Sunny Neji is one of the most creative and talented music artistes in Nigeria. He is one act that has decided to keep the spirit of highlife alive with his refined style of music. He spoke with GLITZ & RAZZ on his latest album Pin Number, his style of music, the future of highlife in the Nigeria music circle and his love life
Itâ€™s called Pin Number and has 14 tracks. Before putting the album together I took a lot of things into consideration, the fact that my fans were not satisfied with the last album, so I took all their thoughts and desires into cognizance while working on the album and I am sure itâ€™s something all of us would love. Itâ€™s predominantly highlife. So far weâ€™ve shot Ojoro video and thatâ€™s the only one on air and itâ€™s a promotional video. Weâ€™ve not put the videos out yet. Right now itâ€™s the audio CDs that are still out there, which was released a couple of days ago and so far itâ€™s been incredible.
The song, Ojoro, was it based on experience?
Yes, most of my songs, the subject matters, are things you can easily relate with. You know when the GSM phones came out a lot of us were not used to it; but now it has caught on and people can now stay in their homes and do business with someone very far away without having to travel. You can even have meetings on the phone. But the GSM phone has also come with something else. Itâ€™s very easy now for us to lie; you call someone, maybe you want to meet the person at home and you call the person, he would tell you, â€˜no, I am not at home, I am out somewhere.â€™ So the GSM has made it possible for us to tell lies. It happens everyday in my life, even with my colleagues, business partner or someone in my office, I am sure my secretary must have done it to me. Itâ€™s a daily occurrence, so we can relate with it
Why is much attention given to hip hop now to the detriment of highlife?
I donâ€™t think that highlife can die. Itâ€™s just that itâ€™s going to be reinterpreted because of other influences of today. So if you listen to the songs that are making waves, you will find out that they all have highlife undertones. Highlife is part of us; itâ€™s our life, itâ€™s part of our culture. If you listen to every song that is making waves, you will hear at the background what is driving it, it is highlife. Itâ€™s just that highlife cannot be the way it used to be in those days because it canâ€™t really be interpreted by this generation and they have other influences. Even my kind of highlife, if you listen very well, itâ€™s not like a highlife of old. So things are about to change and people are abound to reinterpret a particular genre of music but the following of highlife cannot die because itâ€™s part of us, without highlife there is no â€˜usâ€™ and thatâ€™s what makes us unique. When you make music, youâ€˜ll discover that the one that reaches and touches the people is the one that has highlife undertone.
What about some of the songs that carry lewd lyrics?
I do listen to them but in the midst of all these we have a few that are making good music, but itâ€™s just that the media are not helping matters. If I make an album now and it doesnâ€™t get air-play nobody will hear it. So itâ€™s what the media promote that the people hear and accept. Yes, if somebody makes a bad album why would the media still go ahead to give it massive air-play, so thatâ€™s a big question. Anybody can go into the studio now and create quite a couple of songs and he is out and before you know it the song is everywhere. Who makes it popular? Itâ€™s the media. So the media have a responsibility, they can say, â€˜this is not airworthyâ€™ and if they take their time to choose what is air-worthy and what to promote, it will help everybody to sit up. The musician will then think, â€˜ahâ€¦ men! if I do this, I donâ€™t think they will play it, because what I have now, I think the words are too lewd, let me change and correct it.â€™ So the media can serve as a sieve to make sure that itâ€™s only what is worthy that goes on air.
Why do you invest much on costumes?
Well, emâ€¦ when I do a song, I try to do a video that will integrate the song, which will make the song very entertaining. Apart from the fact that I want it to be colourful, I am thinking of the entertainment content of the video. I want you to watch and watch it again. So anytime we sit down and conceptualise a video, we are looking at the entertainment content, the costume, picture quality, we take everything into consideration and at the end of the day you have a video that has a total package and not lacking in any aspect. We put a team together and brainstorm, we come up with these ideas, but we know the bottom-line is entertainment.
You did a movie and since then youâ€™ve not done any other one, why?
Well, the character in that movie was a lawyer, generous and nice and the bread