Channel O Nomination Is The Icing

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With a unique sound that seeks to promote the African essence, Ade Bantu is bringing accolades to Nigeria. With his recent nomination in the 2009 Channel O Music Video Awards, the artiste believes he is on the right path.

In a chat with Reporter, Darlington Abuda, he discusses his music, other projects, the way out of the malaise of piracy as the nation clocks 49.

Were you expecting nomination in the 2009 Channel O Music Video Awards?

I was nominated for the Best Dance Hall Reggae Video category based on the video of 'We are the Water,' which was directed by a German filmmaker.

It was very experimental and I will say it is one of my best videos to date that is why I was happy to hear it was nominated for the award.

Can you give a background on the song and the video?

The song is based on two things; there is a dancehall where everybody says burn down Babylon so what I was asking was if you burn down everything what remains. If you answer pressure with more pressure, is that the solution? And at the same time I am being a bit cynical about politics and politicians, about phobias where people just basically exploit other people's fear like 9/11, fear of religious violence and so on.

Can you give us a concept into the video?

Basically, I walk around with a frame, which serves as a doorway that allows me to go from one world to another. At one point you see me in a surreal environment with ghosts around me who are invoking the spirit of destruction then the very next moment you see me jumping around on the road elsewhere. The whole idea was to work with a lot of special effects; I am like in five different worlds at the same time always moving in and out. Kind of like a ghost but with my physical form because the idea is to walk like a spirit who can transcend all barriers.

This is your first Channel O nomination. How would describe the feeling?

I never really went for the award but we sent the video to Channel O because it is my favourite music video channel, they have been there for a very long time and within this time they have tried their best to really represent Africa. What was encouraging was the fact that when we sent the video, one of the heads of departments sent an email immediately that said 'I love this video, I want to put it on rotation,' so that was a sign that we did the right thing and the nomination was the icing on the cake.

You have gotten other awards in Africa before now, why is Channel O the icing on the cake?

I describe the nomination as the icing on the cake because it confirms that I am on the right track. I never try to do what the next man is doing, musically or in terms of the visuals. I was daring and it got a nomination and that for me, is a win. If I do get the plaque that would be great but if I don't then I am still content because what I did was appreciated by those who know how to appreciate quality.

You are currently working on a new album. What should we expect from it?

The album is called Sound Clash in Lagos Volume I and basically, it is a collabo album so every single song is a collaboration with a unique artiste and it is being produced and mixed wholly in Nigeria. It is going to be my crazy Bantu style with the unique styles of great Nigerian artistes like Fatai Rolling Dollar, Azadus, African China, Sound Sultan and Orlando Owoh to name a few. It is a very eclectic album in which I try to showcase the current trends in music in Nigeria, particularly Lagos, where it is not only dance music, which I like and appreciate. But Lagos is more diverse than that with rock, fuji and juju music; I tried to sample as much sound elements as possible with the right people to get a hybrid of sounds for the album.

Why make a whole album with collaborations?

I want to learn. I always like seeing how other people compose and I have always been open to the idea of collaboration especially considering the market and the fact that the taste has changed dramatically in the past five years in terms of the audience and I think I can add my own ideas and values and at the same time interact with my peers and even the elders like Fatai Rolling Dollar, who I have always dreamt of working with. The whole idea of a collabo album is to give people a complete feel of what is happening here in Lagos at the moment, and that is why it is called a Sound Clash. The title is a terminology usually used in reggae or dancehall where two artistes compete against each other but here it is more like a friendly match; two creative people going into the studio, sharing their creative ideas and coming up with something entirely unique. Every single song will not only bring out the best in the artiste but it is going to make the artiste sound different from the way their fans may have been used to them. For example, I did a reggae song with Sound Sultan and he hasn't done a reggae song in a long time and with Fatai Rolling Dollar I did a combination of sounds that I will call hip-life.

In this day and age of piracy, how are you hoping to survive their fangs on your creative work?

I don't have problems with pirates and I will tell you why, piracy is all over the world. In Europe it is pandemic because of the internet and sales are extremely bad, same thing in Asia. Africa, especially Nigeria, has to deal with the realities. If I pay almost the exact amount for an empty CD as I would pay for a full-length album with a jacket then there is something fundamentally wrong with the system itself. So it is not about the pirates but about artistes not actually disciplining and organising themselves to create a united force. The thing is everybody keeps complaining about Alaba but the fact on ground is they gave Alaba traders the power they now have. Artistes were not patient; they went there and sold their rights for their desired sum at the time and were satisfied. They were too myopic and now it is backfiring on them and the artistes that could have afforded to build alternative channels didn't care about what was happening and that is a reflection of the total state of Nigeria.

It is not farfetched to say that the situation of Nigeria is showcased in this small micro cosmos called music and piracy. People are myopic with a policy of 'chop today and forget tomorrow.' They do not understand that creativity is about one's creative rights, protecting those rights and having a body that works. So they can go on hunger strike like I heard they did recently but it says it all when most of the artistes that are out there protesting are not artistes that are currently relevant to the popular culture itself. So, as long as the artistes are not united they do not have a strong voice. As long as artistes go behind each other's backs to negotiate deals or give out their demos to Alaba traders to put them on compilation CDs only to cry foul when they are holding press conferences, it is very hypocritical. That is what music is about these days; it is about hypocrisy, mediocrity and not about quality or longevity. I will suggest that complaints about the Alaba people are shelved while efforts should be made to restructure the Performing Musicians and Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN). Efforts should be made to get musicians educated about what music is all about; it is 85 per cent business and 15 per cent creativity or entertainment. That is what they have to get right.

How do you plan to protect your rights in your new album?

I have a distributor I am working with; it is a legit union with contracts in place. We have sat down and negotiated all the fine points. Though I am not so daft as to think lapses may not occur but we are trying to put mechanisms in place to create a bit of a check and balance situation but I am not killing myself over CD sales. A CD costs about N150, producing a CD with the jacket costs about N70 and the wholesaler buys it for about N85 and so I am making a gain of N15 per CD, that's nothing. I am looking at other avenues. I think the money is in live shows or when we start printing CDs that are the equivalent of what you buy in the Virgin Mega Store in the UK and getting people that appreciate such to buy.

What was the response of your family to the news of your nomination?

They are very proud, obviously. They see that I am doing something and it is being honoured so it makes everyone proud. They have been very supportive because being a creative person doesn't always give you the amount of time you would need for your family and loved ones so I am glad for their support and the fact that they have sacrificed a lot so that I can live out my dreams. Without them I wouldn't be who I am today.

What do you think is lacking in the Nigerian music industry that if added will make it churn out profits?

What is lacking in general is visionaries. If you look at Hollywood or at Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, you will discover that you need people who are daring; people that have a vision who can see where they will be in 20, 40 years. I think in this environment it is very difficult because shortsightedness is a given since one never knows what tomorrow will bring.

What we lack are the visionaries and the input of those artistes, whose music are the current rave, these artistes need to join hands with the others and create the right structure. It is not enough to say 'I am making N4 million per show so I can't care about the rest'. Our intellectual property is not being properly managed and artiste management is lacking and when it comes to distribution it is non-existent apart from the alternative structure called Alaba even endorsements can be far better. It is not rocket science, all we have to do is see how other markets have handled their situation and we can learn from them. We also need to train more people in the business of entertainment. There are schools where people can acquire the right skills and we need those structures in place.

Can you explain your almost permanent presence in Nigeria as against flitting visits before?

I am setting up my own structures in the country; I have gone into television and movie production. I currently have two contents for television that are quite unique. We have shot the pilots and are in the process of negotiating so I have to be around. I also set up a record label and I am developing about three artistes so I need to be here on ground to see that everything is in place. I am trying to train three people as well in the business of entertainment while seeking alternative routes for the distribution of creative works. These things are pretty much time consuming that is why I am present more in Nigeria for the first time ever in my musical career and it feels good.