Segun Arinze set to release new album
One of Nigeria's better known actors is set to return to music, the calling that brought him to the attention of a lot of people in Nigeria. But ask him why he is returning to music after so long in acting and he insists that as an entertainer, he's just doing his job.
“ It's not a matter of going back to music. I've always been a singer. When I say entertainment it's all encompassing. Music, movies and writing is entertainment. I don't like it when people dub me a singer turned actor or actor turned talk show host. It sounds silly because you're an entertainer; you're an entertainer. You're an entertainer and your job is to do everything that comes from entertaining, whatever it is. I've always been an actor. I'm a trained actor. Long before I started singing I was already an actor. Singing was just another aspect of the talent God gave me. I'd done some movies and stage plays before I started singing.”
He tells how he first got into music.
“ Singing was just something that came by chance because Tony Okoroji wanted to do the Nigerian Music Awards and he wanted it to be big so I suggested a theme song and he gave me the go-ahead to do it. I wrote it with Kingsley Ogoro and sang it with his wife Ese. After that everybody said why not try singing. Before that I'd been singing on jingles and things like that.”
Arinze says the album will be part of plans to celebrate 20 years in the entertainment industry.
“For me celebrating 20 years as an entertainer is a big thing but I'm going to leave the workings of the celebration to those who are going to be packaging it to see what they will do with it. For now I'm keeping lips sealed and let them do their work. There's no point making a lot of noise and at the end not coming out with anything. If it works fine, if not we continue to trudge on. On the album, I'm already in the studios; I'm working with a lot of people. Sammy Okposo, Albert Kalu and Kingsley Ogoro and a host of others. A few friends are also going to be singing with me on the album. Sunny Neji, 2-face will be on the album. I'm inviting Ollie Gee and Black-face as well. So probably the album will be called Segun Arinze and friends.”
Nwanyi Nganga was the biggest hit on his previous album and Arinze says he hopes to resurrect it in this one.
“Nwanyi Nganga is definitely coming back, the re-mixed version. I'm not going to waste that song but you'll be hearing a very different sound from it, something very unusual. I didn't do enough with that song the last time around. We are really going to play around with the song but we are keeping the R&B flavor and everything.”
Talk show host
One other aspect of his portfolio as an entertainer that has so far been seen is his prowess as a talk show host. He hosted No Holds Barred on television for sometime before it was laid to rest. He says he had his reasons for putting aside the show.
“ I hosted No Holds Barred for quite sometime and I'm planning on bringing it back soon. There were a lot of politics involved in the setting aside of the programme, a lot of politics that I would rather not disclose. I'd rather let sleeping dogs lie and repackage the show and bring it back on air.”
A time for rest
At a point in his career in the movie industry, fans heard more than saw Arinze because of his involvement in voice-over work for films. His was the voice behind every other movie promo. Was it an intentional action or was it strictly by chance?
“Doing more of voice over was a conscious effort on my part because I wanted to rest myself for a while. I decided I was not going to do trashy movies. Also there was an attempt to put me in a certain mold, to stereotype me, so that when there was a need for a bad boy in a movie, everyone automatically looked for me, whenever you have people carrying guns and all that. I tried very much to avoid that. First and foremost, I'm an actor. Granted, there are certain roles I might not be suited to acting, but there are a lot of other roles I can act. I see myself as an actor, not as a stereotype. I tell people I'm a character actor. Even when I find myself doing bad boy roles, I try not to act the same way in two movies, so you still have something different. It got to a point that I said I wasn't going to act those kinds of movies. Others have done it and succeeded, why shouldn't I? Sometimes an actor needs to challenge himself. It's not to say I won't act those roles again, but only if the script is good, not just for the heck of it.”
Too much love
He also had another reason, which was the industry's lack of originality.
“Also coupled with that was the fact that at the time producers were all into this love love thing. They did the love thing so much that even love started complaining. First it was comedy which graduated to buffoonery, then to slapstick. Then we started epics and that came and went. That's the bandwagon thing that is in the industry. One person does a film and it makes a little money and everyone rushes to do more like it. They've done it to love so much that love has crashed. Now everybody is groping in the dark trying to pick the pieces of love. Is love the only thing in the world? There are other issues to be discussed. Politics, life in general. So it was a conscious effort on my part to rest myself, do other things. I do public relations when I have the time. It puts me at a good advantage because I can go away for while and repackage myself and come back refreshed.”
On the current confusion in the industry on the banning or not of some of his colleagues, Arinze insists it is a non-issue.
“Did they tell you they banned anybody? Did any actor show you any letter saying he was banned? Did the marketers bring out any letter saying they had banned anybody? Look, let's leave this ban issue, it will sort itself out. Everywhere in the world actors and producers always quarrel and they settle. The issue will go away. It's like sharia, it will go away.”
For him, there are certain things that need to be changed if the home-video industry is to go anywhere.
“We still have issues like piracy which is killing the industry. For that we need the help of the government to help stamp out piracy. If they wanted to do it, seriously it would not be so hard. Piracy is everywhere in the world but it can be reduced to the barest minimum. America did it with the Chinese when they were killing their industry with piracy. They used diplomatic means to tackle them. Also our marketers need to be more creative in terms of marketing films. Now people sell 10,000 or 15,000 copies and they are happy, in a country that has over 100 million people. Who says we can't sell up to 1 million copies at least? They should open up new avenues of marketing so that the industry can grow more.”
He however sees some indications that the industry is growing and will soon shed some of the impediments holding it back.
“Some of our movies are going to be showing at Silverbird cinema very soon. That means more people will get to go and watch Nigerian films. More people will be going to the cinemas since you can't take any kind of films to the cinemas; the quality of our movies will improve. It will be a kind of renaissance for the film industry. You dare not take trash to the cinema houses. We are beginning to get intentional recognition, which is good. Our actors are beginning to travel out to meet people to work with and Nigerian movies are getting airing at international film festivals. Definitely these things will help the industry to grow.”
Arinze has been the butt of many a comedian's jokes, from some about his looks or lack of, others about his relationships. But he says he never lets them bother him.
“They're having fun, let them go on. I was at Basorge's show sitting on the front row when he said, “celebrities marriages don't last if you doubt me ask Segun Arinze.” It doesn't bother me. If it keeps me in the news, no problem. It shows that I'm respected and liked. The fact that they make jokes doesn't mean they mean to hurt me. When I also go to do my own shows I also blast them back. If you hit me today tomorrow it could be my turn to hit you. The whole idea is for you to be a good sport. It's all entertainment. That day after Basorge's show I went back-stage and hugged him. In fact he had told me that joke to my face before while we were playing around on our own. The fact that they mess Michael Jackson doesn't mean he is the way they say he is. It's all fun. Why will I get angry because someone said a nasty joke about me? It's just a joke. It's a different thing if he confronts me personally or at my house then I know that he is looking for something else.”