I’m not a gospel singer — Alabai, Voice of God
Barely a year done in his solo career, Alabai is no doubt a brilliant dude. Rising from FESTAC town, Lagos, the breeding place of music icons like Tu Face Idibia, Faze and Black Tribe, to mention a few, his musical sojourn began with a group he formed in 1995.
Called Def O Clan, the group was among the first groups to step big on hip hop in the Nigerian scene with singles like 'Kilo n so?' and 'Countdown' to their credit. After a disbandment that saw Azadus, another member of the group, step into limelight with a solo career, Alabai- then called Naughty Viper- has today followed suit.
In this interview we interact with this deep voiced individual on the success of his first single 'Voice of God' and who never thought he'd play music again following his band members separation. His video has survived elimination on your Voted Top 7 videos chart for several weeks, courtesy of your votes and mails. Excerpts.
What is your real name?
I'm Sylvester Ekot Anah and I'm from Akwa Ibom state.
How did you come by the name, Alabai?
Alabai is actually an acronym for A- Law- Abiding- Brilliantly- Awesome- Individual. I once found myself in the position of an alibi, a long time ago. When I started rapping, I did with a name called 'Naughty Viper'.
That was in 1991. Then I started my group 'Def O Clan' in 1995. It was not until that experience of an alibi that I changed my name to Alabai. I did not like the real spelling of the word and then I wanted to create something different. So I made up the acronym A-L-A-B-A-I and it sounded really nice.
How would you describe the transition from a group experience - Def O Clan- to being a solo artiste- Alabai?
It's been interesting, adventurous and quite phenomenal. Its being quite adventurous, I must say.
Its been tedious. I started the group Def O Clan with the intention of having some kind of Nigerian Wultyn clan like what was existing in the U.S then.
The Wultyn Clan was a phenomenal hip-hop group in the United States in the 90s. I was able to meet a lot of talented people like Rabbi, Azadus and others. We went apart in 2002. We recorded big hits like 'Kilo n so' and count Down.
Did you have to wait till 2008 to go solo?
It wasn't easy. I was in the university of Calabar and I graduated in 2004 after studying Chemistry. I was working as an on-air-personality on CRBC, Calabar while in school so when I left school I worked as an On-air personality with Brilla FM in Lagos for a bout a year before I went in pursuit of my music dream.
Your album is only a few days in the market now, are you getting any response yet?
Yes. The response I'm getting from my marketer is good and quite encouraging.
What led to Voice of God. Did God actually speak to you and was it audibly?
Yes he did (Laughter), only that it was more imaginary than audible. I thought about doing a song whereby I would ask God virtually all the questions that we human beings would want to ask God. I've found myself in situations where I had asked God questions like 'What is this? Why is this happening to me?...
A lot of uncomfortable situations like not being able to achieve certain things I wanted to and then coupled with regrets and bitterness sometimes. So I just felt like putting all the questions in a song.
When was this?
That was in my first year in the university. I actually wrote that song in 1999. I recorded it in 2006 and out it on air last year. I had to wait for the album to be finished because i wanted it to be such that when the single comes out, then there'll be an album to follow soon.
How long did it take you to write the song, Voice of God?
The funny thing about 'Voice of God' is that I did not put pen to paper to write that song. I wrote the song in my head and that's how I do most of my songs. I assemble the lyrics one after the other, line by line.
The lyrics of 'Voice of God' just kept coming in my head then after about a week, I made a song of it. I rehearse the lines every single day and I made sure that the lines blend, all in my head. In six days, I was able to write the whole song.
It came with its melody and that's exactly how I recorded it although edited some parts and added the last lines.
Who produced the song?
Paul Play Dairo. He's a mega genius. When he heard the song, he flipped. He came back from London and laid the beat. Actually I didn't want to record the song in Nigeria. I had under-estimated production concept in Nigeria.
I thought if I got to the United States, get a big blow in America, then I'll go on. But he (Paul Play) encouraged me to record it because he felt it was going to be a big song and I just agreed with him and went to the studio. When he played the beat for me, I was impressed. Paul is one of the best producers I've ever met.
I must confess he's a genius. People have this feeling that he's just all about R n B but that dude is a great hip hop producer.
How did you arrive at that video?
I give it all to Clarence. I was scared when I was going to shoot the video. I was saying to myself 'How am I going to get all the money in the world to achieve what I want?' I knew that achieving if not exactly what I wanted, something close to what I had in mind was going to be expensive.
A video ought to be the visual interpretation of a song. What I had in mind was 'me probably being in a dream, seeing myself in the sky with all the celestial bodies around me, graphics, animations and all kinds of visuals. I had a concept already but when I went to Clarence, he gave me his own and from all indications, I think his concept was good.
What did it cost you to realize the video?
Written by Lolade Sowoolu