The white handkerchief is my brand - Sammie Okposo
Sammie Okposo, Kora Award Winner, Best Gospel Act in Africa, Best Gospel Artiste of the year, NMA, which held in London two years ago, and winner of many more laurels, is set to repeat the feat at this year's Kora Award. Adia Ukoyen caught up with the talented young man who spoke to her on a lot of issues including the reason behind the white handkerchief he is known for. He released his new and latest album, NO MORE DRAMA, and continues to maintain his position as a highly spirited and talented artiste on the african music scene. He is a Christian man who likes listening.
What has winning the Kora Award done for you?
Winning the award opened up a different clientele and market for me, as far as Africa is concerned. I was the only Nigerian invited to perform at the Ghana Music Awards and Ghana Gospel Festival. I have done things with people in Uganda and Namibia. We are still getting calls from all over Africa on a daily basis. Apart from receiving the award itself, I performed at the awards. That performance was seen by many, so my package got known, is known and is still growing. The Kora Award is internationally recognized which I have enjoyed. I was part of a five state tour of the US two years back. We were at Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, New York and Washington DC. That tour had only the best acts from Africa in it.
Your stagecraft has changed tremendously since winning the award, what happened?
We needed to sit down and look at how to improve things and change the package. While performing in South Africa, I did some things on impulse and ever since, I have tried to incorporate some of those things into my package because of the effect it had then. Also, my presentation has changed.
What is it with the white handkerchief because the minute it comes out, there is frenzy. Your stage attires have also changed. What are the reasons behind these?
The reason why I stopped wearing native was because it was beginning to put me in the box. I was being referred to as a traditionalist. The hanky thing is part of my branding. Whatever I wear, the hanky is constant. In South Africa, when I told them about the hanky, those who didn't have hankies went for the napkins on the tables. It is like an identity, or better still, it has become my identity. It is like Idris and his towel, or Zakky and his torch. It has worked. There was a show I was at where they were hankies under every seat. It is part of the razzmatazz.
How expensive have you become?
I have grown. I would not want to use the word expensive. I still go to events where I do not collect a kobo. And at the end of the day, you really cannot put a prize on creativity. I have grown from collecting peanuts to good figures.
With your popularity growing, I am sure your wardrobe has grown too. How big is your wardrobe now?
I used to think that the wardrobe was a feminine thing. With the new repositioning, I am working with two brilliant Nigerian designers, Xtraluck and Mudi. We take African fabrics and make them into contemporary styles. I find myself making a lot of these, but I still combine attires. So, the wardrobe is growing.
And the women?
There will always be women. What I do is try to manage the situation.
Talking about women, what is the worst thing a female fan ever did to you?
It was on a campus, everybody knew I was a gospel artiste and I was playing. Everybody was jumping and in the middle of the performance, somebody threw a G-string on stage. You can imagine how I felt as a gospel artiste. I bring the good news of God, I sing about Jesus, so how can somebody be so crazy as to throw a G-string at me? It almost threw me off balance and I did not know how the stage managers got it off. Later, they told me it had a girl's name and phone number written on it with the word “I love you”.
What is the true state of things between yourself and Stella Damasus?
I've known her for over 10 years. I've known her before she came to Lagos, back then in our church, Gospel Church of Christ in Benin City. She did her first studio job under me. I produced her first radio jingle. We had chemistry before now. I know all her family. Even before she married late Jaiye Aboderin, I was even close to Jaiye; we shared the same room at KORA award 2003. That is the story. We are very close friends. She is not somebody I'm afraid of being with. She knows me, if you tell her I did something without her being there, she would tell you she knows what I can do. No wedding bell is about to ring. But if it gets to that point, and God approves it, then it would be.
What inspired you to put together the Out of Africa show?
My decision to go into event packaging was as a result of the sad condition of some of our older crop of musicians and entertainers who practically live from hand to mouth despite having recorded success at some point or the other. And so, Out of Africa is a brand I have been dreaming about for the past two years. Every time I have left the shores of this country, I noticed people's reaction to Nigerian music. Same applies to Nollywood and comedy. The thought sprung in my mind to bring these three genres of entertainment together for lovers of Nigerian entertainment overseas. This was the inspiring factor behind Out of Africa. Other acts from Africa will be featuring. We hope to move the train to America, Canada and other places. We also are going to bring other African stars to Nigeria. I want to get to that point where I will not have to depend on being invited to come and perform at a show or event. A lot of older musicians had made this mistake in the past.
Who are some of your sponsors?
Glo is the official sponsor for this event. The show will accord them the opportunity to commence the sales of glo recharge cards in London. They had been trying to put together a show of this nature, and so when I came along, it was easy for us to work out a concrete plan for the show which holds in two weeks time. Other sponsors include Virgin Atlantic, the Cross river state government, Ben TV, KICC TV.
KICC, is that where you worship now?
I worship with KICC. I have left House on the Rock. You all know the whole story. I thank God that he never left me for one moment through all the stress. In fact, in the same year of the crisis with House on the Rock, He decided to make me best male gospel artist in Africa. Pastor Mathew Ashimolowo is one of the men God used to promote my music ministry. Pastor Ashiomolowo gave me one of the biggest platforms in the world to perform, which is the KICC Gathering of Champions. He put me on the same platform with Ron Kenoly, Lionel Peterson, Cece Winans, and Donny Mckluking. There was publicity all over United Kingdom. I really appreciate that. I believe God was telling me it is time to move on after my 10 years in House on the Rock. I still love the church though. I miss being there. You know it is not easy to wipe almost 11 years of your life away. You know when God needs to move you to another level; he does in whichever way and manner He chooses.
Where do you see yourself in the next two years?
I will still be very active in the music industry. I should have added another album to my collection. By then, God helping, I should have received a BET and/or Grammy nominations or awards. If Sunny Ade and Femi Kuti were nominated, why not? Femi began with winning the Kora Award. I also would have been able to establish one of the best audio recording studios and music school to mentor people. I have an NGO called Sammie Okposo Hope Initaitives.
By that time, the NGO should have been solidly rooted in the society and in the consciousness of Nigerians, Africans and foreigners all over the world.
Looking back, did you envisage the success you have recorded so far?
I did not expect I would get this big. All I knew was that I loved music. It is all I wanted to do. I did not know this is what God had in stock for me. It got to a point I wanted to go back to Warri and work for my father. I did not have any idea of what I was going to become. I thank God for what I am today.