‘Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you’- Shannon L. Alder.
A legacy- is what the legendary entertainer and originator of the Afro Juju music genre-Sir Shina Akanbi Peters has been able to successfully build. 40 years down the line, his music is still raking-in awards and winning him accolades in Nigeria’s competitive music industry.
Decades after becoming a household name, his influence waxes stronger.
He took a vital decision at a very young age to leave his home and family to chase his dreams of becoming a musician. SSP, as he is fondly called, has no reason to regret taking the bold step as he’s etched his name in the hearts of music lovers at home and beyond.
YNaija’s entertainment reporter, Oreoluwa Peters, recently met with the superstar at his Iju home, Lagos, to talk about his rise to fame, his knighthood, sustained motivation, among other topics.
How did music start for you?
I will love for you to expatiate on this question because music is after music. Is it when I was with [Ebenezer] Obey, Adekunle or my partnership with Segun Adewale or when I created my own music?
When did it occur to you that you wanted to express yourself through songs?
Let me tell you something. My being a musician today all boils to my religious background. I’m from Cherubim and Seraphim and there is no way you’ll be C&S-born and you won’t have music in you. I think I got it from the church. At first I didn’t think I will do music but when I was about to go to the higher school then I had a dream. I heard a voice say ‘Choose one from your left or right hand’ and I opened my left one and I saw music.
I called my parents and told them I’m not going to school anymore. That was all. Nothing really inspired me. It was a call from God. I was so young, I guess I was close to 10-years-old when I took the decision. Nobody wanted to hear me but immediately I got the call, my career started. As I was walked out of the house at 2 am, I trekked from Oshodi to Olorunshogo in Mushin. I saw an hotel and I went there. When I got there, I took the drum from the guy that was playing it then and everyone was like ‘Who is this little boy that plays the drum like this?’ That’s how it all started.
What inspired you to create your own style of music -Afrojuju?
When Fuji came and they wanted to brush Afro Juju music aside and when our front runners then couldn’t do anything about it, I said to myself ‘I am a Juju musician let me see what I can do, so the genre won’t die’. I then started my research which took me four years. I didn’t do anything during that period except for my research.
Then I went to see my very close friend- the late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s show. I wanted to see what people enjoy in his music. Then I saw it was not the lyrical part of the music or the instrumentation part of the music. I realised it was the African percussion that Yorubas call ‘Omele’. Anytime he asked his band members to play that music, everybody would shout.
I went to Phase 2 opposite Ariya owned by Tony Benson. I wanted to see what the students were dancing to in the school. Then I found out that they were so into the heavy vibes type of music. Then I went to the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He told me that ‘look Shina, find the music that will suit your voice. There is nobody God has created without a voice but it’s for you to find the music that suits your voice. If you also want to sing, Shina mix Yoruba with Pidgin, so your music can cut across’.
And that is exactly what I did. That’s why my music cuts across till today. To cut it short, music is spiritual but some people don’t tap the spirituality of music. There was a time I was playing the guitar around 12 am and I saw like thousands of white garment people and I said I would love to follow them and later I got out of the trance. I then said I will not play the guitar again. Playing the guitar is too spiritual for me. I can just go like that.
So that’s how I blended the African percussion with high-life, Jazz, Juju, African beats, Akwete and other sounds to create Afro Juju. That is why no matter what anyone anyone plays, as far as you’re an African artiste you will find a trace of Afro Juju in it.
Today to God be the glory, the only idea that I added to all this is the tempo. Maybe I am a little selfish because I wanted students, Yoruba, Hausa and the other ethnic groups to like my music and it worked.
Getting stardom at such a young age. How was life growing up?
Let me be honest with you. I am just doing my thing. I’m not into music for money. I love doing it. To me I don’t feel like there is anything like stardom. I don’t believe I’m there. I never allowed the fame get into my head. I was seriously focused. I knew where I was going and I got there.
Shina Peters and his International stars have released 16 albums till date. How have you been able to pull this off?
It’s my job. I’m very energetic when I’m on stage. There are two parts of Shina. As I’m talking to you now, I’m a different person entirely. When I’m on stage, I’m different. That’s why I first told you that music is spiritual but it’s the spirituality the younger artistes don’t have.
They believe that when they finish playing, they’ll have millions of telecommunications money to spend at the clubs. When we were young too, we did the same. However, because of my strong C&S background, I am not permitted to go to the extent that they are going now.
So that is what might have curbed me. It is only in this country we do not believe in abuse. Women really dealt with me. When I didn’t even know anything about sex, they used me a lot. I still have 100 of them and I can mention their names. They took advantage of my youthful exuberance. That’s the only thing but thanks to God I was able to correct it. In my days, when you got an artiste’s house, you get to see nothing less than 4 women in the same house.
May God forgive any children of mine that has one or two negative issues because they don’t know because if they really know me they’ll know that’s how I was made.
If I see any of my children now I can die for them but if their mothers want to use that to trap me, I won’t let her. So because I won’t let her, I would offend the child. I am sure people can see what I am going through.
From your energetic stage presence to your costumes, many have compared you to the legendary Michael Jackson and many know of your fondness to the late American superstar. How did this inspiration come to be?
I know they used to say Shina Peters and Michael Jackson are similar. If you really go to MJ’s and my past, it is quite the same. We share the same birth month, we dress alike and we dance alike. If I were to be in America, that would have been the best opportunity to show myself. Nevertheless, what happened to MJ was that he was not allowed to be a street boy like me. I am very rugged while Michael was like a jelly. What killed him was that he wanted to over-shadow what he had done in the past forgetting that age was no more on his side.
Having been in the industry for a quite a long time, what are the major challenges you’ve encountered?
It’s only me and the journalists that have had problems. When they caught me in an hotel, trying to expose when I got someone pregnant. That’s all and I can’t really call that a challenge. Fela said ‘Bad publicity or good publicity, publicity is publicity’.
You once played with the legendary American singer Jimmy Cliff, how did that come to be?
Yes in London. I went to Q Club in London and Jimmy Cliff was playing. Although I was kind of underage, I found my way into the club, to the stage with Jimmy and started playing the guitar and everyone was marvelled. Although Jimmy wanted me to stay with him and tour but I said I was going back to my country.
You are a well-spoken man. What is your view on education and music?
Let me tell you this– the two goes together. You can finish with your education and then follow your career or you can pursue education and music simultaneously.
What has been your drive and motivation?
My biggest role model is King David in the bible. Motivation comes naturally. Why I am doing all this, I do not know. When I am on stage, I don’t act. As I’m talking to you, I’m myself. That’s why it’s very difficult for me to be dishonest.
What is your take on the ‘beef’ situation in the entertainment industry?
There is meant to be no room for such nonsense. We are not meant to fight each other. We must embrace ourselves as one big family. That’s my philosophy.
What are your plans for 2016?
I don’t want to say much but this year I promise to drop a bomb.
What’s your advice for upcoming artistes and dream chasers like you?
Have the fear of God. Have a conscience. Be very prayerful and fast. Be honest. If they are honest to people, they can never be honest to themselves.