I grew up in violence.............Daddy Showkey
— Popular Nigerian musician and creator of Galala dance steps, John Odafe Asiemo a.k.a Daddy Showkey
Jamansthami is one of the many annual festivals celebrated by the Indians. This year's celebration did not pass by without members of the Indian community living in Lagos calling on friends and well-wishers to rejoice with them in one of their temples located in the Apapa area of the Lagos metropolis.
One of their very special guests this year turned out to be popular Ajegunle musician, John Odafe Asiemo, otherwise known as Daddy showkey, whose presence added more glamour to the event. The Source nevertheless, feasted on the opportunity to have a chat with the Galala cronner.
Finding Daddy Showkey in his Ojodu abode where he is currently building his all marble manison was not too difficult as virtually all the commercial motorcycle riders operating within that vicinity were conversant with it. With just N100 and a 20-minute ride on bumpy roads, The Source arrived to meet Showkey relaxed behind a parked Chereokee jeep outside the uncompleted building.
Showkey, who is forever proud of his Ajegunle background a massiveslumin Lagos with an estimated population of between two to three million, was in a high spirits as he spoke with The Source with an almost flawless Queen's English.
His foray into the entertainment circuit began in 1976 when from an acrobat entertaining people from street to street for a small fee, he delved into other forms of entertainment such as dancing and singing.
However before then, when he was just nine years old, his father who had three wives and nine kids, died leaving him with his mother who struggled to support him and his four other brothers.
One event that totally changed the young Asiemo's perception of life and made him swear never to work for anybody but himself was the time he applied for a job as a security personnel in a private firm. He told The Source that when the officials discovered that he was living in Ajegunle, they surprisingly accused him of stealing one of their dogs, a German Shepard which was missing.
He was taken to the police station and a naïve Asiemo all the while thought he was being accused of kidnapping a German man. “I told them I never saw the man takeless of kidnapping him. But it was when they said that it was a dog and later presented it when it was found that I was stunned; there and then I vowed never to work for anybody in my life,” he said.
From then on, he “struggled” tirelessly such that today, he remains a popular musician not only in Nigeria but the entire African continent. He has gone on tours to various countries around the globe and has also garnered several awards.
This Ghetto Soldier, as he is also called, further told The Source: “Sometimes when I see some of my friends celebrating five, 10 or 15 years in the industry, I do not now which to celebrate. Should I celebrate 15 years of releasing my first album or 32 years of being an entertainer?” He mentioned people like Danladi bako, Dejumo Lewis and Sadiq Daba among others, as some of the people who brought him into limelight.
Showkey also have various chieftaincy titles but he particularly appreciates the one bestowed on him in Ajegunle. He is the Aare Onifaji of Ajegunle. He attended Dr. Lucas Memorial Grammar School Kirikiri Town and is blessed with a wife, two boys and two girls. Enjoy the session with showkey.
This is indeed a paradise. What an all-marble house, I think it's a great achievement, or what do you say about it?
(Smiles) I don't want to talk about this property or any other one I may have.
I just don't like talking about them.
You shouldn't be like that. You are successful obviously and the Bible even exhorts that you should count your blessings and name them one by one?
Glory be to God for that, but truly I don't like talking about them.
Okay recently, you had to be flown abroad for treatment over some injuries which you sustained. What really happened?
I had a car accident along 7-UP. I was driving when I ran into a broken down waste disposal truck. Thank God I did not have injuries, but later I discovered that I had an internal kind of injury a few days after as I could not move my legs. I had to be flown abroad for an acupuncture surgery. I just came back recently after spending quite some time there. The accident happened on December 31 (last year) when I was returning from a gig at about 5 a.m. I am supposed to have gone back to complete the treatment, but I have not been able to make it because I have a lot to do and then, I do not know how long I am going to spend over there when the treatment commences.
Don't you think your health is more important than any business that is keeping you?
Yes, you are correct, but the last time I left so many things undone before I travelled. I believe I am stronger now and before I go for the final operation nothing negative will happen to me. I will be leaving towards the end of September.
Now tell me, its been quite a while since you last released an album, what's been happening – I mean, apart from the accident?
I released an album shortly before the accident but there was no time to promote it. The title of the album is Take Five. Right now I am going back to the studio to do a new album…
(Cuts in) Hold on. Are you saying you are not going to promote Take five but just shove it aside and bring in a new work?
Not so. But its still my work. To me, as a creative man, albums do not die. My albums are for the future. I don't play songs that will only make you dance, but one that also gives hope. Its got messages so the album can never die. I am releasing the new album abroad because the label I am working with is an international one. But I felt, 'how can I release an album and my people in Nigeria will not get to know about it', that's why I have to release it here also.
So, what is the title of this new work?
I don't want to tell you yet.
I know your style of music is Galala but don't seem to understand what that word means.
I created the style and I appreciate the fact that people emulate this style. The style is now expanding. You see, Galala was built from Raggae music. I started by singing in broken (pidgin) English so that people would understand what I am doing and appreciate it. Not like some of us who sing in Patua – a Jamaican thing. We need to identify with our own style.
The style originated from your former area Ajegunle...
(Cuts in sharply), Point of correctin, Ajegunle is not my “former area” but my area. Galala means expanding and growing, Ka ma ga, ka mala, ka ma fe (meaning: We should be expanding, growing and progressing). When we were creating this style, we searched for a name that can match the style and Galala fitted it perfectly. You can see that it is actually expanding and its successful.
How many Galala- inspired albums have you been able to release so far and which has been the most successful?
Five. To me all my works have been successful. I can't pinpoint one and say 'this one takes the crown' because I put my best in all of them while writing, composing and recording.
For some people– and if I am to include myself–I'll say Diana was the most successful?
One thing you people don't know is that Diana is in the same album with Somebody call my name, Fire Fire, et ceter. In that album, I have a lot of hit tracks so, had it been that I have released them in singles you would have been right. Like in my latest album, where I have shalaa bule bule, I was surprised when I went to Delta State and people were singing it. I have not even done a video for it yet. That's why I said my music contains messages for the people. I have not been able to do the video because I am very busy, I have a lot of businesses that I have to do in time. Apart from that, I have a foundation which is different from what every other person is doing right now. I have been involved in humanitarian work all my life because I believe in helping people.
You are not only a musician but also a businessman. You are even a foundation owner now. What kind of businesses are you involved in and tell me more about this special foundation of yours?
I have told you that I do not like talking about that part of me; let people discover it for themselves. For the foundation, when the time comes, you will get to know about everything because my management and I are trying to re-schedule and arrange all my businesses so that at the end of the day with God on our side, everything would be successful. That's one of the reasons I go aboard, trying to bring people and companies to invest in the country because there is no place in the world like Nigeria. I believe in Nigeria and that no one can come help us to build the nation like us, Nigerians. About my foundation, I do not want to say much about it because experience has thought me that whenever I say something about it, some people will go and do something exactly like that. One thing I want you to note though, is that whatever I am doing, I am not doing it for people to praise me or get reward from it. I am doing it from the bottom of my heart. My life story will tell you that where I am coming from, God picked me and lifted me high. So, if today I do something to give back to my community, I do not want to talk about it. I believe I am just doing what God sent me to do.
Would you mind going into acting someday?
As an entertainer you must be ready to entertain in every aspect. I have been acting from my childhood. I started acting before the generation of what is called Nollywood. I took part in Village Headmaster. I was always with Danaldi Bako when I was very small. Many of the actors we have today never dreamt of acting when I was doing it. My school mates will tell you that in the whole Ojo SMC (Schools management council), when it came to acting, I was the number one. Even in boxing, I was one of the best in all of Lagos State then. A confirmed one. Till today, the sport is part of me. That was how I got my name Showkey. It means, a bunch of entertainment. That's my life. I entertain people in various ways. I bring smiles to their faces.
So, when did you join the group, Pretty Busy Boys?
Before this group, I have been a member of so many other groups. Like Bajaska which was formed while in school with some group, of friends. Then Daddy Fresh, Obanla and I formed Rap Warriors. From there, the Pretty Busy Boys was formed. I was a part of a dance group called Revelation Dancers, and another group called The Cockcrow Boys and we all crowed like chickens– that was in the early 1980s. Those days, I went to Animal Games to feature. Uncle Wole is still alive to testify. Almost everyone in Ajegunle then knew that I mimiced chickens and they called me Cockcrow Boy. It was from that that we formed The Cockcrow group. We were Pilolo, Rasheedi, Papa, Toi and myself. Today, whenever I think about where entertainment has taken me to, I always think about those friends of mine.
Where are they now?
Most of them are in Agejunle and the rest, I do not know where they are now. But the truth is that one should stick to what he or she knows how to do best. Today may not be good but tomorrow may be great.
When did you really decide to go solo?
I never decided to go solo nor decide to leave Pretty Busy Boys my last group because I always see myself as a member of the group. It was the rest who decided to go on their own. I tried my best to hold them back but unfortunately, some believed that they were better than others in the group but today… only God knows. I am still in contact with Cashman Davis and Sexy Pretty, two members of the group. They come to my house and we are always together. I work with Davis in his album, give him tips, e.t.c. But it is only Daddy Fresh that I don't see.
Emm… I guess he is busy.
Is he that busy that you guys don't have a little time to see?
I live very far from him.
But you still find time to see Cashman David and Sexy Pretty?
Yes, that's true, I always relax in Davis' house whenever I am in Ajegunle. It's not true that we do not see face- to- face-that's if you want to bring that up. You see, I don't like trouble and so to keep it at bay, I stay on my own. I grew up inside violence and it has thought me that you never achieve anything from it. I don't like hear- say. I don't talk about people. We are friends, but the only problem I have with Daddy Fresh is that he doesn't rejoice with those who rejoice but if he is rejoicing he wants people to come rejoice with him. I decided not to honour any of his engagements.
But you are married to his cousin?
That's true. But do you know that apart from my first son, I have four children now, but Fresh has never seen them? My children don't even know the person called Fresh. I went to his house for the naming ceremony of his children. For God's sake no man is an Island. If any of our friends is doing something and they invite Fresh, he doesn't show up, so I decided that everyone should stay on his own. We are not quarreling. If I have anything for him, I call him. I have discovered that in Nigeria most people always want you to do for them but they don't want to help you back, so I have decided that if you don't help me I will not help you. I don't attend most events nowadays because they also ignored me when I invited them. Carry your own go, I carry my own go, chikena!
For the duration of our discussion you have been speaking flawless English language. But the impression you give people, expeacially on stage, is a seeming inability to speak well as you often fall back on pidgin English Why do you do this?
(Smiles) When I speak pidgin English, I am more myself. I like being myself. Let me tell you something: People living outside Ajegunle don't know Ajegunle. They don't know that we have really brilliant people living there. Some say the area produces just footballers and musicians, but it's not true. Because better people come out of that neighbourhood. We have doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers, banker e.t.c but at the end of the day, because of the wrong impression people have about the place, they think we are either thungs, thieves or armed robbers. It is in Ajegunle that we have people who know what life is. We build our lives from nothing to something. You wonder why I speak pidgin or rather broken English? Well, the reason is that Ajegunle broken is the sweetest English in the whole Naija. Ejo! A lot of people think that I am an Olodo (a failure), I like it when they think like that, no kai, I am very happy with my life.
You speak so highly of Ajegunle, why then did you move out of the area and not build this absolutely break-taking marble house there?
You see, I have been living in Ojodu for almost 15 years now and even before I released my first album, I was coming here to see my girlfriend who is now my wife. I was staying with Ras Kimono then. That time, there was some gang trouble. So, I moved here. Not that I can't build a beautiful house there but the dream I have for Ajegunle, I do not have the money to establish it. When it comes and I finish doing what I want to do people will marvel. Not that Ajegunle is better than every other area, but look at it this way, If you build house for fine place and the road is not good, no be ghetto? See Lekki, for instance, Lekki na swamp! But when I think about my upbringing and what I passed through, I always believe I am going to be successful and going to be a chief, which I am now. I talk about Ajegunle to give children hope, for them to believe in themselves. If some wealthy men can own up that they were born in Ajegunle, then I think I have achieved something.
I saw you once on stage singing the Blues. Are you moving into that genre of music now?
(Laughs) I pray that the Pretty Busy Boys will come together one day so that people will experience the talent in the group. I feel we didn't do much before we went solo. We were playing all kinds of music. I sing those kind of songs, that's the Blues, so whenever I hear the way some people talk about Nigerian musicians, comedians who don't have anything to say insult musicians and call it comedy, I feel sad. One day at the Muson centre during a show, a comedian was insulting Shina Peters who is one of the best guitarist in Africa, that he (Peter) doesn't know how to sing. He should go and pick the guitar then and sing. They praise the Americans instead. That day I decided to show them that we are much better and since then people have been calling me to do a Jazz or Blues album. Let me also tell you that no musician in Nigeria today can sing this genre as good as I can. I started singing Blues when I was seven years old. My dad used to have a lot of collection of BB King, Armstrong, Nat King Cole, etc. (mimicks BB King for a while). My mood inspires my songs.
Apart from the things you said you'll do when you have some special amount of money, what have you done so far?
Hmm… I told you at the beginning of this interview that I do not like saying things that I've done. Let people see and say them. Ajegunle has done so much for me and I am giving back, I don't have to state them, I just believe that time will surely tell.