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"King Sunny Ade; Synchro System" from Synchro Series
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"King Sunny Ade; Ota Mi Ma Yo Mi" from Synchro Series
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Beginner's Guide to Spraying

Spraying takes its name from the literal act of pasting, throwing or spraying money on a praise singer in appreciation for their public flattering of you. As is typical among the varied cultures of West Africa, spoken words and the power of words are of paramount importance. Proverb, simile and metaphor are highly prized forms of communication, which identify both speaker and listener as eloquent and sophisticated individuals. Among the Yoruba to master words is to hold the key to power everything from mastery over nature (medicine) to mastery over fellow mankind (political power). Words are the only true expression of knowledge and knowledge is power. Therefore it is no mystery that those with a great mastery of language, culture and history were traditionally very influential.

Historically among the Yoruba this was the realm of court musicians, typically singers or drummers who would master the history of local culture, politics, families and neighboring political entities. These would be recounted publicly as appropriate at important political occasions too complex to detail here. However, the knowledge could also be used in a non-political environment for simple public social praise. A recipient of such praise would traditionally offer the praise singer a gift of thanks.

Two factors helped shape this traditional act into the modern spraying we see today. As Nigeria became an urban and contemporary society poplar forms of music and expression began to emerge, which, though originally for social entertainment, began to adopt some of the traditional forms of expression as the base of their lyrical and musical structure. Old proverbs became the bases for pop songs and so forth.  Simultaneously, a middle class and a broader upper class began to emerge. No longer was power reserved for traditional rulers and priests, rather it was shared with civil servants, intellectuals and entrepreneurs. This new elite were more than happy to share their newfound wealth with musicians to be able to bask in the praise once reserved for kings and priests. While certain forms of praise are still the exclusive dominion the traditional elite, democracy and capitalism have brought spraying to the masses. No matter your economic level or social class, in Nigeria today you can find a musician or group delighted to sing your personal praises in return for your sprayed patronage.

A Note of Caution: While it may look strange at first, spraying can become addictive and has been known to be hazardous to one’s financial health. Imagine Jay-Z, Britney Spears, Norah Jones, Usher or U-2 singing your favorite song with you as the subject matter. Now imagine that experience set to an irresistible dance beat, add a little alcohol, a bunch of your best friends . . . and before you know it, your pockets are empty, but hey look at that smile on your face.

Additional Info
The Art of Praise Singing and Grass-Roots Patronage:King Sunny ...
The Beginner's Guide to African Late-Night Parties
Examples of Praise Singing Topics
Beginner's Guide to Spraying
Glossary of terms you may hear in praise singing

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