Hassan Ibrahim, but more popular with Zule Zoo, together with Michael Aboh, achieved fame with the hit song 'Kerewa' which enjoyed a lot of air time on many radio and television stations in Nigeria. Ibrahim tells Weekend Magazine that the group is still intact, and dispelled rumours that the duo had split.
Weekend Magazine: You guys have been off the music scene for a while now. What happened?
Hassan Ibrahim: Actually we've been on a solo project; some circumstances beyond our control came up and we had to go back to the drawing board. We are coming back bigger and stronger.
So when is the expected come back?
Very soon. Our new video will be out soon and it will start airing from next week.
What should we expect?
It will amaze the entertainment scene. I will not speak much so that I don't let the cat out of the bag. All I can say is that our fans should watch out for the new Zule Zoo, because we are coming out steaming hot.
You ventured into acting sometime back, are you still into acting?
Yes, it is part of the artistic work of an artiste. I do acting, dancing, chorography, both cultural in Africa. In fact, everything about art is what I do. I also direct musical videos too.
Do you have any other hobbies beside music, entertainment?
No, my life is totally entertainment.
How well have you handled your popularity?
It has not been easy, but we've tried our best to make sure we are still Zule Zoo and make sure we don't stain the name as much as possible. We try to keep the flag flying, people may not have seen our video on air or heard our music on radio, but that doesn't mean we've given up or stopped what we are doing. We have a unique style of music that was invented by us and we won't let it die, we just want to make it stronger and better.
What informed your style of music? How did you guys come about that concept?
I invented it; I use to do R&B. So this Mohammed Danjuma (now late) who used to be a comedian then, heard my voice one day when I was free styling, he came to me and said you have a wonderful voice, I think you should go into music. Then I was 17 years old and I said there is a song that I am working on. He then told me that if I wanted to go into music, I should try as much as possible to stand out from the rest; that I shouldn't follow the trend of the crowd. So with that, I started working, and before I knew it, I had my own style and that is what we do till this moment. At least no one has our kind of music till date.
If there is one thing that you have to changed about yourself, what would it be?
Well, if there is anything I have to change about myself, it is reducing my kindness so that it won't become stupidity.
If this was to be your last day on earth, what will be your wish?
Well my wish is that the people I am going to leave behind do not suffer. Another I will also love to find out if God accepted my soul, so I can be able to rest well.
What is the worst impact your popularity has had on you?
A lot, like you can't be able to drink pure water like every other human being even when you are thirsty. You have to get bottled water all the time. Again people don't expect to see you still renting an apartment. One cannot stroll or go through some streets like that without someone trying to poke a jest at you and you have no option to be calm. Those are some of the disadvantages that come along with being popular. So you just keep on pleasing people all the time of your life though you are not happy, you have to smile as if there is nothing wrong with you when really there is a whole lot of trouble going on in your life.
Would it be right to say 'Kerewawa' was your biggest hit?
Well, that is what a lot people think, but I think it is just the uniqueness and style that made 'Kerewawa' big. In my opinion, there so many other tracks that were better than 'Kerewawa' that I have done in the past, but this new video that is coming out by next week is going really boost our uniqueness and originality for our music. Our style is not a coincidence or a mistake, it is an identity we want to create for ourselves.
When 'Kerewawa' was released, it was trailed by criticisms. How did you handle it?
Well, we didn't see it as anything that will make us worry, because a lot of people have done worst and demeaning songs than what we did. What we were projecting was peace in a family house, no adultery, no fornication. We were just trying to preach that if you are married, you stay and remain married and faithful. That's just what we are projecting, but because we are professional dancers, we just cannot stand and sing the normal way every musician will do. So, we tried to interpret what we are saying in form of dance.
What they did was just to look at the dance movement and judge us. We don't see the dance movement as anything bad, because where I grew up in Benue, the Tiv 'Kerewawa' dance movement is a very powerful movement; it is a remedy for waist pain. It is not every waist pain that is caused by sugar, sometimes it is because you are not exercising the body very well, that is why you see people getting bent when they are old.
How do you see the entertainment industry in the next five years?
The way the entertainment industry is going will become balanced. When I mean balanced I mean fully organized and productive. We are getting there, because there is a lot of internet marketing of our songs internationally. So they have made it so easy for us to market our songs even without releasing it. In the next five years the Nigerian music industry will be compared with that of the United States.
I guess you are married?
Not yet, we are planning to. We are on the way, but I am in a serious relationship. So yes I can say I am not searching anymore. (Laughing)
So how is your woman managing your popularity?
I made her understand the game, and you know we celebrities or entertainers, are always in the spotlight. When you have a woman who doesn't understand your personality in the entertainment scene and she doesn't give you that peace of mind to be able to create more things that you can showcase to the world, then there is a big problem. So, you need somebody who will actually understand the game and just blend with it. My relationship right now, why it is still on is because the woman understands the game and gives me all the support I need. That is the kind of person I need to help me focus and move forward in life.
You are Igala, how were you able to swerve from the Igala culture to Tiv culture?
I was born in Kaduna and my parents left for Benue when I was just four years old. Whatever cultural song or dance I learn, I really don't forget easily and that was when my love for the arts started, I was moving around with many Benue people. I learnt their culture, tradition and language. I can even sing some of their songs better than they would, probably because I was brought up there. Nevertheless, if you listen to the songs, it is not just Tiv, there is a combination of the southern and northern languages. Even the Badagary to Cotonou, you can feel their melody in the songs. The Igala and Idoma melodies too can be felt in the music. So, it is not just strictly Tiv, we are representing the whole of Nigeria and Africa in our songs. The only thing is that we like using Tiv as the basic tone for the song.
There were speculations that you guys were away from the music scene because the Zule Zoo group had separated. How true is this?
The difference between us and other musical groups is that we made it in such a way that everyone maintains his individual freedom. We had the freedom to do sole works and had the freedom to work together. So, that is just the way it is. If you want to see both of us on stage you will, if you want to see only Mike you will see him, likewise if you want to see only myself, you will. We do not have any problem, we still work together. In fact we are brothers from different homes. But the love we have for each other is the kind that I cannot just explain. Mike is from Benue but I am from Kogi.
The Zule Zoo group is still very much intact. Mike and I have come a long way and we just needed to take a break and go back to the drawing board so that our music could still make the desired impact. The Zule Zoo group is here to stay as far as music remains in Nigeria. Mike is a brother though we are from different states, we have a lot in common. I am Igala but I spent most of my growing years in Benue State and so I have been with him for long and music will not tear us apart.
Who has been sort of an inspiration to you?
It used to be Tuface, but right now I can't say Tuface anymore. I should be looking at people like Kofi Olumide.....
Why are you dumping Tuface for Kofi?
Laughing....before I went into music professionally I used to like the Plantashun Boyz and Tuface used to be my favorite. I wanted to be like him and even the way I sang back then when I started was like Tuface, but when we got into music proper, the whole thing now changed just like a child that would mistake infatuation for love. And as I grew up, I discovered that it is Fela that I should be looking up to, because he came out with a unique kind of music and maintained that style until he died.
How did the name Zule Zoo came about?
It came out as a result of a research. I wanted the group to bear a name that would not sound western, so I came up with a name Zule Zoo and gave it a meaning. I got the idea from the Zulu of South Africa. It is about their warriors and the Zoo I got it from the natural affection I have had for animals. From my days in secondary school, I have always studied animals. So what I did was to bring together the Zulu and the zoo, together but for the Zule I changed the 'u' to 'e'. The 'e' stands for entertainment.