FAME? I DISGUISE LIKE WOMAN IN PURDAH TO WALK LAGOS STREETS â€“ OBESERE
Many years ago, he was just a struggling musician. But today, with 33 albums to his credit, fuji star Abass Akande Obesere has surely come a long way. Only recently, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola appointed him an environmental ambassador, a rare honour the musician so much appreciated.
In this encounter with Blockbuster , Obesere narrates the story of his struggling days, rise to stardom, connection with former president Ibrahim Babangida, and how he has become a prisoner of fame. Enjoy:
I never knew I was going to be a musician even though I had been playing music since my primary school days. It was after getting into secondary school that I realized that I couldn't do without music. I tried to learn some trades like printing, buying and selling of electronics and even went into boxing but all these did not work out for me.
Music, my destiny
My parents never encouraged me to go into music despite being from a home of musicians. My dad believed so much in education he wanted all his children to be graduates. But I was much more into music than taking a look at education. Though, I tried so much to go to school and my parents also did their best to make sure I was educated, it soon dawned on me that there was no way I could delay my destiny, which is music.
My parents threw me out of the house because I insisted on playing music. They realized that they couldn't stop me from following my heart desires so they sent me out of the house so as to break my resolve but it failed. Rather than being dejected, I took charge of my dream. I moved in with a friend who later relocated and left the apartment for me. I was paying N30 as house rent monthly. Whenever I came back from school, I had to go to where I was learning a trade. It was rough fending for myself but I was making some money to make ends meet and was able to save one naira daily, and at the end of the month, I had N30 which I gave to the landlord as rent. Those days were rough but I was determined.
I did not really go to anybody to learn music. For me, music is inborn; it's a gift from God. If you don't have the talent, there's no way you will do it well. I remember that then, I did not have money to sponsor myself but a musician, Alhaji Mustapha Aremu Arisejafe, who played shows every Friday at Ebute Metta, Lagos, gave me a chance to be heard. That was the beginning of my journey to fame and stardom. One day, I went to hang out where he played. Incidentally, one of his back-up singers was absent. He then asked me to stand in for him. After backing him for 30 minutes, he handed over the microphone to me and I started singing. Within a short while, people loved my music and when he came back for the mic, the crowd insisted I should play on. After that day, he took me around to wherever he went and I was beginning to get my fan base. But he soon had issues with some promoters, so he went on strike. While the strike lasted, the band boys and I organised ourselves into a group and started playing. However, when Alhaji settled with the promoters and called off his strike, he called all the boys back into the band. But rather than go back to Alhaji, I chose to start my own band. I put my own band together and went to Alhaji for his blessings which I got. I was 23 years old at the time.
Within a short while, I was playing shows in the neighbourhood and appearing on television. Soon, word began to spread that a new star was born, and within a short while, word reached my parents that I was the new music star. My parents didn't have a choice but to accept me. It happened that my mother's friends who had been seeing me on TV went to meet her and said, 'please, give this boy your blessings. People like his music and remember, he comes from a home of musicians.' So, one day, my mum came to my house at Ebute Metta unexpectedly and when we saw each other, we started crying. I ran into her arms and embraced her. It was a tearful reunion. She gave me her blessings and prayed for me. To this day I am still enjoying her blessings. I have released 33 albums to date.
Life as teetotaler
I don't drink and I don't smoke. I don't take Indian hemp either. We all have our ways of getting inspiration. I don't need anything to perform or write my songs. Inspiration comes to me very naturally and it's God's gift. That's why I am a different fellow entirely. If I get on stage now, you'd be shocked because I am like a lion on stage. But whoever takes anything before going on stage probably likes it that way and I don't have anything against them. But you don't really need to take anything as long as you know what you're doing. It's like saying that because I am a lawyer I should smoke Indian hemp before going to court. I am using this opportunity to advise young people that they don't need any stimulant to be entertainers.
On his new hip-hop fuji album
Besides being a musician, I see myself as a promoter as well. A lot of artistes come to me for assistance. Most of them I give money to record their albums and sometimes I also feature on their works. I am currently working on a project but I don't want to talk about it right now. There are things that I am doing privately that I don't need to talk about in the public. But the fact is that in anything you do, you must always brand yourself. And then you must be dynamic so that people will not get bored too soon. As an artiste, you must be professional and capable of handling any kind of occasion. In fuji, we sing in Yoruba but now the language has been fused into hip-hop. I want people to know that I am a professional and very capable. As the paramount king of fuji music, I have to prove to people that I am capable and can handle any occasion. That was why I went into the studio to record a hip hop album entitled, Double Revolution. It's a double album with a fusion of fuji and hip hop.
Prisoner of fame
With the fame I have, I can't go to places like Mushin and it is saddening. I can't get out and do those things I used to do before. But I have devised a way of moving freely. Once in a while I dress like an eleha (woman in purdah) and take okada to places like Mushin because I want to see what is happening there. I realise that I cannot go out just the way I want to and it's painful. I have to go out in a car with tinted glasses or people would chase me all over. Area boys and okada riders are always after me. Danfo drivers would discharge their passengers and come after me once they sight me. That's the reason I don't use customized number plates; it only creates problems for you.
Relationship with female fans
If there are no women as fans of musicians, there's no success. You see, there must be women because it is women that will first appreciate your music before men will appreciate it. And that's the reason you don't have to take them for granted. Now you ask me, how do I handle them? Most women are my friends. But it's not every woman you come across that you must sleep with. If any woman wants you, once you know you don't want to have anything to do with her, instead of hurting her, why don't you just let her know you want to be just her friend? If you fall for them that means you have feelings for them. Don't start what you can't end. I prefer making them friends to hurting them because I know that if I start this, I can't end it. You have to be very blunt. Sometimes I tell them that listen, 'what you want is not possible. This is the kind of relationship I can have with you.' And if they keep coming, I use wisdom to manage them because by virtue of my profession, I can't avoid them.
Gov. Fashola and I
Recently, I was made an Environmental Ambassador by Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola. I believe that there must be one or two things that they have noticed about me before honouring me because there are a lot of musicians out there who also deserve the honour. It could be my music or my personality but in everything I do, I always have it at the back of my mind that people are watching me. So, for someone like BRF to give that to me is a great honour and I believe that the reason goes beyond the music. That honour came because of my contribution to environment in Lagos State. And that is the reason the state felt I had to be honoured. I have been preaching to people through my music and promoting the environment because of the dangers of green house gasses. The world is going green and we can't be left behind.
Me, music and IBB
As a musician, I can work with whoever I like. If you become the Governor of Lagos State today and you want my services, I just might consider you. But as far as IBB is concerned, I want to state categorically that I have not received any money from him. All I know is that as a professional artiste, if anybody needs me to realise his political ambition, I am ready. All we need to do is give Nigeria a positive image; my music is already doing that. I am an artiste for everybody. My fan base cuts across the nation and all political parties. Just like TV stations advertise various products which claim to be the best because the producers are paying so too, I will sing for any politician who is ready. I am a businessman. Any politician is free to come for my services and that is the reason I don't belong to any party; I am not a card carrying member of any party. I am a musician for all the parties and who ever pays me, I will perform for.
Why should I perform for only one party? Only one party cannot feed me. Whatever they say I would do. My job is to send their messages across. It is just like the newspapers. Everybody goes to them for adverts so also politicians can come to me for adverts. Once they pay me, I will do their jobs.
Already, there's been a lot of toasting. Different politicians are trying to get me on their side and I am ready for everybody; I am just a channel. The toasting is coming from all over the country and I am in a right position to project their messages.