interviewBy Lanre Odukoya
ONE OF NIGERIA'S MOST RIVETING ARTISTES, SAMMY OKPOSO HAS BEEN CONSISTENTLY UBIQUITOUS IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY FOR WELL OVER A DECADE. LIKE EVERY OTHER STAR, HE HAS HAD HIS OWN TALES OF WOES AND THUNDEROUS CHEERS AT DIFFERENT STAGES OF HIS TOWERING CAREER. THIS AND MORE HE SHARED WITH LANRE ODUKOYA
WHY I'M MOSTLY AROUND SECULAR SINGERS
My genre is gospel and there's no arguing that, but that genre operates under the bigger umbrella of the Nigerian Entertainment Industry and that is the mistake a lot of my colleagues make. That you're a gospel artiste doesn't confine you to the four walls of a church. You have an industry you must synergize with and they keep asking me that, "why is it that if we look at 90 percent of the secular event the only gospel artiste we see there is you?" It's simply because I recognize that my industry is the umbrella body. Secondly, the way I produce my kind of gospel music is unique in the traditional sense of the word. First of all, music must be appealing to the ears. When I produce, I make sure it's good music so that irrespective of whether you're a Christian or Muslim, you can listen to it and appreciate good music. You don't need to share my faith to enjoy music. If I hear a French song, or one in Swahili, because I'm a professional, I don't know what they're saying but I can tell you that this sounds good. I was first an instrumentalist. I've worked with a lot of secular artistes either by producing a song, being a keyboardist or a backup singer.
ABOUT MY LAST ALBUM...
My last album, The Statement came out in August, six years after the release of No More Drama. But before then, I've been dropping singles just to give people a taste of what my next album would look like. And I also wanted to promote that album because I believe that when an artiste drops an album, he or she has to push that work to acceptance before rushing back to do another. I also observed that each time you drop a new video from the same album, it makes the album new again. Then people would start wondering, "do you have a new album", and then you'll say, 'no, this song is from the same album you've known'. So, if somebody doesn't buy the album for your first video, they do for the second video.
THERE'S NO DISSERVICE LIKE MIMING ON STAGE...
It's bad to see some artistes on stage that cannot even perform live. They still sing on their CDs which is a disgrace. Whenever I see them shouting on top of a loud CDs, I always feel like; 'is this why people pay? If I'm going to attend a show and you're just going to play your CD, I might as well buy that CD and sit back at home to play it'. That is so unfair on the people who leave their homes to see live performance. Something there must be different. For me, I grew up in the church with the choir learning harmonies. I just decided that it was time to learn professional music. I got involved in making sound tracks for home videos, working on movies and all of that. So, I went through all that process and that explains my synergy with the secular artistes because I grew up knowing a lot of them.
WHAT KEEPS MY BEATS GOING...
I just told you that I released an album six years after the other. What I do during the hiatus is to explore other avenues of my industry which is not just music to keep my relevance. There is music for home videos, I do commercials and thank God for my relevance that exposed me to organizations like Globacom. So, if you're not listening to my music, you're seeing me on the Globacom commercial or a billboard. Even in the last election, I identified the candidates I believed in both in my state and at the federal level. I know I'm a service provider and if I can be paid to do a commercial to promote a soft drink or hairline, I can also use that talent to compose songs for the candidate that I believe. That's why when you turn, you find me everywhere. You don't just concentrate on the albums, explore relative avenues. If you interview me again in 2013, you'd be forced to ask that; 'are you now into Nollywood?' because there are scripts waiting for me. They have been trying to get me to act long before now and I told them that I'm not ready yet. So, in 2013, you're going to see me very prominently in Nollywood.
JONATHAN'S $200M GRANT...
I have asked questions about the $200million grant and they say the money is intact. A lot of people think that the president just gave the money so that all of us will just go with our knives and be cutting and collecting. It's a grant and not a free money. But the problem is that, how do you give that money to an industry that doesn't have a structure? This is my personal opinion. Even if they say that all the Nollywood heavy weights should be assembled and empowered to shoot world class movies, the question is; where are we going to sell it? We have no structure from music to movies. The fact that Mr. President remembered to set that sum aside for the industry is a miracle, but accessing the money has been a totally different ball game. My opinion is that they should have taken a chunk of that money to hire a foreign expert who knows what it means to structure an industry. When the structure exists in such a way that you and I know that our album sales can be traced, you can actually tell how much of patronage your work gets, that's when Mr. President's effort can yield results. Nobody pumps money into bad business. The money is there at the Bank of Industry, it's not a mirage. But how many people have been able to go there to say that if you give me the loan, I'll bring X, Y, Z in return. We haven't been able to convince them enough. Quote me anywhere, an organization called Film House has an ongoing arrangement with the Bank of Industry. Film House has been able to forward a comprehensive and feasible proposal to the BOI and the bank knows that building cinemas in all the cities around Nigeria as Film House is trying to do is reasonable. The essence is to bring back the cinema culture which is where the Nigerian film makers will make their money again. The release of a film on the DVD may be delayed till months in cinema when the owner of the work has made his or her money.
SUSTAINING MY STAGE STAMINA...
I'm used to performing for three to four hours non stop and that's because I take my fitness seriously. I have a routine and at least I use the gymnasium three times a week, but in the worst case, I'll do it at least once. In that one, I'll put in extra time to make sure that I make up for the time I've lost. Sometimes I find myself on stage performing for hours, especially when I'm the main act in an all night service. I cannot afford to get too weak to do my job.
MY DEAL WITH TMG IN OKLAHOMA...
That's the first proper distribution that any Nigerian singer has ever had. TMG is a company based in Oklahoma and the guys there are the ones who are releasing The Statement and the Caribbean's, by the time they finishing with their distribution chain, you can work into any store in America and pick my CDs. Apart from the greats, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Sunny Ade, Femi Kuti and recently, Asa, mine is the next proper distribution.
MISCONCEPTIONS FROM PAST INTERVIEWS
Many times, catchy headlines had made many jump to conclusions about what I said in interviews. What I said in the interview with late Amadi Ogbonnaya which was a long time ago when I was very mature for relationships. He asked me whether I planned to rise to fame not from laurels or the number of top celebrities I had relationships with. I told him that my first relationship was with a top Nigerian artiste, the second was with a beauty queen. I was nobody and was just trying to find my feet in the industry. What first caused the curiosity about the name Sammy Okposo was the fact that each time they had to write about the person I was dating, my name automatically comes up again. And they were wondering, 'who is this person?' That was what Ogbonnaya was saying in that story which some misconstrued to mean that I took pride more in my old dates than my laurels. At that time I didn't have a face.
WHEN I ALMOST RETREATED
There were times in my life when I told myself,' let me quit this thing called music.' After all, my father wanted me to be an accountant. He was hopeful because I finished my A 'levels in Benin and went straight to 200 level in Delta State University but I didn't even last one semester because music has consumed me. I started playing piano at the age of ten in the church.
HOW I WANT TO SPEND MY XMAS
Fortunately, when people are celebrating, artistes like us are working. But it's also good when your hobby becomes your work and the work inadvertently becomes fun. I'm booked from now till late January 2013. And of course that means that my own break is sometime in February 2013 when I'll just disappear with my wife to a destination I don't know yet.