.

(No shade, I adore Tyler Perry!)

In all, I appreciate Falz and how he continues to raise consciousness and provide platforms for discussions via his music, the type as is ensconced in this post. While I continue to hold him in admirable esteem, and look forward to his future works, let me by this post, complete the messages which his “Child of the World” omits as follows:

1. Upon being reported, perpetrators of Rape will brought to book and visited with the justice they deserve.

2. Rape is not the end of the world. The victim need not remain a victim after that day. With immediate health checks, proper counseling and a support system, one can move on and have a beautiful, healthy life ahead.

3. Not everyone we know living with HIV lived a ‘questionable’ life. Even if they contracted HIV through condemnable lifestyle choices, it is not our business, and does not warrant any form of prejudice or stigma.

4. Stay away from questionable lifestyle choices. Not necessarily because you will contract a deadly disease. (In this day and age, you should have enough sense of your own to stay protected)

Stay away because one day, you will wake up and realise that you could have been far much more than who you ended up as, if the time and resources had been properly invested.



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Photo-credit: From the video, "Child of the World" by Folarinde Falana ('Falz')
Videos: Courtesy of YouTube

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  1. Yas!!! I agree to all the points you made. In all let us know that we have power over our lives. People might try to project or even infect us with negativity but we need to have enough mental white blood cells to fight them off. We need a high mental and spiritual immunity against attacks from the devil and his agents. Irrespective of whatever happened or happens we can make right choices. And if we stray, we can come back to the light as long as we breath. Thanks sis for this.

  2. phew! where do i start from? it was a long one but i ensured i read it to the last letter. i was tagged on this video posted on IG by someone that knows that i am an advocate of mental health with depression as my focus, the video i watched was from the part where she tried to jump into the lagoon, in my head, a depressed girl wanted to commit suicide but luckily did not. that video is multi faceted, different lessons in one. however, your point was very clear and indeed correct. the usual narrative of women ending up with HIV after a reckless life, and boy! were you right about the plenty runs girls that are not only happily married but are great mothers and awesome professionals. infact i am still of the opinion that good girls are the eventual 'jonsers" anyway. you are a fantastic critic, writer and of course an intelligent Nigerian. shallom

  3. Hahaha@ "agbara nla"...kudos to you for bringing out the unspoken message of the video...

  4. I believe Falz told the story from a perceptive. There's no how he can tell the whole story in different perceptives in one song. So I don't fault the song and how Falz delivered it. Let someone else tell another part of the story the way they want it.

    1. That's why he is a creative. He should find a way to tell the story through the factually correct perspective. The problem is Falz has done it, and he has all that popularity. He sets us back some more years, before the song would have waned enough for someone else to not be tagged copycat.

  5. Sunshine, it's a difficult subject frankly. Walking the thin line between NEVER blaming the victim + also cautioning people on safe behaviour is almost impossible. It's interesting you mention Tyler Perry. Have you seen his movie Acrimony? I like the guy but that movie is a class act on terrible stereotypes. Let me stop for fear of spoilers. Oduenyi

    1. It is a difficult subject, but a clear one. 1. The victim has been blamed long enough. Now, let's also shine the spotlight on the perpetrator. 2. If we must sell commercially appealing stereotypes to make hits, at least, let's get the truth right. HIV is no longer just a reward by 'Karma' for "bad behaviour".