HIS real name is Adesoji Adebayo, but his fans call him Mr. Solek. A household name in the United Kingdom, where he has been domiciled since 1995. There, attracting Nigerians in their thousands with his eclectic fusion of hip hop, juju and fuji music, which he brands hipjufuji.
He may be less known in his home country, but Mumu and Sodishakeit – singles off his album, Why Worry? guarantees he gets a frequent mention amongst music lovers in Nigeria. At the 2008 edition of the Nigeria Music Video Awards, Mumu was voted the Most Popular Nigerian Music Video in the UK.
“I started performing full time in London eight years ago, after quitting my accounting job to pursue a career in music,” he states.
What might have prompted a young man with a steady income to leave the known for the unknown, especially in a society where the odds are against him to succeed?
“There was no way I would have turned my back on music because I began experimenting with music as a child,” Mr. Solek recalls. “Growing up in Ibadan, I remember I used to sing in primary school during assembly. When I was at Loyola College, the story was not different because I joined the church choir. It afforded me the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country on performance tours and then the interest grew.”
Having completed his higher education at the Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, he says, “I left the country in 1995 in search of greener pastures. Fortunately for me, I was born in the United Kingdom, so things were less difficult for me when placed side by side illegal immigrants. I thank God I was privileged to return to school and qualified as a charted accountant.”
There is a story lurking behind his new single, Lotto. “I did not just decide to record that song; it was prompted by an incident,” says Mr. Solek. With subdued excitement, he tells his story. He says, “I won $15m playing the American lottery and to think it was an unexpected windfall makes it all the more exhilarating. It just occurred to me that I could celebrate by making a song out of my good fortune.”
He readily agrees that our society does not support gambling in whatever form, but argues that lottery cannot be condemned in its entirety. “It is not a bad idea provided you are not investing your life savings in it and you are not addicted to it. In life, you win some you lose some. It’s all about taking risks. You are either lucky or you are not lucky and I think if you put your mind to it, you may never win. I play at random. It’s not a habit or an everyday thing. It could be once a month,” he argues.
Rightly noted that $15m is a lot of money, so Mr. Solek must be on a spending spree. But in a low voice, he implies that he is not a spendthrift and has put the money to a good use. “I hate to see people suffer. I am already comfortable; at least I can afford to feed my family, wear clothes and we have a roof over our heads. I am grateful to God for that and I just thought how else do I show him my appreciation? The only way that readily came to mind is to assist the underprivileged and I let all of the money go to charity,” he says.
Continuing, he adds, “This is not my first time donating to orphanages and the likes. Last June, I celebrated my birthday at the Little Saints Orphanage home.”
For months, his planned relocation to Nigeria generated widespread talks. Refuting the unfounded rumours about him, he takes a swipe at his detractors, saying, “I’m not going to lose sleep over the idle talk making the rounds about my planned relocation to Nigeria. In the past, hardly did any month go by without me visiting home.
“You can go and check my records in England and America, I have no criminal case against my name, neither do I have problems with the immigration. I’m only coming home to further promote my music and you know charity begins at home.
“My absence from Nigeria has caused me a lot because the industry is not well structured. You have to go and beg a marketer to put your music out. As an artiste you need to be seen, if you are in the UK, people believe you are for the UK. For me as an international artiste, I need to let people know that this is what I do. People will rather listen to someone they see everyday than someone they rarely see.”
He is not doing badly in the United Kingdom and is content at the level of success he has attained. “I’m quite popular, especially among Nigerians in London. I play gigs on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays,” he says. “My fan base in Nigeria is nothing compared to that which I have in London and America, but I do not see that posing a barrier. I will break into the Nigerian scene, as well as I did in those other countries. I’m not dissuaded by the likes of D-Banj or P-Square, rather we will rock the scene together.”
He opines that music and women go hand in hand. “I love my female fans,” Mr. Solek says. “You cannot do without them because they are part of the business.
“Take it or leave it, any artiste that cannot manage the women flocking around him will go to ruins. I know my limitations and I am married.
“My marriage is blessed with two children, so any woman you see me with that is not my wife is part of the music business.”