I picked the ‘Mouth Organ’ from my brother who died in plane crash – D’Banj
D'Banj is Dapo Oyebanjo signed on to Mo Hits Records and the object of many young women's wet dream. He is Most Promising Male Artiste of KORA Awards (2005), Hip Hop World Award Revelation of the Year (2006) and Artiste of the Year at Nigerian Music Awards, London (2006). With two nominations at the forthcoming Channel O Music Awards in South Africa and brand new singles, he is definitely not about to stop making hits. The 'Koko' master confessed to Olumide Iyanda how his worried mother took him to a pastor when he insisted music was his calling. 23rd September
Tell us about your days with JJC and 419 Squad
Let me correct an impression. I was a member of Backbone Music, not JJC and 419 Squad. The group was under the Backbone Music label, so was my producer, Don Jazzy and I. I toured with JJC and 419 Squad for sometime because they were very big in the UK and they had loads of shows. I gained a lot of experience from hanging with them and from going on tours with them. That was up until September 2004 when Don Jazzy decided to start his own label. He was the one that produced JJC's album; he even produced their KORA award winning song, Kilonsele. He called me up to be the first artiste on his label and I took it up as a big privilege. We did the No Long Thing album in no long time. It was ready in two weeks and we came back home because Nigeria was getting big in the entertainment industry.
Would all this have happened if you had not gone to the UK?
What else did the UK do for you?
I had always wanted to go abroad. God answered my prayers and I went abroad. I gained exposure and had a lot of experience. I saw that it's not all that glitters that is gold. I also found my root. When I met Don Jazzy at Backbone, the tracks I played for him were R&B and pop, but he told me that wasn't my line. He told me I was an African, the Koko master. Maybe I wouldn't have found my calling if I had not met him in the UK and I would have stuck to a style that is not me.
When did you leave Nigeria?
I left Nigeria for the UK finally in 2001. It wasn't very easy when I got there. I met JJC around June of 2002.
What were you doing in Nigeria before you left?
I had done some jobs before leaving Nigeria, but it was not easy doing a full album. OJB Jezebel produced my first few jobs. My first single was actually titled Kiss Me Again and we shot a video. I featured Rugged Man on it, but it didn't gain much airplay because I left shortly after we finished work on it. I remember it was No. 5 on MBI 'Top Ten Countdown' back then. I have always loved music and when I got to the UK I found my calling.
Is it true that 'my papa say music no be food'?
Yes. My dad is in the army and my mum a deaconess. They wanted me to finish the Mechanical Engineering I was studying at the Lagos State University, but the passion for music was too strong. Besides, we were always going on long strikes in the school and it was actually delaying me. My people wanted me to stay behind and finish school, but the music was like a burden in my heart. I ended up not listening to them. In fact, that was one of the reasons I had to travel; because I didn't have freedom here in Nigeria.
Is the encounter with the pastor in 'No Long Thing' a true story?
It happened exactly the way it sounds. My mum took me to the pastor because she was confused with me saying music was my calling. I won't mention his name, but I went to see the pastor and he said I should go back to school. The part where the pastor said the mouth organ was a kid's instrument happened around 1997/98. I wanted to play the instrument so badly in the church because I was a member of the youth choir, but he said it's for children and he's been playing it since 1989 and I should go look for something good to play like a guitar or drum.
Why the choice of the harmonica?
Harmonica, mouth organ or agbado, you can call it anything; my late brother used to play the harmonica. He died at the age of 17 in a plane crash. I was 14 and in secondary school then. Part of his luggage they brought back was the harmonica. He was at the Nigerian Defence Academy training to be a pilot. He used to play gospel tunes with it. When he died, the harmonica was one of the things they brought back. I picked up the instrument and started playing it. No one taught me, but I believe his spirit guided me, no long thing.
Did it bring back any bad memories then?
It didn't bring back any bad memories. He died a born-again Christian. He also died rescuing other people, and my mum actually saw it. I know he is in a good place and it's part of the reasons I am doing very well.
What was the inspiration for your song 'Mobolowowan'?
is a true-life story of many Nigerians abroad. It is not easy surviving in a place that is not home, and you find yourself doing many things you ordinarily wouldn't do. I found myself in that situation in London. Some of my friends were into this credit card (scam) thing and I remember the stories of how they got busted. Sometimes you will leave just seconds before they get busted and that was kind of spiritual to me and I knew it was God that rescued me from that kind of trouble.
What about the women?
I found myself meeting many kokolets, but they were not called that then because I was not yet the koko master. They were lovely ladies, but I don't know, all of them just wanted to marry me. Whenever I said no, they either called up the police or caused one trouble that made the police come over. And you know abroad, women and animals have more rights before men. I am like a voice to every Nigerian man abroad; every day we bolowo (escape from) all these desperate women and kokolets. The fact that you sleep and wake up is enough reason to be thankful. When I find the right woman, I will not bolowo e (escape her) and she will not bolowo mi (escape me).
Who is a 'kokolet'?
A kokolet is a well-endowed woman that is responsible. A man cannot be a kokolet under any circumstance.
What is your specification in women?
I have many different kokolets. I cannot specify now, because if I do, some of my kokolets may leave me. But, like I said, she must be a well-endowed woman, responsible and beautiful at heart.
What has happened to you since you came back to Nigeria in 2005?
God has massively promoted us. We have also gained a lot of respect. I cannot say we have gained fame, because fame is like our middle name now. God has been gracious, merciful and we give all glory to Him.
Were you talking about a particular girl in 'Ask Me' when you sang about 'omoge panpala'?
I think we have to ask Don Jazzy about that. It was his concept. A friend of ours, Kween, listened to the song before it was released and she was judi-ing (shaking her bum) and we decided to feature her in the song. It is basically about women loving us for who we are, not the amount of money in our pocket or what we are going to give them.
How often do girls tell you, 'D'Banj, I wan buy Gucci'?
Although I'm wearing a Gucci slippers right now, I'd rather buy for my wife, not just any girl that comes along.
Do you think you will get a wife with all these 'kokolets' around you?
I will definitely not be like Fela who married 27 wives, but I will find the right one. Maybe you can help me find the right one. Once I find the right one, I will marry and my other kokolets will become below the koko.
How many of your 'kokolets' want to marry you?
Which one do you want me to mention. The ones in London, America, Nigeria or South Africa?
Tell us about Iya Dapo?
She is the number one mamalet. She is my financial manager. She is now in love with the music and is supporting me on her knees and in every way. She is the best mother and all I can say is that she is very proud of me.
There is this video of you performing 'All the Way' at Whitehouse and some girls were shaking their behind in front of your mum. What did she say when you got home?
It is more or less, what did my dad say? That was the first time he would be attending my show. It was the launch of my album and they saw a bit of what we go through. What I wanted to do was show them a bit of what we artistes go through. All they said was let business be business and pleasure be pleasure.
You usually grab your belt when you say 'no long thing'. Is that statement about your belt or what is under it?
'No long thing' is not about my belt. It means no long story, no long promise. If you like me, don't front. If you like my music, buy it. We titled the album 'No Long Thing' so that when people see it they won't be saying which one is this. Buy if you will, like it. Concerning that belt and below the belt, that comes to a long thing and the only long thing must be a strong thing.
Is it like that for 24 hours?
With a kokolet opposite, you must be on the ready.