As the Nigerian music entertainment industry is witnessing a rise the domestic and international circles, many practitioners have flooded the stage to make hit songs and roll with the cash flow that a number of successful artistes have been flaunting. Civil Engineer-turned-musician, Mustapha Bello a.k.a T-Kross predicts that with the emergence of a new crop of focused artistes, a weeding process will soon hit the industry like a tsunami to separate the boys from the men. He spoke to AHAOMA KANU in this exclusive interview.

My name is Mustapha Bello while my stage name is T-Kross coined out from my first name and the name of a movie character in Mario Puzo’s epic novel, The Last Don, Crossifixo; I love the guy so much that I took after him. I am from Edo State and graduated from the Civil Engineering Department of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka in Anambra State. I love music even though I was doing Engineering and was also into comedy which I had to pull out from when it started gaining much ground than music thing.

Getting into Music.
I started music right from my secondary school days while still in my fellowship choir in MYCA. My father is a Moslem and a retired military officer and we were not really allowed to go to church so we did all we had to do in school. I remember then in my primary school, because I was not allowed to go out, I used to memorize any song I hear in school so I could recite it back home to myself. Musicians that used to inspire me in those days were Majek Fashek, Mike Okri of those days; they were really awesome and I was very young then but I just loved the way they were doing their thing.

Overcoming the rap influence.
I will say it was the circumstances that really made me stick to Nigerian artistes because back then it was basically the radio I used to listen to songs and most of the songs that were played then on radio were more of Nigerian hits. When I got into secondary school when I got my first tape which was that of Boyz II Men from a friend and the day I heard it I just didn’t like the way Don Moen sounded anymore. I will say Boyz II Men were the first people to mentor me in my musical career. I immediately left the Nigerian style of singing and strived to do what Boyz II Men were doing. Later I got to know about Brian McKnight and from him I learn discipline.

The Engineering choice.
While we were in school, everybody wanted to make a career in Medicine, Law, Accountancy and Engineering; there was not anything like making a career in music, it was done out of love and passion I will say. When I got into the university, I went for Civil Engineering but I joined the Believers Loveworld Ministry and our pastor encouraged us to pursue a career of our hobbies; he said, “If you like singing, go out there and learn how to produce beats and soundtracks on the keyboard.” I started it and began to enjoy it and sometime I got paid for doing it and before I knew it, my service was needed in other institutions and I started travelling to produce soundtracks; it was simply amazing.

Managing Engineering and Music.
It was thrilling because there is something about talent; it doesn’t matter whether it has to do with music or art or sports, you see yourself deep into it and I must admit that it was a major distraction for me then in school. I discovered that I didn’t like going to class anymore and reading became very difficult because you are trying to read and sweet tunes are coming to your head, nobody can make you read or solve engineering maths if you are in that state of mind; you will want to compose but I thank God that I was able to graduate eventually.

Making the choice.
I made the decision of pursuing a career in music than Engineering last year when I graduated from the university, I made up my mind that I would not start looking for a job but would rather make a career out of music and that is it.

My kind of person in music is someone who loves good music; if you ask me the kind of music I like, my answer will be anything that sounds nice. I am inspired by Highlife, Reggae, Soul Music and anything that sounds good. I am very particular about my lyrics as I try as much as possible not to produce anything vulgar and I will keep to that discipline. I think when you are singing a love song, ladies should be respected and not disrespected but even at that I can sing a love song to someone who is used to disrespecting people and he will still enjoy it because the beats, the rhythms and everything will be cool. I can sing inspirational songs but I will still have the liberty to sing about everything I want to sing about; politics, war, love, hate, growth and my maker.

Life experiences influencing music.
The two singles I have out now especially Ayemi Dara which has a video was inspired by what I went through in life. When I did the song, I used to put the song on repeat because the lyrics touched me a great deal. I don’t know if you have gone through a phase in your life where you start wondering in your life if you are ever going to make it in life. I know I am a young man but so many youngsters are asking that question today with the state of the economy. We are afraid at times that we might not even achieve half of what our parents achieved and that is serious.

Funding the project.
Sincerely I will say God took control because I don’t have a job and have not gone for my mandatory youth service yet but my songs and video are out. I have been blessed with so much great friends who supported me and the manner they do that is awesome; I don’t go out asking for the money but anytime I informed any of them that I have this project and have raised this amount, they come up with a contribution that baffles me. Also some elders in my local church were very supportive.

The song and music video
When I was writing the song, I had a story in mind and will actually say that I saw the video before the song. I just had to call my manager and told him about the idea. When I finished recording the song and he heard it, all he had to do was adjust the music video concept a little bit and with the help of our other friends we worked on the video and it came out the way it is. When the full album comes out it will consist of 10 tracks of which four has been recorded; some of the tracks are , Ayemi Dara, Only You, African Child and others which I am yet to work on.

Right now I want to plug into the Nigerian entertainment scene and I learnt that you can get a fan base by doing collaboration with an artiste that is very popular so we are in the process of doing that; we have already secured Jessy Jatt on one of the tracks and we are hoping that the rest would work out. I want to have J Martins and Tuface because of his originality. We are working towards producing more hits and continuously feeding the fan base with enough hit songs. I don’t want to be an artiste that you need to wait for two years before you hear his next album; we want to hit it and hit it hard and I know it comes with a lot of hard work and I am ready for it. There is no time for mediocrity. I am looking forward to producing songs that will be on international airwaves and get nominated for international awards. I think the time for mediocrity has gone with the wind; this is not the time when you go to the studio and mix sounds that are whack. Many people parading themselves as artistes don’t have any business being in the industry and I believe that by the time we start getting those beats that are well researched and mixed, the boys will leave the stage for the men.