I sparked Fela controversy —Alafrica
By Kennedy Mbele
Your band is known as Alafrica. What does Alafrica mean?
I am from Osun State. Alafrica Borokini is a word in my dialect. It means we have Africa.
What is your background in music? You did some kind of training or you just have the talent?
I have the talent from birth. I was born with music. I don’t have any boss.
You play Afrobeat like Fela. How did it happen? Did the late musician inspire you?
It is like a Yoruba man who travelled to the northern part of the country and understands and speaks the Hausa Language. You know, a Yoruba man in the East can speak Igbo Language more than some Igbo people.
Many people thought that Afrobeat died with Fela, but here you are playing it. Why do you think Afrobeat is still alive?
When you listen to my music, you will observe that I have resuscitated Afrobeat. I play undiluted Afrobeat. Those who have listened to it can testify to this. Many are clamoring for it, more than ever. So, Afrobeat is still alive and it is not going to die.
Did you have any encounter with Fela while he was still alive?
No, I didn’t have direct encounter with him. I only visited his shrine twice while he was alive. I never had any direct contact with him.
How did you see his performance on stage?
His performance on stage was great.
How was your first album produced? And how was the reception by the public like?
My first album was titled ‘The Truth Ladder’. It is about truth. It is not easy to climb the ladder. When the ladder is set for people who say the truth, you will not get up to 50%. Majority of the people climbing the ladder are liars.
How would you rate the level of acceptance of that album by the public?
Very many people like it but most of them mistook it to be one of Fela’s music. For instance, I met people in Benin Republic arguing that the music was Fela’s until they saw me. In fact, you need the jacket to convince some people that the album is not Fela’s but mine.
Why are they so similar?
They are so similar because everything about Afrobeat is African. The same instruments such as the drums, Konga, Bata, Shekere, etc. are used. So, they are bound to produce similar sounds but the message is what differs tremendously.
What has been the prospect?
We recorded over 80% acceptance; many radio stations play our music always. People are enjoying the music but we need more publicity and patronage. The music is played outside the country too,
To what extent has your music penetrated other parts of the globe?
We have a representative in the US who says we are receiving very good responses. It also has wide acceptance in Ghana, Benin Republic and South Africa.
We learnt that you said that Afrobeat is not for a lazy man. Can you explain?
Yes, Afrobeat is not for a lazy man because everything is practical; you have to show your skill clearly. It is not a digitalized system whereby one programmes everything he needs with the keyboard and then jumps into the stage. I have 17 boys that play with me; my guitar boy, trumpeter, etc. Everything is analogue and we give it out raw. You cannot invite Afrobeat musicians to play in minor events such as child dedication or a naming ceremony. Only NGOs and large corporate bodies who understand invite us to perform live.
Has any of such organisations ever come to you for advert?
Yes, they do but we have not recorded any success in that regard.
What do you think is responsible for that?
Many sales’ representatives are so much interested in our music but their challenge has always been how to get their management’s approval. Be that as it may, we have produced adverts and jingles for some companies. For instance, the jingle Faji FM plays by 7 o’clock is our product. I am sure people love it.
What have been the challenges and how are you handling them?
Our major challenge has been promoters. They don’t promote music the way they used to do in the past. They are after money and not the quality of the product they are engaged to promote.
We have been to Alaba International Market twice and all they were asking us was money; money for them to sell our music and money for them to place adverts. Again, some of them thought that the death of Fela was the end of Afrobeat. They were surprised to see that the album was mine and not Fela’s.
We learnt that Mr Femi Falana (SAN) endorsed your music. Tell us about your encounter with him and how that has rubbed-off on your music.
We took our first album to Mr Femi Falana because he was supposed to be our legal adviser. You know, if one does not have a godfather, he can be picked up for no reason. Also, there are areas where you go beyond what you can see. He endorsed it after listening to it.
Did your encounter with Falana yield any positive result?
Yes, he advised us and recommended that we liaise with one of his sons that is into music too.
Was your meeting with Falana part of your effort to promote your music?
No, it wasn’t. We just needed his advice on the product, which he gave us.
How many albums have you produced and what are the messages you send to your audience?
My first album was titled ‘Fundamental Go Slow’. It had ten tracks, namely a tribute to Fela, Boko Haram, Corruption, the Truth, Teacher and five others. In all these, I exposed and condemned some societal ills.
Who is your role model?
My role model! My role model is not a musician but an artist. He is Professor Wole Soyinka.
Why is he your role model?
When I was in the secondary school, I read one of his books titled The Lion and the Jewels which has a lot of drama. I fell in love with the book to the extent that I memorized it, over 80 pages.
What do you like about the prof?
I like Professor Wole Soyinka because he says the truth.
What is your relationship with other musicians?
My relationship with other musicians is very cordial. I belong to all the necessary groups such as the PMAN. I welcome any of them that comes to me, but I don’t relate closely with any of them. That reminds me, some said that my album did not go viral because of my record label. I am ready to partner with any record label company that likes truth. We play undiluted Afrobeat.
Tell us about your future plans
Man proposes but God disposes. I want to continue playing music that can help build the society. Let people listen to them and change for good.
Tell us about your upcoming album
I am working on a new album titled ‘Journey together’’ in which I say that I went to see the governor with my people. When I came out from his office, my people asked me what we discussed. I smiled at them but didn’t answer their question. They said that the governor had given me some ‘macaroni’ and that I will not be telling the truth again.
How do you describe the entertainment industry in Nigeria?
I don’t know what we are entertaining by promoting immorality. We are adding to the problems of the Nigerian youths. Musicians like Sunny Ade, Sunny Okosun, Bob Marley, Lucky Dube, etc. did not sing immoral songs to become great.
Their songs reflected what was happening in society and what will happen in future. That is why some of them were regarded as prophets. People also call me prophet because the first set of Chibok girls released were released barely three days after that my album on Boko Haram hit the market. If I had money, I would have taken it to Abuja for publicity.
Do you have any other thing to tell us?
I want to appeal to promoters of music in the country to stop promoting bad music, especially those capable of spoiling our youths.
My appeal also goes to my fellow musicians, let us see how those youths already affected by bad music can be reformed through music. Let us also preach peace and not war. Furthermore, we, Nigerians, should learn to reject music with negative influence. We should stop listening to such music.
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