‘PROMOTERS’ WANT TO MILK MY DRY - MCMAIR-SANYA
Nigerian/American singer, Janelia McMair-Sanya Is making frantic effort to capture the Nigeria market just like she has done in the US and Europe. The leader of the Soulafrique band, upon her one week visit to Nigeria last week, paid a courtesy visit to The Nation newspaper. Janelia, who came in the company of her parents was full of praise for what she described as an enviable progress of the newspaper company. Speaking with Victor Akandelater, she expressed her desire to stage a major concert in Nigeria come next Easter, the modalities for which she has come to fine tune. Excerpts:
What brings you to Nigeria?
I am here to, first of all, visit; I miss Nigeria greatly. I am also to network and meet people in preparation for a concert we are planning for next year during the Easter period. It doesn't have a name yet, but we are thinking of doing a frame around something like 'Easter Jam.'
Why the choice of Easter?
(Laughs) I don't know. Well, for one I like Easter and I do know also that Nigeria is usually very festive around Easter and Christmas, so I figured that we should have it done sooner than later, instead of waiting all the way till next year December.
So, how far have you gone with the networking and what's the result?
Well, it's still kind of in the works; we have been meeting people, talking to people, trying to get sponsors and trying to work out the logistic.
What form is your concert going to take; I mean is it going to be about your band alone, are you going to bring in artistes from abroad?
Oh yes! I'm going to bring in my band and I'm also going to be collaborating with other artistes. I will love to collaborate with King Sunny Ade because I have always loved his music, and I think the two of us will balance ourselves out since my music also has the traditional flavour. I may also be collaborating with D'Banj since he is the hot thing right now; I am also looking at having Asa and may be Ruggedman because I do have an appreciation for what he is doing right now.
So, you are looking at having just musicians who do your kind of music alone?
No, because I am also a fan of music, and I go to a lot of concerts where you have different artistes who sing different genre of music. That's why I feel that it's important for me to collaborate with people that we can balance each other out; even though we are different we still kind of balance each other out.
What do you hope to achieve with that concert?
Bringing people together, you can never go wrong with that. I think it's really going to be fun for people to just come and have a good time. My music is also very conscious and so, of course when I'm on stage I'm going to share some of my views about Nigeria. About how I feel we need to use our resources more. I'm not just going to entertain people and make them feel hyped, but also kind of enlighten them a little bit with information. For instance I noticed while I am here, there is a big campaign for people using protection against HIV/AIDS, I mean if I could incorporate that into my concert, I will definitely love to do that because ultimately, why we do music as artistes is to spread good news because music is a very spiritual thing. So, whatever angle that I find I can influence people in a positive way, I'll take it.
You haven't talked about your commercial motive. Isn't the concert also going to be another way of launching yourself into the Nigeria market?
Oh! Yes. (laughs) I just didn't want to be forward about that. I will definitely love to launch my music career in Nigeria and also really give an example of what live music really ought to be like. I think we have good musicians in general but I don't think that we have enough of performers who are doing real good live music and I think that if I do that and show Nigerians how it is done, not to sound so arrogant, I think a lot of people would take to that.
Your album is currently selling in Nigeria, how is it doing in the market?
Yeah, it's slowly but surely. It's selling well in Lagos, Osogbo, Nassarawa and that is what I expect that the concert will do; not just making impact in one region; selling CDs all over Nigeria.
Now what are the challenges you have had to face?
(Sighs) Honestly… (Laughs) people just want to milk you dry, there are instances where we took our music to some radio stations and they wanted us to pay them before they can give it air play which I think is not ethically right. I don't want to mention names. If I come to you and say Hello! I want to promote my music and you render me the necessary assistance, of course out of the gratitude of my heart I'm going to say take this, it's just a token of my appreciation to you for helping me out. I'm not going to rise to the top and let people that have helped me through the ladder not benefit from the fruit of their labour. But if I come and you say I have to pay this amount or that amount and you just want to milk me, then I don't think it's proper. I haven't said there shouldn't be an exchange or a token of appreciation but they shouldn't just abuse it or take advantage of people just because she's from America; give us money to do this; give us money to do that.
Are there other challenges?
At first I thought may be it's going to be tough getting good equipment here. Because I'm passionate about having a good sound system but I have been to places here and discovered there are quite good enough equipment for a tour or to do a show, so I'm not even bothered about that any more. I don't think that's going to be a challenge any more.
How is your band doing in the US?
We are doing very well; we do like a big festival show at least twice a month and we do local shows once a week. And then if you consider that we are an independent band; independent artistes without a label, you'll find we are doing very well.
As an artiste, what would you say is or are your unique selling point?
I got my start as a performer and I thank God for that opportunity. I never really sought out to be a recording artiste, I just happened to be at the right place at the right time; from people's likeness of the way I sing, I was asked to sing in a band and then I went from one band to another band and I was performing for about two to three years before I decided to record an album, so the performing thing is really my element and that was why I said earlier that I want to show Nigerians how it's done.
You really think that it is not well done here?
I feel like we have the potential to do better. I think when you go to shows it is not just to see some body on stage playing music; you have to have stage control, you have to have audience interaction, you have to have to have charisma; you have to put up this front that I'm the one in charge here. And when people leave your concert, you want them to feel like yeah! That was an experience worth my money; that was an experience worth my while.
How's the sale of your album doing in Nigeria? Is it impressive?
Hmn, not as much as I would love it to be, but there is a serious encouragement. My album has sold at least a two quarter of what we pushed into the market, it's just that I was expecting that by this visit I would be printing another set. All the same, it has been seriously encouraging because when I hear even the story of D'Banj and his 'Koko,' I understand it took him about nine months for his album to pick up. I am just gradually being accepted and so far, I am impressed with the turn out of things.