I’M HOME SICK–GERMANY-BASED NIGERIAN AWARD WINNING MUSICIAN, ADE BANTU
Fourteen years after he relocated to Germany, award winning musician, Ade Bantu Odukoya, 36, says he is home sick. “Actually, I have been working on relocating to Nigeria”, he told us. “It is difficult finding the right people to work with. But with my management team and record label, Extreme Music, now on ground, I think I have the right people to promote my music in Nigeria.”
Bantu was in Nigeria recently with members of his band courtesy of the Goethe Institut, the German Cultural Agency, to facilitate a series of workshop as part of a week-long activities that were rounded off with a concert. He also used the opportunity to launch his debut album which he entitled: Bantu in Nigeria.
The album, a six-track affair contains the hit single Teacher No Vernacular and Lagos Jump. Although, the album has been made available to the international market, the Fufu music exponent explains that the Nigerian edition is the product of his new found romance with Steve Babaeko's Extreme Music.
Born to a German mother and Nigerian father 36 years ago, Bantu as fondly called by fans relocated to Cologne, Germany 14 years ago to join his family. Since moving to Germany, Bantu(acronym for Brotherhood Alliance Navigating Towards Unity) has moved from obscurity in the European music industry, shooting to the top of the charts with his politically coloured music.
On the continent, his collaboration with Adewale Ayuba in Fuji Satisfaction, brought him into reckoning after bagging 2005 Kora Award for Best Group Africa and West Africa.
He spoke with us on why it took so long to release his first album as well as his music called the Sound of Fufu.
Mission in Nigeria
I was invited by the Goethe Institut, that is, the German cultural Centre Lagos. They have a programme that serves as a bridge between Germany and Nigeria cultures by featuring artistes from both countries. So, they invited me and my band to perform and the same time give a series of workshop with my band members. We gave workshops on: Songwriting, music production and various instrumentation. It was a hectic schedule and very productive and inspiring for all of us. I do this oftened apart from playing music because I work with people who taught me a few tricks.
All I want to do is to inspire creativity in others. I have been doing this successfully in Germany by mentoring kids and my desire has always been to reach out to people in Nigeria. We have also been to Ghana.
I have been away for more than 14 years. Basically, I have been working on relocating to Nigeria. If I had stayed back in Nigeria, I would have adjusted to the norms. I probably would have gone to a university and later taken up a regular job. This would have given me the avenue to explore my talent because I come from an upper middle class family where education is a top priority. Arts and music wouldn't have gone well with my folks. I had to work extra hard to prove to them that I have something more to offer the world.
Now, they have come to respect my vocation as productive. Whether I would have been relevant to Nigerian music industry if I had stayed back to face the competition would have depended on me. It is all about being myself. We are all different individual with separate gifts and as long as we stay true to ourselves, I don't see any problem in healthy competition.
It is an eclectic mix of hip-hop, fuji, high-life, afrobeat and afro-funk. Basically, it is an hybrid that represents who I am, that is an Afropean.
I agree that afro-beat is a unique genre that represents urban African culture at its best. What I decided to do was to create a unique fusion, yet not to sound like the next guy who is immitating Fela. Fela was unique in all he did. And I am trying to add my Bantu flavor to afrobeat. At the same time I am trying to explore afro-funk because it is distinctly urbane as well as hip-hop.
Advice to upcoming artistes
I would say they should be true to themselves and do their home works well. They might not have to go all way back to the 1920s, Nigeria had a very exciting and vibrant music industry in 60's and 70's. They only have to stick to their Nigerian roots and the world would be ready to receive them. But if you want to imitate R.Kelly or Usher, well I tell you what, there are five million of them already in the United States of America.
The album has been released officially on Extreme Music label. I am very happy to be part of the Extreme family. People should expect the second album entitled: Fuji Satisfaction in Febuary. In July, the third one, Lovelike Sections will be out. It took so long because it is very difficult to find people who understand the creative aspect of music and who does not see it as a money making venture only. I am happy that I found such in Extreme music and as the saying goes, “ it is better late than never”.
There are quite a handful and are drawn from within and outside Nigeria. They include: Miles Davis, King Sunny Ade, TY, War, Stereo MC's, Wise Intelligent, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, IK Dairo, BAtman, Dede Mabiaku, Exponential Enjoyment, Manu Dibango, Spearhead, Coltrane, Barry White, Marvin Gaye, Azadus, among others. Generally, my heroes in life are: Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Jim Morrison, Rosa Luxemburg, Malcom X, Ken Saro Wiwa and Thomas Sankara.