•Joins World Stars To Record FIFA World Cup Theme Song
You are among a select group of musicians from around the world who were invited to perform the World Cup theme and it is believed you will perform at the World Cup. How did you get involved in the World Cup theme song project?
I thank God for the breakthrough. I was called by my overseas manager that I should come and be part of the team to do the theme song entitled ‘Ctizen Of The World.’ An artiste was chosen from China, France, Arab continent, India and I came from Nigeria. Though, there is another Algerian-born artiste that was part of it. According to them, they want to use the song for the World Cup that was what we were told, but when it comes to the lyrics, they said they want it to outlive the World Cup because at the end of the World Cup the song may be not be useful. For the lyrics, you have to do it in your language but to sing a song in one language is easier but if you are going to combine one theme song into different languages of the world, it is a difficult thing. We were in the U.S. where we recorded the album at Capital Records and we did the visual along with it on the roof of Capital Records. They made us to stay in Beverly’s Hill, while we come every day to Hollywood to record. It is a worthwhile experience because we were given the song before time; about two weeks to the time, we were given the lyrics to turn it to our own language. It was written in English but we had to turn it to our one language. So, everybody did their own thing but they want to extend it; the one I did in Yoruba, they want me to do in different Nigerian languages, so that other Nigerians can benefit.
The shooting of the video was quite interesting, some of the cameramen were on helicopters, while we were on the roof top dancing, when they were coming, the helicopters would flash light in your direction and they would disappear again. It was quite an experience, but it was so cold and you can imagine, I was wearing a lace material that had holes and we were on a roof top; but we were so happy. A group of four musicians called Flying Machine composed that song.
Would you perform at the World Cup?
We would love to but we are yet to be informed.
Is FIFA behind this project?
A young man called Hassan, a Lebanese, initiated the idea for them to have a theme song and he pumped a lot of money into it, because to fly artistes from different continents of the world is not a joke; it has never happened before. Maybe we just look beyond the World Cup, because we have been through this since February and we are supposed to do the premiere or command performance but definitely we are still hanging on.
Are you the only African?
Yes, I am the only one from Africa out of seven artistes.
That means you represented the Africa?
Yes, but I was told to sing in my own language.
Worldwide, you have garnered a lot of recognition. Is this another feather in your cap?
Yes, it is because I participated in the first ‘We are the world that was released in France,’ the second was the one composed by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie. During the recording of those ones, any musician that was interested would indicate interest and he would be invited and be taken care of, while the musician bore the rest of the expenses. But this one, they called continent by continent and I don’t know how they got me but the letter was given to me that I must come. And two weeks to the time, they sent us a track and in that track we were told to sing in our language and do whatever we could. Even, we had to do the video and I gave my company, Triumph Vision, an ultimatum to fix pictures into it in 24 hours and when the video was given to that very day, it was what everybody was talking about. So, I appreciate my company because I did not know they could do that. Actually, I don’t know whether they are going to use that part of picture but that was something that fired everybody up. In fact, any movement the camera is on you and when I did mine, I did it only once and they applauded it.
Recently, you lost some of your boys in a road accident. What really happened?
They were to travel to Irrua, in Edo State, where we were supposed to have a video shoot and they went by public transport because only few members of the band went. Though all members of the band were billed to travel but we wanted to do how we started the band, because they were only eight members of the original band still left. So, they said that only the eight original members should come for the video shoot. Some of those members based in Ibadan went by public transport, unfortunately they had an accident which claimed the lives of all passengers in the bus.
What was your reaction?
When you have become family members with people who work for you, people I have been going along with for over 40 years and nothing like that has happened before, you should know how I would feel .In fact, when they informed me by phone, they did not how to present it. They just asked where I was and I told them I was on my way and they said I should wait because they had a little problem. It was one of them that told me they had a little problem and I asked what kind of problem and they said two members of the band were involved in a road accident and I completely went blank. Even you won’t want your enemy to die, you want him or her to live to see what God has done for you, it was a very shocking thing and I was unable to play; I only started playing recently.
There was much talk about the cabal of record distribution in those days. In your case how did you survive them?
In those days, it was Sonny, Polygram, Decca and others that were recording artistes, distributing and marketing but nowadays, they are group of people who call themselves record distributors. As per record distributors, I didn’t have any problem with anybody until a time they now said I should record for one or two hours to give to them and I asked the reason, they said because they were the ones selling our albums. I said okay, if I was going to do one hour recording for them, what would be my share of the royalty. They said they were the ones selling our records and that they had been doing it to many artistes and I said if that was the case, I would check those artistes, but I couldn’t do it and I would never allow anybody to do it. I decided to stick to my decision because if I had released an album for them, musicians coming after me would be victims. So, eventually they decided not to distribute my records for 10 years and I thank God that whenever I released an album I sold the little I could but I never capitulated. Those who are distributing Yoruba records are the same people. I was the first musician to fight them because I said to them that they were not registered and they could not distribute records. I regarded them in those days as pirates but they told me to my face that they had enough money to fight me in the court. I said if that was the case, my people would not sign on with them and luckily for me, some of our juju musicians did not go with them.
How do you grapple with pirates who record your live shows?
You can imagine when you are on a live show, someone is busy recording your performance on tape from your speaker. That is what pirates do to me but the fact still remains that their own recording is never as clean as mine. And I thank God that by His special grace, I have a special device, which I use in recording the audio of my live shows. For the past 10-15 years now, any show I go, I record and keep and whoever I give it out to, is for his/her own pleasure. But sometimes, it is unfortunate, you would find it in the stores but who sold, it may be the driver or some else close to the person I gave it to.
What of video pirating?
I could remember when I played at the marriage ceremony of the daughter of a governor and weeks later, I saw it in the street. When I cried to the governor, he told me he did not know anything about it. And truly, he didn’t know anything about it. Sometimes, when they focus video recorder on me and my band, I would call on the cameraman to shift focus ‘because you came here to record the celebrant, not me.’