Where is Cynthia Morgan? That was the innocuous post on Sandra Ogbebor’s Instagram that led to the search for Cynthia Ikpowonsawen Morgan aka Madrina, the fiery dancehall Queen that tore up the Nigerian music scene with songs like ‘Don’t break my heart’, ‘Lead me on’, ‘I’m Taken’ and more. She was undoubtedly talented and knew her game as an undisputed dancehall beacon. From her colorful red hair, sometimes pink she came across with a force and fireworks. I saw her perform for the first time at Eko Hotel in the year 2015 at Headies Award. She was nominated for and won the Best Reggae/Dancehall Act category but her performance that night was more the story for me. She stepped on stage and produced a well-coordinated electric and eclectic performing showpiece. It was an electrifying 10 minutes as she ripped the stage apart with so much confidence and her male dancers complimented her greatly. After the performance, I ran into her backstage and said, ‘that was an amazing performance, I’ve never seen this much energy before live and my best of the night’. She gave a genuine smile and responded, ‘Thank you very much, I really appreciate this’. However, a few years after this encounter, things went totally downhill for Cynthia Morgan. She was expected to go on and consolidate after claiming the Headies Award that year, but the drums gradually petered into silence.
Cynthia Morgan was signed to Jude Okoye’s Northside Entertainment, she shot into limelight in 2013 and continued an upward curve in 2014 with her two singles ‘I’m Taken’ and ‘Popori”, which enjoyed massive reception. By 2015, she was one of the hottest female artists on the scene. She looked all set to be a dominant force but 2016 saw no music from her and dropping Madrina in 2017, the record did not get much attention. Then began a downward spiral that continued until she fizzled out of the scene. Appearing on Sandra’s live, which took quite an effort, she looked gaunt, emaciated and broken. Where was the fire dripping, patois spitting dancehall Queen of years back? She opened up on the issues in her life, chronicling her label issues, battle with depression and how she went broke and had to move back to Benin. It was a sad story that also opened a can of worms with accusations flying left and right. It is a pattern that is a recurring issue in Nigerian music with examples like Kennis Music vs Jaywon, Triple MG vs Iyanya, GWorldwide vs Kiss Daniel, Tinny Entertainment vs Ycee amongst many others. Artist hooks up with Label, drops a few hits makes progress then all goes down south and the subsequent mudslinging. Watching the Instagram Live interview would bring mist to your eyes and you feel compassion for her, but she made grave mistakes.
As an artist, you need the services of a lawyer to peruse everything you would sign. Cynthia Morgan revealed she did not even read her contract before signing it and many artists have ran into problems by signing contracts they do not understand. Artists most times before the fame are desperate and would sign anything placed before them even if it is slavery written in beautiful hand. That initial comfort, the Tokunbo car, the two-bedroom apartment is heaven compared to the conditions they are coming from. So, they hurriedly sign anything placed before them without considering future implications. Every artist signing a deal needs the services of a lawyer, entertainment lawyers abound in Nigeria doing a good job. Artists take deal without studying contract and sign just because they get a little comfort but along the line, they get bigger and feel like the label is shortchanging them. It can’t be shouted loud enough ‘Get a Lawyer’. It is as simple as that and it helps you to avoid stories that touch in the future. Both Label and Artists need lawyers so both parties fully understand the legal implications of what they are doing. Apart from this, also establish proper means of arbitration on these contracts. Some Label contracts are tantamount to signing your life away as some label execs are downright evil but having a lawyer would save you. Other times, artists are the main evil in these Artist/Label relationships but when the matters get into public space, the label becomes evil because of the love of the fans for the artist.
Fame is really underestimated, and it has been the downfall of many. It is like a drug that comes with its highs and lows. Plus, there’s no way to accurately gauge how an individual would behave if/when they get famous. Labels invest a ton of money in talents and many labels have lost huge amounts of money that can never be recovered. Record Labels inject huge cash that not even artist’s family can put on his career and there is justification if they try to make their money back. There is no guarantee you will make your money back, if you invest in music in Nigeria. It is a huge risk as there’s a lot that goes into getting an artist mainstream, a lot of money spent that may never be recovered. Many erstwhile Label owners have almost run into depression for losing vast sums of money. A lot of the times, during these spats when label claims they have spent this number of millions.The artist would be like no, it can’t be, but truth is you need an endless pot of cash to promote an artist in Nigeria and anywhere in the world. Entertainment lawyers are as essential to the music industry as any other actors and the main players need to recognize this. Artist would always need Labels and vice versa and with a good lawyer both parties would understand the full legal implications of what they are getting into. For Record Labels, sometimes when an artist profile obviously becomes bigger after signing, it would be good to renegotiate contracts to reflect artist new status. Give him a little more so you can recoup your investment with a new contract that shows the worth of the artist currently. It’s of no use when a talent is grounded, you still won’t get your money that way. Artists would always get the compassion but would fans ever donate to a Record Label that goes bankrupt?