JUJU MUSIC IS MORE ACCEPTABLE THAN FUJI —JIDE CHORD
Jide Akinwunmi a.k.a. Jide Chord, the UK-based juju musician, who recently returned to Nigeria, spoke about the acceptability of juju in Nigeria and UK and other issues
Jide Chord of London
No, Jide Chord of Nigeria, please.
Q: Where have you been then?
A: I have been in and out of Nigeria. I am confused because a lot of people believed I was in Nigeria when I was actually in London. Now that I am in Nigeria, they don't believe that I am in Nigeria. To cut the story short, I am here, there and where God sends me.
Q: There was a rumour that you had a problem in UK and that is why you returned to Nigeria. How true is this?
A: That is news to me, although it was mentioned to me by someone recently, still, it is news to me. London is London and I don't have any blemish or problem in London. I have even represented Nigerian artistes there because I was recognised by the government of the country. So, what else do I want? I am deep rooted in UK and there is no problem whatsoever.
Q: Why did you decide to come back home?
A: Home is home. My inspiration came when ex-President Obasanjo visited UK and educated us on why we have to return home and each time I come home, I see some improvements like stability of currency, among other things. Some policies are also in place that will give this country the boost we need if properly carried out. So I want to be part of the story, more so that we are not getting any younger. I don't want to be called broda ilu Oyinbo (meaning a sojourner). Apart from that, I want to contribute to our tourism industry in the country. I have done that in England and will still do it in Nigeria. I'll make sure that my products are available in the country. Right now, I have chosen a top marketer to distribute my repackaged old products.
Q: Which of your old products, is Festival of Love one of them?
A: Yes. Others are Brown Sugar, Another Level and All for You. They will be on compact disc and video compact disc.
Q: Festival of Love gave you a break musically in Nigeria. What happened to the distribution channel then?
A: It was not properly distributed because I was not in the country then.
Q: Why did you refuse to come and promote it?
A: I was busy abroad. I was really busy because the industry was just growing then. I started it all in the UK and later, others joined the train. The pressure was so much that I hardly had time to come home, more so, Nigeria was tensed then.
Q: How is it working and performing in the UK?
A: It's quite exciting, the market is bigger and other artistes have their own share of the market I pioneered many years ago.
Q: Is that why you decided to come back home?
A: Not really, despite the fact that I pioneered juju music in the UK, home is home.
Q: We learnt that lots of you guys play at parlour parties in the UK. How true it this?
A: We don't really play at the big time concerts because at the end of the day, we are immigrants in the UK and the ground which we operate is much smaller, but it doesn't mean that we don't earn as much as the UK-based artistes earn. Besides, we still make a living.
Q: Have you played in any major concerts in the UK?
A: Yes, I have played in all the major festivals. I have that grace and by the Grace of God, I have travelled a lot and also have the privilege of working directly with the Arts Council of England. I also played in the festivals where we had hundreds of thousands of people. We do other shows. Sometimes, some of my tours were funded by the government of the UK. I found myself in a special place because I am the first juju artiste in London.
Q: What is the level of acceptance of juju music in London?
A: Well, juju music is still the choice as far as big parties are concerned and only a few people will engage a fuji artiste. But in terms of jumps or faaji, fuji music is strong.
Q: You said you want to be part of tourism in Nigeria. At what level?
A: I am not talking in terms of investment, but by playing advisory role to the government. If my proposal could be looked into, it will help the government.
Q: What structures do you have on the ground to make people believe you are in Nigeria to stay?
A: Well, I have an office along Murtala Muhammed Airport Road. My products, that is, my old albums, will be released by Bayowa Films and Records International within the next three weeks, for people who don't have the products. I am also planning to do about two and three public shows between now and December.
Q: Are you aware of the problems faced by juju music in Nigeria?
A: Juju music is not facing any problem as far as I am concerned. I know that King Sunny Ade, Admiral Dele Abiodun, Sir Shina Peters, Ayo Balogun and others are doing quite well musically, by playing at shows here and there. I understand that records are not quite selling but I can assure you that juju music is people's choice when it comes to big-time parties. Technology has also hampered the sale of our albums because a lot of people download my music from the internet.
Q: So juju is doing well?
A: Yes, but regarding sale of albums, it may not be doing so well. We are still the choice any day, any time. My advice to my colleagues is that since we are doing well in the party circuit, let's consolidate on that and forget album sale because highlife is coming strongly behind us.
Q: Can we say that the introduction of some instruments into fuji is responsible for the low patronage of juju albums?
A: We are professionals when it comes to playing musical instruments, but fuji is still popular, even more, because of its cultural background and appeal. If you are from the southern part of Nigeria, when you hear Omele drum, you will shake your head.
Q: Is that why you sang fuji in Festival of Love?
A: I love fuji music (sings) “Emi kii se omo onifuji, sugbon maa ko fuji nitori ore mi to feran fuji....” (meaning I am not a fuji artiste but I will sing fuji because of my friend that loves the music). It is very southern and rich.
Q: What was on your mind when you wrote Festival of Love?
A: I love to write love songs.
Q: That makes you like women?
A: I love the company of women but I don't take advantage of it. If a woman appreciates me, I will reciprocate, maybe because of where I come from, that is, my foreign exposure, having stayed for about 20 years in the UK. You know what I mean?
Q: You have stayed in the UK for over 20 years, what made you stay so long there?
A: Advantages that have helped me to plan my life and set some goals within a time frame, because UK is an enabling environment for seeds to germinate. It has help me intellectually, among other things. The negative aspect of it is the fact that no matter who you are, you will still be looked at as a foreigner. Although I have had contacts with government officials as part of delegations, not as Jide Chord who will want to see the minister, you know. But here in Nigeria, I am Jide Chord and I can express myself.