MY WIFE IS A PASTOR â€“ RYMZO, REGGAE ARTISTE
Not many Nigerians care much about reggae anymore since the advent of hip-hop and rap music, but for the ardent follower of Jah music, the name Rymzo says a lot as far as reggae music is concerned in Nigeria.
At a time when most people feel reggae is old fashioned, Rymzo thinks otherwise.
It will surprise many to know that the dreadlocked rasta man is married to a full time pastor in the Lord's vineyard.
In this exclusive chat with Sunday Sun, he talks about reggae as a music genre, how he escaped the assassin's bullet, his new album, his roots and a lot more.
You have been away from the reggae scene for sometime now. What is happening to you? Are you on break or have you stopped doing reggae?
Well, I am not on break. I'm working. I am a producer and also a businessman who tries to do other businesses because music has not really given me the money I want. I derive all the money I put into music somewhere else and come back to do what I have to do. Frankly, my album is ready, but I am just searching for the right person to market it where I can get my money back, because a lot of millions has gone into the album. So, I need somebody who I believe can get me my money back before the album can be released and that is what is delaying it.
What's the title of the album and what's it all about?
The album is titled Salute Jah. It is dedicated to The Almighty for all the favours He has done for me especially saving my life in 2008 when somebody tried to take it. That's what it is all about. It has 29 tracks and I featured artistes like Tuface, Raskimono and the Jamaican legend, Cocotea.
Reggae music seems to be going into extinction, what is responsible for this?
Nigerians love this bandwagon kind of a thing. If you properly check our artistes, you will find out that most of them are basically reggae artistes as you can feel from their rhythm but because of the society they live in where everybody wants to be commercial, they feel that reggae is not commercially viable. But that is wrong, because the kind of music they see as commercially viable is Nigerian music or hip hop.
The truth is that reggae is very commercial. It depends on how you give it to the people. Like me, every time I release an album, people rush to buy it. Another thing is that youths of today lack depth, they don't want to sing songs that will teach people lessons. Everybody wants to sing about how to pop and drink Hennessey champagne and money kind of thing and all that.
Generally, you can do that with hip-hop. You can't be doing root reggae by boasting. Root reggae always puts you in check, makes you want to speak consciously, teaches someone something even if it is not that conscious but you talk about life and natural experience. But today, most Nigerian musicians are carried away by material things. That's why they chose the genre that they think is up there or that is commercially viable.
What do you mean by reggae not being commercially viable?
The truth is, reggae is commercially viable. It's wrong to think that reggae is not viable, because if you check, you see that most of the vibes they do today, like when I came with my rock n roll, is what everybody is using today. If you check Nigerian music right now, they are basically derived from reggae music.
So, reggae music is one of the most commercial music to the blackman, to Africans but Nigerian youths of today are not ready to learn. They lack depth; they don't know what they are saying. So, when they look at the mirror, they see that they dress good and they just try to talk about how good they look or how well dressed they are and it is only hip-hop that gives room for that.
What are people like you doing to revive reggae music?
We have been doing a lot. Since I came into the industry you cannot say that my music is not on top. If you are counting 10 Nigerian artistes even in Europe, I'm sure my name will be there even though I have not released in five years. It's a fact that reggae music is up there. It's just that I need more soldiers, more artistes to release their works with quality so that even when I am relaxing, there is another reggae artiste on the scene.
That's all you need , because today, if one hip-hop artiste is relaxing, there is another one to heat up the stage, but we have very few reggae artistes who actually do reggae. So when people like me are relaxing, everywhere is silent . That's why it looks like reggae is dead but it is not dead. Reggae is really big around the people in Nigeria.
How did you get into reggae?
I grew up with it. I was born and raised with it. It is a music that African people were always tuned to, so I was raised with it. I don't have any other choice. In fact, I have never lived in a house where highlife was played. It was when I was independent that I started listening to Makossa. That's what gave me an idea of what highlife is all about. So there is no way I can deviate from it and besides, I am a Rasta man and reggae music is Rasta music. It is music that arrests my soul and I think I can express myself better with reggae.
Does that mean your parents love reggae?
Yes and I am sure your parents do too and indeed all Africans are reggae lovers. You know there was a time when the only music you heard was reggae. You heard U-Roy, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and the likes. So, imagine people who were born at that time and who grew up on it. You cannot blame them for being reggae lovers.
Youths of today grew up on hip-hop and so you can't blame them when they go and do hip-hop. But there is a whole lot of lovers of reggae music. I know my fans who have been following my work. That's why I know that reggae music is reaching the masses.
What gives you the inspiration to sing?
It's The Almighty who gives me inspiration, because I spend a lot of time meditating. So, He tells me what to say. I also sing about what goes on in my society. I can't sing about too much money because I don't think I have too much money. What I think I can sing about is what I do and that is giving thanks to the Almighty Jah, blessing Him for sparing our lives and teaching people how to be patriotic and loyal. Those are things I see every day in society and sing about.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up all alone. I never grew up with my parents. I have never really known my father. The only parent I know is my mother but most times I never spent time with her , because she was married to another man. So, I grew up alone, basically in school, but it was okay. Maybe, that's what made me a serious minded person or a person who thinks a lot.
Where are you from?
Well, I'm from the Niger Delta. I have families in Edo State as well as in Bayelsa.
I represent Nigeria. I'm one of those who hate the word tribe because that is one of the big problems we have in Nigeria. I represent Nigeria. Even if I'm from the Niger Delta, I just want to believe I'm a Nigerian. I don't want to identify with any tribe, because I think I'm bigger than any tribe as a Nigerian. I am a Nigerian and that is what is most important for me.
Whether I am from Edo or Bayelsa, I don't want to represent anybody. I represent Nigeria and that is my wish for all Nigerians. Goodluck Jonathan is from Bayelsa, and I know people from that place expect him to do something there. What about building the country as a whole? That's one of the problems we have in Nigeria.
If we are too concerned about the state we come from, we cannot be patriotic or loyal to the country and like the national pledge said, we must be loyal to the country. So, I don't represent any state, I am a Nigerian. I was born in Lagos. I could say I'm a Lagosian. I'm a typical Nigerian who has roots in Ekeremo Local Government of Bayelsa State and Oredo Local Government Area of Edo State. Being born in Lagos equally makes me a Lagosian. So, what else do you want me to say to the people?
What is your assessment of the music industry in Nigeria today?
The industry has gone far. It's doing really great right now. It's just that we still need to do more. Musicians need to start learning how to do music the right way. A lot of people are more concerned with fame. The whole world is recognizing us now. When I go to Europe and say Tuface, everybody knows him, not just Nigerians. So, that is a big one for us. It means Nigeria music going far.
Today's hip-hop or rap music makes less meaning unlike reggae, which always has one lesson or the other to teach. What does the trend portend for us as a people?
That's why reggae is still close to the hearts of many matured minds. If you listen to the album of a real reggae artiste, there will by everything - party songs, love songs, songs that deal with the government, songs that talk about neighborliness etc. Reggae music gives you room to express yourself and be down to earth and be grounded because when a man is grounded, that's when he thinks and meditates.
When you're too spoilt with luxury and material things, you don't remember the conscious part of it. So, materialism and consciousness don't work together. Even if you have the material things, try to ground yourself, so that you speak full gospel with the things of The Almighty Jah and speak to the people. If all you sing is luxury, then you can't remember people who are suffering, you can't remember people who are walking on the street. So, how can you talk about it?
Compare contemporary music and that of yesteryears in Nigeria?
Today's music is more hi-tech but we just need to work on the content.
What challenges do you face as a reggae artiste?
I'm finding it hard to get a nice label to work with, because as an artiste who does other things to survive and fund my project, I need a strong label to handle my stuff. Also, the industry has to be organized in such a way that people get royalty for their works. Those are the challenges , because I have done a lot of big stuffs but I don't get any royalty, I don't even get acknowledgement at all.
How many albums are in your kitty now?
I have already released two . The one I'm about to release will be my third album.
What is your first album all about?
It's titled Take mediocres out of the stage. It was released in 2005. It features rock n roll and Congo people.
In 2006, I released another album titled Mysterious. I talked about Alaba marketers but it never really got out well , because I hadn't enough money to push it out to the people. This third album is titled Salute Jah. That's why I am taking my time to ensure that I get the right person that will get it out there properly.
Tell us about your closest shave with death?
Some people came and shot me and thought I was dead, so they left. I was actually dead but Jah made me survive and that was on September 18, 2008.
Why, did you quarrel with anybody?
I didn't , but I know that as an artiste or a person who lives for himself, who doesn't give a damn about what people think or feel about him, you are bound to make some enemies. Sometimes, speaking the truth can offend some persons, telling lies can offend other persons including singing some kind of vibes.
For instance, sometimes when I am on stage, I lash homosexuals and lesbians… those kinds of evil. I lash politicians who are not doing the right thing. So, a lot of enemies can come from all angles. But the Bible has said that we are not fighting against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. So, whatever you say can make an enemy for you without your knowledge.
Did it dampen your morale?
No, it didn't. It just showed me that I'm doing something. It showed some people are watching me. It showed that I am putting the right message to some people. It just made me a bit more conscious. I was too free before but now I stay away from too much freedom. I mind the kind of friends I keep so that I don't die prematurely.
Are you married?
Yes, I'm married with a daughter. I got married seven years ago, before I released my first album.
How do you relax?
I just meditate or I check Facebook. Facebook has become a real good friend. A friend that chastises you when you're wrong and blesses you when you do the right thing. I just meditate, drink some juice and check Facebook.
How did you meet your wife?
I met her through a friend in church. She is actually a pastor. She is from Oguta in Imo State, but she was born and raised in Warri.
How close are you to your daughter?
Quite close. She is my best friend and she is three years old.