by Wilfred Okichie
The super talented producer and musician who currently divides his time between Nigeria and Houston, Texas was in the country to attend to the various issues demanding his attention. As a record label boss, artiste, producer and business man, his life has been one of inspiration and his career has blossomed admirably, with hit anthems like Banky W’s Yes/No, Mo’Cheddah’s Destinambari and Djinee’s Ego to his credit.
We had an extensive chat with the gifted artiste and present you with excerpts from the interview.
You collection of work is quite formidable. How much of it do you imagine will stand the test of time and are there any ones in particular that you suspect will always be there?
I cannot say that for any particular song. Anytime I go into the studio and I try to create new music, one of my prayers to God is to come up with something that will not only work now but will still be enjoyed years later. Darey’s first album for instance, most of the songs were recorded in 2004 but the songs were released 2006. A lot of the material on Asa’s first album as well was created 2 or 3 years before release. I like to listen to my work to criticize and today I can enjoy Yes/No from Banky W or Strong thing or even Djinee’s Ego. Are there things I would do differently in terms of the sonic quality? Of course but it is generally music that will stand the test of time. I always look out for that. It is not always a question of trend but of heart. I listen to a lot of stuff from the 60s and 70s and I still enjoy them.
I sort of assumed you were going to point out Asa’s debut album as your piece de resistance
There’s tons of stuff that I have created and I am still proud off and Asa’s album happens to be one great musical moment but I think there have been many other great musical moments that have happened in my career.
You released a single of your own, Ordinary people in January. Was it a great musical moment for you?
I enjoyed working on that song and I enjoyed putting it out but I don’t want to call the experience a moment, I think it is something that is ongoing. It is the first single off an entire album and it is a journey that I am still enjoying.
When is the album out?
Very soon. I am wrapping up work on it and will be released this year.
A lot of the artistes that have worked with you from Waje to Timi Dakolo have revealed that they pay quite a lot for your quality services. Do you think this scares off talented up and comers?
Expensive is relative. I am definitely affordable and I know this because I have remained in business. Having said that, I have decided to lay low in terms of making commercial music for now but that is my own decision and it is not based on whether people can reach me or afford me or anything like that. There are loads of producers in Nigeria right now who charge more than I do and they are working. I don’t think I am the second or third most expensive producer in the country. But that is how stories fly and it is a myth. People who do not know me go by Chinese whispers and it sort of spreads. I have heard all kinds of things about me. I have heard people say that if I don’t like your singing, I will walk you out of my studio. All the names you have mentioned, I still work with them.
Well I started to charge in Dollars so I think that kind of created the expensive illusion but you don’t want to know what other producers charge.
I do actually
People charge 2 times what I charge. For new artistes I am looking for a fresh sound and that, more than money, determines our future relationship.
In your case what do you think breeds this myth?
I am not sure and I don’t think it is for me to know. I like that it is there though because it only brings serious people my way. It is a sense of value more than anything else.
As a label boss, what do you look out for when signing up new artistes?
It is having in you, music that is art, that makes me get up off my feet, music that is not the usual stuff I hear every day, music that is fresh and speaks to the soul, that gets to the core of your emotions. Stan Iyke brought that at a time when I wasn’t really searching as such.
Your life has been an inspiration for many. How have you been able to make Nigeria and make your blindness work for you?
It is how every Nigerian tries to make it work, you have a dream and you keep fighting. Having a dream is like walking on the road and fulfilling your dream is getting to your destination. I like to think of my destination. For me God is my comfort and I keep fighting because I see it in my head and I know what it should be. So every time I fight, I come a little closer so that encourages me. Now I have new dreams so I just pursue them. I have realised that whether or not I like it as a blind person, I have to work 3 times harder and the sooner you get with the program, the better. God has helped bring me to a point where sight is no longer the question but whether I can continue to bring value.
Do you draw parallels from the lives of people like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder?
There are similarities in that they are both dreamers and they both wanted music badly. Yes there are similarities but I don’t think their stories necessarily drive me. I am living a different life, different story in a different time and I am constantly trying to write my own story. I am interested in who I can become as opposed to living someone else’s shadow.
There is a lot of talk about things you cannot do as a blind person. For you, what are the things you have done because you are blind?
Well I have learnt to drive for one! I live a normal life and I do all the things I need to do. Spending more time abroad has made me a lot more self-dependent than I have always been. I like to prepare my son for school in the morning, that is exciting. My wife has been teaching me how to cook, sometimes I am the one who watches over the lasagna she just tells me how many minutes I should leave it in the oven for. I have been learning to boil rice, turn pounded yam. In Nigeria I have a cook and driver but abroad it is pretty much do it yourself so I am learning. We assemble our son’s toys together. I have learnt to be the guy who whips out the tool box and fixes stuff around the house, be the handyman where necessary and I love the feeling it gives me. I don’t know that I do them because I am blind, I do them because they have to be done. There is no time to prove to anybody what I can or cannot do.
A lot of this independent spirit can be traced back to you childhood
Correct. My mother is the most amazing woman in the world. She would send me to go and get stuff for her, my father taught me how to use a Beretta. 9mm pistol and I appreciate the confidence and trust which exposed me to a lot of things first hand.
What age did it occur to you that you were different?
Maybe 5, 6, 7 and that was only because people around me were saying it, not because I felt it particularly. My memory of child hood is great and it never occurred to me till maybe when I started considering the desire to drive.
Where there times when you beat yourself up and blamed God?
Absolutely not, I don’t have time for that. I know a lot of people who can see and they don’t have half the life that I have. I am very fortunate in many respects and I don’t take it for granted. I am a cup half full kinda guy as opposed to half empty.
Do you ever what people look like?
That is a very good question. I know what people feel like and for me feeling is seeing. I know what a human face feels like and I have a vivid impression of it on my mind. I don’t know what it is to see though.
What do you feel?
I feel what is.
If you had the chance to see just one thing in this world, what would you choose to see?
I don’t know, I would ask my wife to help me make the choice.
What do you think she would pick?
I am not sure. She might pick her face maybe but why would she? I touch her face and I think touching is greater than seeing, it is amazing to do that. Anyone can look at her face but not everyone can touch it. Touching is special.