I FOUND REAL LOVE WHEN I MET MY WIFE--- SUNNY NEJI
WHEN the thought of who to interview during the week came to me, I didn't need to stress myself as my mind went straight to one of the few remaining musicians that could pass for a real entertainer, a crooner, one who could hold you spellbound with the microphone.
A man who could do everything Luther Vandross and Teddy Pendergrass put together couldn't do with their voices and more.
Sunny Neji needs no introduction. The mention of his name invokes sweet memories of the chart bursting song, Mr. Fantastik, released in 2001. Mr. Fantastik went on to establish the Ogoja Cross River State born musician as Nigeria's leading sex symbol.
The girls, their mothers, aunties and of course the grannies could not resist the suave dude whose songs touched the soul.
Unknown to many, Mr. Fantastik wasn't Neji's debut effort on vinyl. His first attempt on vinyl was Captain Sunny, an album he released in 1991 on Ivory music (former EMI). And so when this interview started, it began from the very top. This is the story, as told by Sunny Neji.
Captain Sunny released in 1991 on former EMI now Ivory Music was produced by Soga Benson. The master recording was also sponsored by Soga who recorded the album at his Agos studio in Apapa.
Although the music I play today is slightly different from what I did twelve years ago, I would not say everything in that debut effort of mine is missing in what I do now, I think there are few elements of that old album, that are still in my music today.
Captain was an experiment because I was young then and unfocused. I wanted to play music, but I didn't know what kind of music to play and I could sing anything from Calypso, Reggae, Hip-Hop, R&B, just anything. If you'd listened to captain, it had a touch of almost everything and was not focused.
Maybe that was why the album was not very successful, maybe, I wouldn't know. After the unsuccessful run of that album, I joined the Colours Band as their lead singer and during that time I learnt a lot and became more focused.
My learning period helped me decide what style of music to play, but I didn't let go completely, my love for R&B, Hip-Hop and other genre of music. Today you can still find traces of these genre of music in Mr. Fantastic. When I came out with Mr. Fantastic, it was obvious that yes, this young man has come of age.
You see, the moment you discover yourself, you settle into it comfortably without traces. The moment you discover yourself, you discover the formula to make things work. If I had lost focus because I needed to do what everybody was doing, I am sure I wouldn't be able to make another hit right after Mr. Fantastic. If you listen to Roforofo, you' d discover that, it's miles ahead of Mr. Fantastic.
The truth is that I opted for highlife because I discovered myself, discovered where I was good at and I settled into it.
Most of the songs I sing are either from personal experiences or other people's. The song Mr. Fantastic wasn't exactly a personal experience, but of course we all know these things happen around us and we experience it everyday. People get into trouble everyday, because they don't go about things the right way.
The best way to do anything is the proper way. So what was I talking about in the song, I was trying to discourage illicit sexual relationship. It is better to do it officially and avoid problems.
A Woman's man
There is nothing wrong with liking women, but there is everything wrong with having many relationships.
When you do, you end up hurting so many people and hurting yourself too and at the end of the day, you create problems for yourself.
Before I got married, my relationship with women was one at a time. There weren't so many at once.
I couldn't say if I ever fell in love because love is more than the ordinary. Love is more than what we feel and perceive immediately. Love is deep and you need to spend a lot of time with someone to actually love the person.
Some people and the next moment, they claim they are in love and this of course is without knowing each other very well. The moment they start getting to know each other better, they start singing a different song.
“Oh I thought I loved that person, now I've realised it's a mistake” becomes the new song.
Love is deep and takes time. Love is not on the surface.
So as to your question on whether I ever fell in love, the answer is no. I never loved, yes I liked most of the women I dated, but I discovered love when I married my wife.
Women constitute the majority of my fans. They love my music, they appreciate it. And of course, it is also understandable that I have my own fair share of these women. Some of them even fantasised about me, it happened.
At some point in time, everybody must have fantasised about somebody, but it's mere fantasies, it's not real. Like I said you don't know this person, you see the person from afar and you think you love the person with a passion.
Oh yes, I had my fair share but I was able to handle it. I was able to handle especially those who were bold enough to walk up to me, make them understand that I like them for being my fans.
Some would write letters to me, some would call me to express the way they feel about me, and things like that.
You see, I am not a very out going person, I don't go out much unless I have shows. I have friends and colleagues who go out partying and clubbing and I am sure they get more harassed than I. Look, you need to understand the kind of person that I am before you make your judgment.
Sunny Neji is a simple, straight forward person who does not pretend, who would say it the way it is, and if it is wrong he would not do it and would not hesitate to tell you it's wrong.
I guess that helped me a lot, because too many women don't like flirting with people like me. They like those who drink beer, smoke and can let go easily.
Meeting the wife I guess meeting my wife was predestined. I walked into that branch of Oceanic Bank which I had used overtime and a friend of mine,( a lady) introduced us. She comes from Ikom and I am from Ogoja all in Cross River State. We became friends and that is how it all started.
If I need to say it again, I'd say everything about our meeting was predestined. I'd just started going to church, she would invite me to hers and I'd do same. In fact it was when I started going to church that I met her.
Like I said, when we got together, I realised that she was the woman I want to marry. She had everything I wanted in a woman, honest, not selfish, open and cared about me. I cared and loved her too.
I felt she was my second part and with her I felt I needed to marry and I told her.
Infact the interesting part is that, I proposed to her in the bank. She thought it was a joke. I asked her if she would marry me in the bank, she said yes.
Choice of a banker wife
Do you think bankers have money, I don't think so. I think they work too much for what they get paid.
If anybody feels I married my wife because of her money, that person should have a rethink. I married my wife because I love her. I'd never wanted to marry someone who was idle. I never dated idle woman, because I believe strongly in that adage that says an idle mind is a workshop for the devil.
So the women I dated were people who aspired to be someone, it's always been like that with me. I don't know why, God didn't let those idle ones get to me.
I feel more responsible to my wife and child. I know that they are people who are dependant on me and I have to be responsible to them. My child especially when I am at home, she determines the things I do and when I do them.
Once she needs attention, everything else I'm doing must stop. Until she is satisfied, until I am able to put to her sleep, until something else distracts her from me nothing else matters.. I am coping with fatherhood and I thank God.
Growing up was fun. Was I born into a poor family, no I don't think so. I don't think we were poor because we were eating three square meals a day. My dady retired from the army soon after I was born here in Lagos.
We went back to the village where I had my primary school and eventually returning to Lagos in December 1978.
I didn't live with my father for too long. My parents separated while I was growing up. My mother had to relocate and I found myself shuttling between my mother's place and father's. It remained like that, until I returned to Lagos to live with my elder brother.
My elder brother was so strict that I didn't have any friends. All my friends were in school and after school, I couldn't visit anyone and nobody visited me. Maybe that's why I am an introvert. It also helped me develop musically.
My brother was a music collector, who had almost every artiste's collections. I would listen and listen and by the time I was in class three I had started writing my own songs.