His musical career can be described as ‘off and on’. Alariwo of Africa is not a musician with a lot of songs to his credit, yet he is one of the most influential in the industry. He will be dropping another album tomorrow after eight years of musical silence. He visited the corporate office of the Nigerian Compass last week. He spoke with Hazeez Balogun and Funmi Elugbaju
Where does Alariwo of Africa really come from?
My names are Oluwarotimi Martins, I am from Delta state. I was born forty one years ago. I attended Bright Star nursery and primary school in Ojota. I attended victory home school and I attended a school in my village. From there I did a professional course in the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations. I have diploma in public relations and I am a member of the Nigerian institute of public relations. I attended FRCN training school. I was in Eko FM 89.75 and I resigned in 2004. I am married with three kids; two girls and a boy. I have been in the music industry for a long time but professionally in 1987. I release my first album in 1998.
What kind of boy were you when you were young?
I was troublesome and I am still troublesome. I am a noise maker. I was troublesome in the sense that whatever belongs to me cannot be taken away from me. I have always been a bull, I never give up. I like doing things the way I feel is right but sometimes it might end up to be wrong, that is why sometimes it is good to listen to other people’s opinions. As a kid 80% of us were stubborn but from birth I have always loved singing, when I was young I usually watched Sesame street and it really educated us. I was very stubborn and I even attended a very stubborn school, Victroy nursery and primary school and a more stubborn school in Ojota called bright star school. I was in the same class with Eucharia Anunobi and Sunday Oliseh. From birth maybe God had ordained I was going to be a celebrity.
Were your parents strict?
They were very strict, aggressively and annoyingly strict. My mum was always supportive and encouraging but my father never wanted me to do music but I keep saying it till tomorrow that my father was the genesis of my doing music because he wakes up in the morning and he will be playing music of Jim reeves, Don Williams and the rest and he kept telling me not to do music but music is inborn because if it is not, you cannot do music. My father influenced my music career, he never encouraged it but my mother supported me.
The celebrities you mentioned earlier that were in your class, do you still interact with them?
Eucharia actually forgot but I reminded her one day at Nite shift coliseum but Sunday I think cannot remember anymore and I am not good at walking up to someone and saying hello, do you remember me? I am a celebrity and he his a celebrity, and you know that there is this clause celebrity have with each other. I approached him once and maybe he wasn’t in a good mood and I felt I should just let him be. Eucharia was very warm and nice. Sunday has always been a very quiet person and I still see him as a very reserved person.
What other talents do you have besides singing?
I anchor events, sometimes I crack jokes and I see people laugh. I wouldn’t say I am funny but I make people laugh. I also package events and manage events. I do a lot of things that have to do with entertainment and by Gods grace I deliver.
Some people just go straight to the career and start making money but you went to a lot of schools why is that?
Talent is inborn and that is why sometimes when people ask me what university I attended I will tell them I didn’t attend any university. My university was from my mum and dad. I actually never wanted to go to school but because my son really wanted me to go I had to somehow. My elder brother Is an accountant and all my siblings are graduates but I just went to one school and came out with a diploma certificate and sometimes when I am talking on stage, I just say father Lord I thank you because I know I am intelligent and I am okay with it.
From time when I was young I would listen to people like Cyril Stober and Bimbo Roberts then, Ruth Benemesia Opia, when they read the news it was exciting and I said to myself one day I am going to be like them. Back then I would go to radio stations and if the presenter was not around or before he comes the producer would say I should take over and be playing music, don’t talk but once its 7 0’clock or 8 you have to tell the listeners the time and that was how it started.
When will you say was your peak on radio?
I had a programme called Afro fusion and once it was eight ‘0’ clock everybody wants to listen to Alariwo on Eko FM and interestingly people hear us from different parts of Nigeria and outside the country too, that was the peak for me. Another aspect was when I went to anchor an event and the governor was there. I was not just speaking English but I was talking English and he was wowed and when I was going I smiled home with a hundred and fifty Naira. I was just paid thirty thousand Naira as the MC of the event. It was really fun.
‘Bojuboju’ was your biggest hit, have you done any other track apart from that album?
Bojuboju was not my first hit song, but Nigerians felt it was because the voice sounded like late Felas song and the controversy was everywhere. Even on CNN, it was reported that I was Fela’s son and this wasn’t true and I so I sued them for ten thousand Dollars and I bought my first car with it. It was fun. So Boju boju was not my first hit but ‘Yawa go gas’ was because it became a household song.
Beside your father kicking you out, what other challenges did you face?
I faced a lot of challenges. I was anchoring an event in Oregun and I was being paid Hundred Naira and back then there was a woman where I normally ate, I would eat a Hundred and Fifty Naira food from her and if they pay a hundred Naira where I was their MC I will give her the hundred naira telling her I will give her the balance later. She was there for me. I had no place to stay until I went to a joint and met a friend and an old school song was playing and I was singing along and the guy was wowed that I knew it and asked me to teach him, that was how I started squatting with him. I lived with him for four years, no quarrel.
With what you do now, I am sure there are still hindrances here and there?
Yes, what I don’t do in my life I will tell you, I don’t beg for what belongs to me, what belongs to me comes to me. If there is an event and you feel Alariwo is the right person for that event please call me but if you think I have to lick your booth to get there, I will never. Maybe that’s the reason I am still where I am today, I am not in a hurry. I know what belongs to me will come to me and I don’t need to beg for what belongs to me, that is my policy.
Will you call yourself a rich man?
I am not a millionaire or a thousandnaire, all I know is that I am comfortable. If I am broke I know how to get money and if I don’t have money I know how to MC at a reasonable amount so I can put food on the table of my family and people around me. My son doesn’t want to hear that the cartoon network or Disney channel is not showing, so he will tell me daddy you better go and pay and he draws his ear for me as he says it. So if it is going to cost me to MC an event for thirty thousand Naira, I will do that just to put food on my table.
Can you tell us about Alariwo the family man, how did you meet your wife?
I met my wife through my best friend’s wife and it was after I got married to my wife that my best friend got married to his wife. There is this instinct when you see someone, and immediately I saw her I just knew she was for me. And after all the shakara she is still there.
If there is any regret in your life, what will it be?
For me to stop being caring, sometimes people abuse it and take me for granted. You do something wrong to me and I am still there for you and ignore your shortcomings and you feel you like me so much and can’t do without me, so I think If I come back to this world I will try to limit it, but I can’t stop being me.
Let’s go back to the music scene now, we have talked about the new generation of musicians singing trash and many of them not sending out the right messages, is there anything that can be done to stop this trend?
I don’t know, I am doing mine, let them do theirs. It is left for people out there to judge if they appreciate what they are listening to or not. Even though the ruling body has no say about that, let alone poor me. I can’t stop them from doing what they want to do. If they think what they are doing is right let them do it.
Do you think it is wrong?
I will ask you is it wrong or right to do something fetish to make money. What they are doing is lyrically fetish because you are in a hurry to make money, you now sing anything. You can be vulgar and not be direct
What do you think about the Nigerian music industry?
To my own understanding, the industry is growing but at the same time dehumanising and frustrating. I will explain. There are some of the Nigerian artistes that are doing it and doing it well and there are some that are abusing it and abusing it to the core. There are some songs that you need to do and play and when you play it, you appreciate what you are listening to but some you don’t even want to hear it. There are some songs I don’t even want my children to hear. If you hear a song that says ‘A dara’, it is philosophical. You are claiming it, but if you hear a song that says otherwise it doesn’t make sense to me and people will be singing and dancing to it. So it depends on what you want to hear.
Maybe there is nobody putting anybody in the right direction?
We don’t have anybody that can put us in the right direction. If they have people like me, do I own the industry? Do you know how many times I have been talking. If we had someone like Abacha, he would have been the right person to regulate this whole situation. If you ask me what to do to Piracy I will tell you firing squad. I release 10,000 copies and the pirates are releasing 100,000 copies. The pirates are richer than me so what can I do, there is nothing I can do. I am only making a name and making money while the pirates are building houses in Festac and I am sleeping the streets.
PMAN as a body, there is still limit even by law to what it can do, do you think artistes have a forum where they meet, because I have been to PMAN and I don’t see people like you there?
The people that you see at PMAN are just a bunch of miscreants that claim to be musicians. You only see credible people when they are invited out of pressure to be there. You don’t see them all the time. I once contested for the Lagos state chapter of PMAN but the election was rigged, I was not aware when the election was conducted because one criminal felt he should do things his own way and at the end of the day they gave the position to someone, Mike Disu, may his soul rest in peace and a young man called uncle P. After the whole thing, uncle P and Charly boy fought and uncle P called me and said he wanted to apologise to me publicly. It is not about forming a body it is about having people that can handle the body. PMAN has always failed musicians and it is not compulsory that it has to be PMAN, you just relax your mind and when the body comes, you will be the first person to know because something is coming up. I don’t know what it is yet, but something is definitely coming up.
Do you think maybe it because you haven’t been inquisitive or close to the house?
I can only be inquisitive if something positive is happening and I am wowed. Why would I want to be close to the house when they don’t want to invite me You can only go where you are invited. If you go to a party that you were invited to and their plate breaks they will tell you not to worry but if you weren’t invited you will buy another one. I am a citizen of two states. I am a citizen of Lagos state and Delta state. People were saying all sorts and the governor of Lagos state is doing wonderfully well in Lagos and anytime I go to Ogun state I look around and I smile because Gbenga Daniel is working. Some people will still criticize but don’t allow that to hold you back, all you need to do is be focused and do what you need to do, so he wants us to praise him let him perform. PMAN was respected when the likes of Chief Okoroji were there and when he left PMAN collapsed and he has the franchise to Nigerian Music award. Is that not a slap to PMAN. What has PMAN done in the last 15 years to say this is what we achieved, nothing.
Your album is coming out very soon, what next after that?
The almighty God knows what next. I am not God, he created me. I wake up in the morning and say Jehovah lead me and he goes anywhere I am going to.