I HAVE THREE WOMEN –SUNNY NEJI
How does it feel winning the Artiste of the Decade award at the Nigeria Music Awards?
The award is really a big one, because you are talking about 10 years. For me to have won it, I must say that I am very happy; it is something one should be very proud about. It shows I have been consistent for the last 10 years. And not just consistent, but consistently progressive for the last 10 years.
I am grateful to God and also grateful to Nigerians who made this possible.
Do you think you deserved to have won that award? Are there not people who are really better than you?
I shouldn't be the one to speak for myself, but I think I have given my best at every opportunity. I have been consistent, and it will remain like that. I will just keep giving my best at every opportunity. I leave the rest to the people. If they feel I deserve this and they give it to me, I only have to say 'thank you.'
Are you fulfilled being a musician?
Fulfillment is a state of mind. It comes from you being happy with what you do.
I think I am very happy with what I do because, out of nothing, I make something that affects peoples' lives. Yes, I am very fulfilled because I am doing what I love doing.
Do you sing to make money or to make an impact on people's life, or do you just sing for entertainment purposes?
I sing for all the reasons you have mentioned. It depends on the song. I sing, sometimes, to direct attention to something. My inspiration can come from anywhere.
You have a new album now …
Yes. It was released sometime in August, last year. It was launched in Lagos and I had lots of dignitaries that attended the event. It is called 'Off Da Hook'. It is a regeneration of Sunny Neji. For you to be on top, you have to be at least a step ahead at every point in time.
You can re-generate, re-package re-launch yourself. You don't have to wait until things take a downward turn before you do that. You can make it your style so that people will get used to that. That is what this whole album is all about. It is still the same me, the same voice and the same performance. But there is something different.
You left the highlife that you are known for and moved to another genre…
I personally do not see it that way. It is just that it was an introduction of some new element. It is freshness that I brought into my music. If you ask me to categorise it, I'll I like to express myself the way the inspiration comes. If you tamper with the inspiration you mess it up.
We hear that your album is as successful as it is because of the kind of money the Cross River State government pumped into it?
The album was executively produced by me, Sunny Neji. Nobody else invested in the production of the album.
Donald Duke has been doing a great job for the entertainment industry in general. He has set a standard that we hope this new governor will be able to sustain or even take further.
But we hear that your 'romance' with people in high places in that state has
brought you more than enough favours.
Maybe you are talking about the endorsement deal I have with Obudu cattle ranch. But I have an endorsement with Chi industries as well.
The deal came up because they feel I have been industrious and nothing bad has really been heard about me, and I am their son. So they considered me to be an ambassador of the state. And since I am connected to the entertainment industry, they see me as a tourism ambassador of the state. It just makes sense that I am the one they considered as the tourism ambassador of the state
You said nothing bad has really been heard about you. Is it that you have lived a scandal free life?
I can't say if anything scandalous has been written about me. But I try as much as possible to live a decent life and concentrate on my work.
How have you managed to stay away from scandal?
God has been very gracious to me. I am not saying I am a saint o, but God has been good.
So you have not been caught because you have been very careful?
I don't know o. (Laughs) Na you Sabi o.
Back to your career, why did you choose to be a musician?
I didn't have a choice. There are some people who normally choose what they would become when they are growing up. I didn't have that choice. It was just music, so it had to be music. I just wanted to write songs and I wanted to sing. I was focused on it and I was committed.
Probably because you couldn't do any other thing?
Probably because I didn't want to do any other thing.
I can do anything I set my mind to do, but I just didn't want to do another thing. I didn't present myself with a choice.
In life, it's only when you have passion for something that you will stand out. If you cannot commit yourself and be focused, you will become one of the rest.
But when you are passionate, when you are committed, that is when you stand out, that is when you begin to win awards.
It is not every artiste that wins award. I am not saying they are not good. But for you to win an award, you must have done something to make you stand out and that comes from some level of commitment and God's blessings.
Your parents supported your choice of career?
I didn't have any problem. My grandfather used to be the chief in a dance group in my village. When I was a little boy, I was singing and dancing. It wasn't unusual.
When I eventually left my village and came to Lagos, I got exposed to contemporary music. Back home in the village, it was just traditional music. That is why I appreciate every kind of music. I am very open.
How come you always sing about women?
I don't know. It is just that I get inspired to sing about them most. I cannot explain why. We are not in control of the situation, it comes from above. When it comes, I take it and I do something about it.
Is it just singing about women you love doing where ladies are concerned?
I don't know what you are talking about (laughs). Anyway, in the first place, I have three women in my life – my wife and my two daughters. They are the ones I am married to. I am surrounded by women. They inspire me.
What about when you were not married?
Like I told you, inspiration comes from my surroundings. You cannot control it.
Sometimes you sing based on personal experience?
Sometime, yes. Then sometimes on other people's experience. Sometimes I draw on something I read in the papers. It depends on a whole lot of things.
The Ikebe song, was it a personal experience?
This Ikebe own seems to be very important to you, I don't understand. It is like everything else I mentioned does not make meaning to you.
But to answer your questions, the Ikebe was from a gathering. Someone said something about a lady who had that kind of endowment, it sounded very funny. I decided to sing about it.
It is somehow believed that musicians don't make good husbands?
I don't believe that.
Are you saying this because you are a musician?
No way. I am not biased. A musician is just like every other person. We all have our different temperament. If a marriage will work, it will and if it won't, it still will not. It does not matter if the person is a musician, doctor or a journalist.
Out of the three vices men are usually associated with, which do you have, or do you have all of them?
What are the vices?
Drinking, smoking and womenising.
Are those vices? Is marrying three women a vice? I don't think so. These things are very relative.
Anyway, I don't smoke. I am not a heavy drinker. I am not a drunk. I have never been drunk and fallen into the gutter.
What about women?
Women are my greatest fans. I don't run away from women. They play a very important role in our career. They constitute about 60 per cent of your fan base.
They love your music. They are more willing to spend money on your music.
They just love our music. It does not mean they want anything more. It it just that they get excited when they see us.
Has your wife ever caught you in a compromising position?
What do you mean by that?
Well, has she ever seen you carrying a babe in your car?
I carry babes in my car everyday. My dancers are babes, the people working with me are babes. I don't understand where you are going.
Okay. Do you 'toast' women?
I don't have any reason to toast a babe, I am a married man. If I weren't married, I would do that.
Were you doing it as a bachelor?
Of course, to get somebody to marry, you have to toast her.
What made your wife stand out from the lot you 'toasted'?
There are certain things that are not arithmetic, they are not mathematics. You just meet somebody and something happens and you wouldn't just know how it happened.
That was what happened when I met my wife. The more time we spent together, the more we realised we were meant for each other. So we had to make it permanent.
Has stardom affected your lifestyle?
I am no longer free. I cannot jump into a bus again like I used to. I can't walk to a bus stop and buy 'boli' (roasted plantain) and groundnut. But then, the good side is that you are appreciated. People show you so much love anywhere you go.
What is your vision?
I leave that to God. But one thing I can guarantee you is that I will do my best in everything.
Will it always be music?
I can't say. I leave that to God as well. Until He tells me to do something different, it will be music. I might not be in the forefront, but I will still be there.
Do you think you can do some other thing?
Why would I want to do another thing? If what you are doing is affecting people positively, why do you want to abandon it and do another thing?
The dreadlock, is it part of the showbiz thing?
My lock is part of the package. It is not a bad idea.