Now that Bright Chimezie has decided to move with the time by aligning forces with the hip-hop generation, then, the house is in trouble. In what may turn out as the biggest collaboration in the music industry since King Sunny Ade and Onyeka Onwenu first did it in the 1980s, the Ziggima sound exponent is mixing his old wine in the new bottle of fame producer, J. Martins.
Here in this interview session with select journalists that was attended by Deputy Editor, Charles Okogene, Bright bares his mind on the collaboration and more. Excerpts:
Bright, so long, too long?
The last time we met was last year when I came into Lagos to promote my new album. “Because of English.”
How did that last work perform in the market in terms of sales?
One thing with Ziggima music is that, it’s not a product you put into the market and expect immediate result, No. It seeps into the market gradually without sounding proud; let me say that I do evergreen stuff. I am into nature African philosophy, trying to use my brand of music to expose and being into light what we have here. Gradually, the music is penetrating the market. It’s a national anthem of sort in the southern part of the country. The songs in the album have deep meaning and convey different messages to the listener. Igbo is a dying language and if we fail to do something now, it could become extinct in the future.
So, I don’t want our children to suffer from cultural computation. The whole idea behind “Because of English” is to revive the Igbo and for the people to understand our culture.
These days you take a longer period to release an album. Why is it so?
I do a lot of live shows and so I take my time to come up with the necessary songs for the studio. The problem with the new generation of musicians is that they rush into studios and in a record time creativity in them diminishes. A musician needs time, and except you are not the creative type anything goes. A song like Respect Africa, was in the cold room for more than seven years before it was time to release it. And by the time it was released, it came out a chartbuster. African Style (Ogbono Soup), Life Na Teacher and Ube Nnanne all followed in the same pattern.
I take my time to do my thing and that is why each time I come out, it pays and the record stays for a long time. My entire works including the last one “Because of English” still earns me royalties, which means they are evergreen.
Although the amount may not be the eye-popping figure, it pays and I give thanks to God Almighty. The truth is that a real performing musician spends more on stage than the studio. Studio recordings come when it’s only necessary to create new ideas.
And what’s the secret behind your long stay with Rogers All Stars label?
I have been working with Rogers All Stars Records for more than 27 years.
And you don’t have misunderstanding?
When I went into music, I felt I have a message. Something I want to give to the people. And in my quest I found Rogers, he listened to me and gave me the opportunity to be with him. And since the romance began, every time I go into the studio and we come out, it’s a hit. So, I respect him for that.
Coming to royalties, I am one musician who will not quarrel with any label over money. The contract has to be spelt out before I go into any deal. The most important thing is that I am not greedy and that’s probably the reason we are still together. He has stood behind me and my Ziggima movement for more than 27 years. And anytime I come with a new concept, he quickly buys into it. Long before this Ziggima thing started in the early 1980s few years before I left the Nigeria Customs Service band, I did my first demo, which I took to every known record company in Nigeria. They rejected the demo. In fact, one of the record companies’ executive even suggested to me to sing and play like Jide Obi or Christ Okotie, the guys who were in vogue then. I couldn’t sound like them and therefore, I walked away from them. It was Rogers who listened to me and said “this is something new and refreshing, I‘d like to experiment with it! We explored together and like they say, the rest is history.
Many thought that with the demise of Oliver De Coque and Osita Osadebe, you’d have taken over the throne as high life king?
Take over which industry and what genre of music? My brother, while these people were alive, I was pondering my Ziggima sound. I do Ziggima men and we were never playing the same type of music. So, I don’t know which industry you want me to take over.
You are no longer popular and your music relatively unknown in the South-western part of Nigeria, doesn’t that bother you?
I’m not based in Lagos anymore. I live in Umuahia, Abia State, these days and that’s where I take off from every time to go and play shows in any part of the country. I hardly come to Lagos and this may be the reason for the drop in the demand for my kind of music. But don’t worry, Bright Chimezie is re-launching and very soon Lagosians will feel the impact of Ziggima again.
Are you planning to relocate to Lagos?
I’d rather come to Lagos to honour shows than reside here permanently.
Now, let’s talk about what brought you to Lagos this time.
I am here on the ticket of J. Martins. Before my decision to come, he had been calling and calling. I was just relaxing one day like that and a call came through. “I am J. Martins,” he said by way of introduction and added, “Dede I’d like to do a collabo with you? I asked him what he meant by that since I had never done anything like that before. He said to me, “you the older generation must do something with the new ones. You must impact your deep and creative abilities into some of us.” All in all, I’m here to honour the young man by doing something good with the very creative young man. We are collaborating in one of my old songs, which I wouldn’t want to let out of the bag yet.
And how far have you gone with the recording?
Oh, we’ve just done our first session and what we did together is beautiful. I put down my story, my voice. I had to add some magical ziggimatical flavour.
And you are okay with the instrumentation he laid down?
I think the instrumentation came out superb. I told you earlier that the guy has ears for good music, he is a good producer.
Is there something you share in common?
I believe he is tilted towards highlife music and my Ziggima style too.
Have you ever been approached by other musicians in the past for such collaborations?
Oh, so many had and I told them I wasn’t ready.
So, why J. Martins?
I listened to some of his works and I found him to be very creative. He plays some key instruments and he is a good producer.
What are the chances of this collaboration becoming a hit?
It will make it.
And how will the collaboration help you and your career?
I’m looking at some kind of fusion of creativity. I can’t tell you how the project is going to affect me for now; let’s wait and see how well it comes out. But let me say here that what is happening today is long overdue. It should have happened long time ago. The older and new generation musicians should do something like this regularly. The music industry is about to explode with fresh creativity and originality. We need to give support to the younger generation. They cannot do without us and vice versa. If this project explodes as we expect it to, then the doors may have been opened for some more collaboration.
After this collaboration, what happens?
After this collaboration, I am moving straight into the studio. My fans, especially my Lagos fans, should get set for Bright Chimezie.