Face To Face With Blackface

By Cletus Nwachukwu
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Augustine Amedu (a.k.a. Blackface), a founding member of the sensational musical group, the now defunct Plantashun Boiz, speaks on his career and his plans for the future.

THEY barged into the music scene with a big bang. The Plantashun Boiz, a group of three young men, created a musical revolution of a sort. They conquered the hearts of music lovers in Nigeria revived the music scene that was then almost moribund. Augustine Amedu, popularly known as Blackface, was one of the trio. Coming from a large, but contended polygamous family background, the air of freedom he enjoyed at home gave vent to his innate creative talent.

With a knack for entertainment, Blackface took his first step into the showbiz world as a dancer and disc jockey, before metamorphosing into a singer. Educated at various schools in Lagos, CaIabar and Benue State, it was in Makurdi where he began his musical sojourn, alongside his secondary schoolmate, Innocent Idibia, later to be known as lni Rap and, now, as Tuface.

However, Blackface honed his skill while at the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) Enugu, where be bagged a diploma in Business Administration. With his Tuface in tow in Enugu, they did a joint show and got the whole town on fire. That marked the beginning. After his studies, he moved to Lagos with Tuface and decided to go professional. The decision led to the birth of Plantashun Boiz. But how did it really begin with the Plantashun Boiz?

Blackface, who claims to be the quintessential black man, explains that the formation of the group was basically his idea. "Way back in Makurdi, Tuface and I were doing our thing when we realized that we needed a name. I chose Blackface, because I'm black and proud, and he chose Tuface, which was a name that naturally fits him," he explained.

According to the wave-making reggae artiste, the group chose a slow pace music style with the original Plantashun Boiz signature-tune and set forth to advise people and teach morals.

As the unofficial captain of the group, Blackface, recalls how they became a three-member group: "When we came to Lagos, Faze indicated interest in our group. But it took

Tuface a while before we accepted him. And that was after he had won in a musical contest."

He went on to recount the depth of talent in the group, as evident in their individual careers today. "We are good singers, no doubt. You can see it in Tuface and all his albums. You can see it in Faze's albums and my Ghetto Child and Evergreen albums."

What made the group tick? "You know, in the music industry, if you don't have something new, you don't have to come in. As they say, there's nothing as exciting as a new face. It was our new sound that turned the music industry around. Today, Styl-Plus and other pop groups are following in our footsteps," he said.

How much, in terms of cash, came with the success of Plantashun Boiz? "Truly, it was a musical success. But what is fame without wealth? Did we make money from the successful album? The answer is, no. To date, we have not been paid any royalty. We had decided to take those who were trying to short change us to court, but later discovered there was no use doing that. After all, we had nothing to lose. The album is selling and they do not want to pay us. It is not fair. Whichever way you look at it, its wrong," he said with a tinge of anger in his voice.

For a first class act, Blackface remains moderate and humble. These attributes he credits to his family background, added to the fact that he grew up under a no-nonsense military man as a father. Expectedly, he has started enjoying the benefits of his good orientation with a new deal coming from Germany. "But I'll only sign the deal if it will bring benefit to me. After all, I can't play for Chelsea, with a name and number on my back, without getting paid. Pay me well and we move on to play the champions league," he says.

With so much verve and vibe in him, it is no surprise that he has created a musical tribunal to unleash his musical talent. He calls his crew, 'The Tribunal', which comprises budding stars like Rocksteady, Ras Mic and Mallam Spicy. He explains: "This is not a group where you rehearse to harmonize and all that. We're lyrical deejays, " he says.

But the question that stands out like a sore thumb is, what led to the break-up of Plantashun Boiz? Was it greed? Was it fame?

Blackface says only God can provide the answer but that it had nothing to do with greed, fame or anything of the sort because the money was not there in the first place. But, as he puts it, he does not feel pained over the break-up.

"I'm not pained at all. It's like asking me why I'm leaving Manchester United for Real Madrid. Rather, it has given me the opportunity to express myself musically. I am moving on with my life. My third album, in which I featured a lot of artistes, is out in the market."

Blackface debunked claims of some music critics who said that he was not happy that his friend, Tuface, is shinning brightest among the musical trio. For him, it is for the good of the game that Tuface is shinning. His words: "He's not taking anybody's shine. Besides, winning laurels and accolades do not make one a better artiste. Even album sales don't make one the best act. I don't need laurels to make people accept my music, and I know I'm not doing badly either."

In spite of the good things being said about the music industry, Blackface, refuse to get drowned in what he describes as illusion. In his words, the industry is somewhat stagnant. He regretfully recalled his experience in London during a visit, when he was assailed with stories of fraudulent and unethical practices of many Nigerian musicians who were branded as copycats.

"How would the industry grow, when local artistes are not getting their dues? No shows and concerts. Promoters are only exploiting the artistes to their own advantage. Moreover, there's no originality in songs and delivery. So for me, the music industry here in Nigeria still has a long way to go. No doubt some artistes are trying but most of them out there are just not it, but I believe things can only get better when the when our leaders and politicians see the need to provide the right atmosphere for the people. Provide jobs, good roads, electricity, water, drugs in the hospitals and of course, good transport system. Then the real talents will blossom and truly compete with stars in the international scene, " he says.