I NEITHER DRINK NOR SMOKE- OBESERE
How did you come about the name, Obesere?
It's just a nickname, that is not my real name.
We learnt that Obesere used to be your mother's name.
Yes, I took it from my mum. It was a nickname given to her by some of her friends.
What is the meaning?
I think it means someone that is funny. Later, some of my mother's friends started referring to her as Iya Obesere. I took the name from her because I am a funny musician as well.
Tell us your real name.
Abbass Adeniyi Akande, alias Obesere.
Can we say you are a correct Lagos boy?
I was brought up in Lagos, though I was born in Ibadan.
When did your music start?
I started when I was in the primary school by playing with my mates. Then, I continued when I was in secondary school. Then I dropped out of secondary school, I didn't go further.
Because of music or funds?
Well, largely because of the talent. By that time, I couldn't do any other thing except music.
How far did you go in secondary school?
I got to class five before I left.
Probably your parents could not afford to send you further?
It is not that my parents were not ready or able to send me to the university, but it was I who decided to drop out in order to face music.
Did they support you initially to go into music, abandoning education?
My mum especially did not want me to, but I came from a family of musicians. It was not strange to them when I decided to follow suit.
Why didn't you choose any other music other than Fuji?
One thing I want to tell you is that I am a professional musician; I am capable of playing any music. But a lot of people know me as a Fuji musician. When it comes to any kind of music, I can play.
When did you go professional, having started as a child
Immediately I left secondary school, I joined a man called Alhaji Ajisafe Aremu in Ebute Metta. I was with him for about two to three years for me to gather some money before I formed my own band.
When did you hit it off? Was it through your first album?
Not even an album, it was a live play cassette.
As the creator of Asakasa (raw lyrics), people still wonder why you decided to champion such line of music.
If people say I am Asakasa king, I accept that. But as I told you earlier, I am a professional musician. I decided to come out with Asakasa in order to create a unique style for myself. Because as you know, a lot of people had sung the same thing in the past and it is the uniqueness of your style that makes you different. Even though I sing Asakasa, I can sing any song. I am still relevant today because of my unique style. I always think ahead. There was a time I was putting on women's dresses and a lot people thought I was crazy. I wasn't, it was all in an attempt to be unique.
People suspect that you are always be 'high,' to perform and sing the way you do.
Well, let them say that. But this talent is not what you can buy with money. It is what God has given to you; that is why when you are extraordinary, they say a lot of things.
But before you mount the stage, it must be that you take some Igbo or hot drink.
I don't drink, I don't smoke.
It is difficult to believe that such weird stagecraft is not as a result of some hard stuff.
It is natural. Anytime I see a crowd, I am high, the crowd motivates me.
The way you are being surrounded with girls in your music videos creates this impression that you are a ladies' man?
I love women, but not to go to bed with all of them. I respect them a lot. I have just one wife.
But you are a Muslim, besides that you are a big time artiste.
It is true that I am a Muslim, but that does not mean I must marry three or seven wives. To even manage one wife is not easy.
But you have the wherewithal to take care of them.
I don't think that is the only thing involved. Again, I don't think that is a good investment for me.
But there can always be some supporting girlfriends and admirers.
Like I said, I love and respect women a lot, I will never let any woman down.
How do you manage those ladies that are desperate to have you, being a very successful and popular artiste?
You know, women would not come openly to tell you they love you. But as a man, you understand their body language and should be ready to handle such situation. What to do is to be diplomatic about it, like say okay, let me have your number and all that. And when she calls, you don't pick it.
What is the craziest thing women have done to attract your attention on stage or off stage.
Some of them write it on a cardboard to say they love me, they like me.
You look so cool and gentle, yet you are associated with raw lyrics, how do you combine the two personalities you present?
I am very different off stage. The one person people see on stage is Obesere. But the one sitting down with you is Abass Akande, a responsible, quiet man, a complete gentleman. Even the raw music you are talking about, that is what people want to hear, that is what they pay for. There are some occasions that demand different display and type of music, the situation warrants the music played at times.
As we always ask artistes, can you praise-sing someone who pays you the highest money even if he is a devil or criminal?
But it is not written on anyone's forehead that he is a criminal or devil. Anyone who comes to us and pays deserves the right service, except if he is the wrong person to play for.
Who do you consider the wrong person to play for?
Like an armed robber, I don't deal with them.
What of politicians who we know are not performing?
What happens is that anybody can change for the better, it is normal. But if any politician comes to me and asks me to play, it is just like any platform like television or radio station. Once you pay for the service, you have your say. At least, with the recent political activities, every politician hired services of different media to air their views. That exactly is the same thing with us. Anyone that pays for my service will specifically tell me what he wants me to do and I will do that.
Is that why you backed and in fact canvassed for Babangida?
Yes, I tried to publicise him.
What made you do that for IBB?
He called me personally, that he wanted me to work for him.
And he paid you handsomely for that?
I didn't collect anything from him.
Would you say you were not aware of the issue of June 12 which IBB annulled, and which the Yoruba are still angry about?
We are all human beings and are capable of changing. Babangida called me and said, 'I know you are a very popular Yoruba musician, I want you to convince them for me that whatever they say I did, tell them to forget and start a new life. And that exactly was what I did.
When you entered into this pact with Babangida, didn't it cross your mind that you could be risking your life?
Babangida is a human being, I am a human being too. We should not be thinking about malice. I was not scared doing that, we are all Nigerians. Once I was not doing it just because of money, I felt OK.
So nobody harassed you for working for IBB?
Nobody, nothing like that.
But you must have been terribly disappointed that he changed his mind.
I was not disappointed, he knows why he did that.
Did he tell you why he pulled out?
Until the last minute, what he kept telling us was that he would contest. I have not bothered to ask him why either, I am equally busy.
When will you quit playing music, or is it for life?
I can never be tired of music, it is in the blood and I don't think it is easy to drop it. I don't do any other thing. That is how I came to be known.
We read that you artistes are fond of quarrelling, especially you and K1. Have you settled?
I don't have any quarrel with anybody except those who don't like me. We artistes are one. I am busy trying to look for money.
Do you see yourself as the greatest among your colleagues?
I have confidence in what I do. I always thank God, but I don't tell anyone that I am the greatest. God has really favoured me.
Are you aware that you are more popular among area boys?
Not only among area boys, even among corporate people. Everyone loves Obesere, there is no doubt about that. But it is true that we are popular among area boys too because any musician who is not popular among area boys is not popular. They are those who publicise you most.
But you are regarded as their papa?
No, I don't normally like what they do, though I give them money, I detest the way they fight at the slightest opportunity. I don't normally accommodate them when I do shows.
You are a prominent musician who can afford to travel abroad any time. Some artistes use such opportunity to peddle drug, can you do that?
I don't need to carry any drugs before I eat or get where I am going. Well, I don't deal with drugs and I don't peddle that.
I know you and your brother play music …
I play music, my immediate brother plays music and the one following plays music. We all play Fuji. I told you we are a family of musicians.
Did you train them?
No, it is in the blood.
How were you able to choose your wife from the whole lot of girlfriends?
It was God that chose her for me, and we've been together now for the past 13 years.
What is the new album coming out of Obesere's stable?
It is called New face. I am sure when it comes out and you see it, you will call me because it is going to be different from the normal Fuji. It is very fantastic.
Some people claimed that you deliberately delayed your pilgrimage to Mecca; so that by the time you made it, you had stopped some of the things you used to do.
I never said anything like that, maybe some people believe things will change with my pilgrimage. Even before the pilgrimage, I had started singing a different thing from Asakasa. I believe I went to Mecca when God wanted it.
What was your experience like there?
It gave me more belief that there is God, so many people came to worship God without discrimination.
Do you dream of becoming a politician one day?
That is if God wants it because my dad, although he is late now, was a politician. I wouldn't mind to become one if God wants me.
But what about your music? How can you be a politician and at the same time continue to sing?
What of Sir Victor (Uwaifo)? Is he not a musician and a politician? He is a human being like me.
'NONYE IWUAGWU and ADEOLA BALOGUN