LAGBAJA, the masked music maestro, is very bitter right now. The rumour that he has shut down Motherlan’, the venue of his monthly rendezvous, saddens him.
To shame those spreading the tale, he performed live again at the place (the first time this year) after a six-month hiatus on Friday, July 31, 2010.
On Thursday, August 5, 2010, after his rehearsals with the Project Fame hopefuls at Ultima Studios, Ogba, Lagos, Omo Baba Muko-muko, like he is also called, granted ENCOMIUM Weekly an exclusive interview. And spoke on a whole lot of issues.
Your last performance at Motherlan’ was in December 2009, what actually informed the hiatus?
Basically, I operate a style that wherever anything is happening, I want to be there. So, when I’m not in town, I don’t want to force myself to come back because of the last Friday of the month show. I used to do that even when it was tough. But from now till December, we’re going to be running the Motherlan’ show again, every last Friday of the month. Already, there is something coming up that may take the whole band out of town again by the end of August. So, everytime something takes us out of town, we just have to stay away.
The turnout at the July gig was quite low, how did you feel playing to a lot of empty seats?
If you saw the performance, you would know there was no difference. I just wanted to do a show because I’ve been hearing all kinds of silly rumours that they’ve shut Motherlan’. If you check well, we didn’t place any advert aside the one slot we got in Guardian and on Kennis Primetime TV. We just wanted people to know we are here and all the stories that they’ve closed Motherlan’ are wrong. Not only were they fabrications, it is quite annoying the extent to which it was written, saying one went to the bank to renovate. It was silly.
But did they not cross-check with you before they published the story?
Absolutely no! And they have my number because the following week somebody called my line from their newspaper and sent me a text that they want to talk to me. After you had written an article that was a fabrication? It made no sense at all and why it annoyed me so much is that you’re trying to build something. Apart from Afrikan Shrine and Motherlan’, I don’t know any other place where there is regular live music. So, it doesn’t make any sense to me that you just wake up and fabricate a story with an angle not only being false, but that was done as if it’s a deliberate attempt to pull you down. I was really upset with that. I just said let’s have the show even if we cannot advertise the show. We have a new video out, let’s just get on with the show. But like I said, an engagement may take us out of town in August and so we may miss the show again.
Why not advertise the show, especially in this circumstance so that your fans can be aware of your comeback show?
It was not a comeback show, I’m not back because I didn’t go anywhere in the first place.
Motherlan’ is just one of the things that we do. So, why must my career be tied to an event? That I’m not there does not mean the place is shut. As a matter of fact, Segun Adefila’s Crown Troupe has been doing their show there every first Sunday for the last four months. So, I’m not back because I didn’t go anywhere. I’m in town in principle but I can run anywhere. This is the 21st century and people should stop living in the past. I’m living in the future. As long as I have the legal right and the opportunity to live anywhere under the sun, I’ll do so. And if a show comes up anywhere, no matter the distance, even on 24-hour notice, we’ll be there. People should appreciate that indeed, the world is now a small village. You shouldn’t use your imagination to limit my horizon.
Do you have band boys all over the place or you have to take them along for each and every show?
I take my band all the time but my band hasn’t gone anywhere with me this year. I’m the only one who’s been out of town. There are other things we do musically. I produce my videos, I direct them, I have to arrange and get things done. Some of these productions take months. I’m here now engaged with Project Fame (training academy). There are people who keep their families in Lagos yet they work in Abuja.
As the Lagbaja brand evolves into a global phenomenon, spending more time abroad than in Nigeria, don’t you think losing popularity and relevance at home is a cost too high to pay?
People don’t always remember that Lagbaja usually does his own things his own way. I’m not a new artist that should put out one single and put out a video immediately to promote it. I make music. I must care about the marketing too. Once my music is ready, I don’t care to wait for its video. Konko Below was out in June 2000, but the video came out in December 2001. Same thing with Never Far Away. It was released in May 2005, but the video came out in December. Same thing with Paradise and Sharp Sharp, I released them last year and the videos are just coming out now. It took me this long to make my videos. The video of Did I? just came out, packaged by Kennis Music. Lulu Fun Won came out with it. Bling Bling Panda came out about a month earlier and Sobolation came out last year December. People should get used to my style. I’m not out here because I want to make quick noise and then sell album. I’m just running my career, doing my things at my own pace.
What do you have to say about your seemingly dwindling popularity now that you’re back?
Again I say I’m not back because I never left! And why should people determine my career objectives for me? Why should they think everything is based on how much money I make? I’m a long distance runner. Motherlan’ is about 13 years old now, I’m running my place, playing as I want to play. So, what is my problem? I don’t understand this logic that I must be out there all the time. You guys make a very big mistake thinking that noise equates to success; it doesn’t. Noise is what goes out there in the media, success is what happens with what you do. There are people who host parties like every day yet you don’t read about them in the papers. So, it doesn’t make any difference to me. But then, people shouldn’t just wake up and use their mouths to close Motherlan’.
You have churned out four videos now from a double album with about 19 songs altogether, when are we getting more videos?
I might not do any video there again. People are demanding video for Jenke and Irowe, but who knows. Irowe features one of the most beautiful voices in Nigeria that I know, Benita Okojie. The song is actually a worship song done in Edo. So, I may still do that. For instance, I have a video from our last album, in the same two weeks we shot Never Far Away, we shot a video called Woman, and it’s not released till today.
It was half-edited then because we’re doing so many things. And that’s why I’m amazed by people who just say things they don’t know. If I bring it out now though it has nothing to do with the albums we have brought out now but it’s my work and artistic expression which I have preserved. The market itself does not encourage you to spend so much energy churning out such good videos because it’s intensive and the market belongs to the pirates anyway.
But what really are the other things that get you so busy?
My first love is to acquire the skills of music production and like I told them at the Project Fame training today, if you really want to develop your art, you need about six or eight hours a day of practice. It’s not a joke! How can you understand if I say I spend a minimum of five hours per day honing my skills? If you listen to Let My People Stay, a track in Sharp Sharp, you will know what sound arrangement is. I’m just trying to achieve my vision and life goals and they are bigger than one quick box I can make!
The Lulu Fun Won video has a guy challenging you to beat the drums, but you only ended up dancing, no drumming. Don’t you drum at all and what instruments are you really good with?
Lagbaja is a small boy at playing gangan. Maybe the song should have been Jo Fun Won (Dance for them). The instruments I love playing are saxophone, the base and the keyboard.
Again Lulu Fun Won and Sobolation like many of your earlier videos feature a large cast. Who directs the videos and what are the challenges with managing the crowd?
I directed all the videos and edited them all. The graphics were the only thing I did not do. Understanding and perfecting all these various skills and techniques are some of what I spend a lot of time doing. Lulu Fun Won was recorded on location at Ishara, the hometown of Wole Soyinka’s mama. It’s a beautiful, hilly place. It was quite tough getting where we eventually used, but it’s all part of the fun, just like the challenges we got while shooting Sobolation around Marina. The area boys! We could have done it in the studio with lesser risks and lesser cost but the output wouldn’t have told the story of the environment and the city which we are trying to tell.
Then in sharp contrast, Did I? has just a two-man cast, you and a lady who speaks Spanish and English…
That was New York City. Who cares? Everyone was just doing stuff. The crowd doesn’t gather like it happens here. That girl in the video is not the one that sang the song. The one in the video is a professional dancer and actress. The one that sang the song is the only female singer in Mark Anthony’s band, the biggest salsa musicians in New York. Her name is Alexandra, she sings with Mark Anthony and Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo is Mark Anthony’s wife). And she’s also an artist in her own right, she was at New England Conservatory for a degree in Music. She sings opera and salsa, but she wasn’t available when we wanted to do the video. If she can find the time to come and I can afford it, I’ll love to bring her to perform here with me.
In the past, you’ve had Yinka Davies, Onos Brisbi, then Ego then Camara. Is Lagbaja actually in search of his complementary female back-up vocalist?
Yes! Camara had been with us even before Ego left. She’s a very good singer. She came second at Naija Sings last year. She took over as lead vocalist after Ego left. After her, I’ve also had Vivian, another powerful singer who also has her own album out. But I can always call back any of them for performances. And I’m already watching this Project Fame, for whoever I like but does not win, and that is available, I’ll try her out.
THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 2010