On the 3rd of March 2022, Cruel Santino, a Nigerian alternative musician who some might call one of the fathers of the Alté movement in Nigeria, released his sophomore album comprising 24 songs which was said to be soundtracks for his forthcoming Anime.
Over the past year, several conversations have been had regarding this project. During the early months of the release, the body of work was regarded as off putting and weird and received a lot of snide remarks from blogs and twitter warriors.
Motolani Alake, the then managing editor of Pulse NG criticised the album in a review, in which he said “It’s clear that he has some grand ideas, but he doesn’t have the ability to execute them for a marriage of sonic and cinematic excellence just yet. And it’s heartbreaking because the insufficiency isn’t from a lack of effort.”
His comment was mostly found as offensive by Santino, resulting in a back and forth on Twitter from the two. But we must also consider that when his previous album ‘Mandy and the Jungle’ was released, almost the same reaction was received. It was regarded as not appealing to the Nigerian audience but in the recent years after the sonic make up of African music has experienced a huge shift, the album began to receive heavy praises. It might be safe to say that Santino is ahead of time with his sounds per season.
Santi started out as a young artist with “outcasts” as his major audience; people who felt under-represented in the world and even with the times changing coupled with his ageing, he still serves as that form of representation to the younger generation. A lot of people gain fans because of who they are and the music they put out, but Cruel Santino tells us who he isn’t and why he’s perfectly fine not being that person.
A 30 year old artist aims to bridge the gap between Nigerian music and manga? This has never been done before. One could say he’s not just making music – he’s not just another musician. The SBFH album wasn’t solely focused on what you heard and what you understand but the experience it gives you, the stories behind it, the people that were part of this album and the purpose it’s going to serve in Afro culture.
It isn’t about a genre. Santi wasn’t trying to give the people a sound that they could categorise or simply try to box. The entire point of the Alté movement is to avoid labels and not to be told what to be.
And by this standard, even after one year, one can tell that the journey of Cruel Santino’s positioning in the scene and that to his ‘Final Heaven’ has only just begun.