– relates experience as a Nigerian Idol Judge
Versatile musician and Fela Anikulapo’s protege, Dede Mabiaku is obviously not happy with miming among Nigerian artistes! A judge at the ongoing Nigerian Idol couldn’t hide his feeling, in an interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly on Saturday, April 19, 2014, where he berated the act, saying it is a destruction and disservice to music in Nigeria.
He spoke on other mind-boggling issues, and related how flamboyant lifestyle killed Pastor Chris Okotie’s music career…
Can you relate your experience at the ongoing Nigerian Idol?
It has been wonderful. The audition stage was fantastic, I saw a lot of interesting scenarios and the production crew lovely. I am glad to be associated with it. We are like one happy family. So far, I think it is the best.
How would you describe your relationship with other judges – Nneka and Darey Art-Alade?
For the first time in the history of reality shows in Nigeria, we have three seasoned performers as judges.
Although, we have different views on issues, at the end, we are here to help these youths nurture their talent and see it grow. Besides, it makes it very interesting. Hence, I will say the current contestants are very lucky to have us as judges.
As for my relationship with fellow judges, it has been cordial, especially with Darey. I have known him as far back as when he was a kid. He is like a son and younger brother to me. I am happy to see him on the same platform as judges today. And Nneka too, I am really impressed with what they have offered so far. A table of three judges who have mutual respect, understanding and love for each other.
You, Darey and Nneka are opinionated. Could that have been responsible for your attitude to the result of the vote that produced the top 12?
If you look at it, when we listen, when we discuss with these young ones, when we share the development with them, we expect that what they deliver should be of essence to us. When they come to deliver, we express what we feel about them, especially the ones that delivered well. If at the end of the day, we now receive from the viewers something contrary, it is like a slap on our face. To me, because we heard what they have to deliver, and the same thing we heard is what viewers are receiving and they decided to choose the one that is not good. For instance, it happened to one of the contestants, her performance was flawless, but she was evicted because she didn’t get more votes from viewers. So many talents have been evicted because the viewers voted them out. So, we expect viewers to vote for contestants based on credibility and not sentiment.
This method is not limited to Nigerian Idol. It is everywhere, even in American Idol, where contestants’ parents or siblings mobilized their friends to vote. It also happened in West African Idol, which I was part of, some years back. Those contestants whose parents had money or connection used that to remain in the competition because their parents mobilized votes for them. What saved the Timi Dakolo of this world was the wakeup call that the Niger Delta people did. Look at that Timi Dakolo today, look at Omawumi, they’re doing brilliantly well. That’s what we are seeing, viewers should vote for the best among the remaining 12 contestants without sentiment. People should look at them based on quality, not sentiment. With that we can produce the winner of the season 4 based on merit.
Away from Nigerian Idol. Let’s talk about young artistes who are trying to bring back the legacy of late Fela Anikulapo Kuti through their songs…
(Cuts-in) Who are they?
We have the likes of Burna Boy and Oritse Femi, among others.
Let me correct one impression. Fela played music live. Fela never used synthesized sound, Fela scored his music and his lyrics came along. Fela groomed his band with the sound he had scored. Ethically, he cultured a sound built within a band. After that, he now performed this song over a period of time before going to the studio to record. See the sequence. Now let us come to the present day artistes, what are they doing? They just go into the studio, make few sounds together, make hooks, roll it round and round and round within a certain amount of minutes, and voice on it later. The work is supposedly packaged and you have a musical video that goes with it, and you think, that’s similar to what Fela is doing? I am not saying what Fela did, because Fela is a continual. That’s why people still listen to his songs so many years after his physical exit. He is the most regarded Nigerian musician ever. He is the most regarded African celebrated in Broadway. That is because he was doing it live.
These children need to go back to the basics. Go and learn instrument, go and culture band, culture yourself. What is happening now is destruction and disservice to the quality of work Nigeria music industry should have. Granted and agreed they have good voices, granted and agreed they have good packaging, please for God’s sake, let’s not class these songs as Afro-beat. Afro beat is the music that came for the people; it is a way of life. Do they follow the tenet of this way of life? No! However, I am happy that after so many years, some of them are beginning to realize that the only thing that will make sense is natural Africa sounds that comes with natural Africa element. That is why the people who are really making it are Solidstar, Davido and Flavour. Burna Boy and Oritse Femi you talked about are also in this category. All they just need to do is to learn more about, and if they do this, it will take Nigerian music and African music at large to the next level. I fought 2Face tire over the matter; he listened to me at the end. Miming is not good for this industry, it kills. Let’s not glorify mediocrity.
Nigeria has produced many great singers, who promoted the culture of band; among them were Mike Okri, Feladay, and Chris Okotie, who is now a Pastor. He (Chris Okotie) was doing it live at that time, but what he did at that time was not right, he had all the opportunity to help the young generation, because he was the shining light, but he killed the essence of it by his flamboyant to the excess, and he’s not wanting to listen to those who were tele-guiding his growth. Let these young ones not fall prey to that is what we are saying.
What about you?
Me? I be Baba, I no be una mate. I am not trying to grow, because I am there already. My duty is to assist this generation.
But, why is it difficult for Dede, after all these years, to become a recording artiste?
Because he chooses not to. Is it by force to be a recording artiste? My duty is to advice them, so that they can become useful. There is no big deal about recording, I have started recording since 1984, what about that? It is not about releasing, it is about having an insight to see what is wrong in the industry with the hope of correcting them.
As a Theatre Art graduate, what is happening to your acting career, because a lot of people are insinuating that you’re neither here nor there?
I don’t know what they meant by, neither here nor there. Theatre is an all-encompassing realm, and in it, you have dance, miming, music and acting, with lot units that comes along, including Mass Communication, which is the driving tool for the theatre. Within the theatre, I have been able to culture a multiplicity of units. In 1987, I was the first best actor in this country. I am a professional theatre artiste, and along the line, I realized that music could also be a driving element, so I made myself participant/observer to the Master himself (Fela), to study everything about him. That led me to Kalakuta Republic. You have to be there. If you don’t live within, how would you know what is within. I sacrificed my home, I served the Master. That’s why today, I have gone to different parts of the world to train people.
After Inale, have you featured in another film?
Yes. I did one with Desmond Ovbiagele, entitled, Render to Caesar. The most important project which I did, as far as acting is concerned, is coming out soon. I also produced it, and Akon’s company, Konvict Records, has taken over the final project. It is Jeta Amata’s script, it was shot here and America, and featured international superstars like Akon, Wyclef Jean, Mickey Rourke and Hakeem Kae Kazim, among others. The world premiere will soon be here.
Can you tell us your relationship with Femi?
Mutual and wonderful.
Let’s talk about Fela! On Broadway. A lot of people believe you would have done better than Sahr Ngaujah. What’s your take on it?
Those people took our hero and put him on the pedestal that is required and deserved of him, Fela! On Broadway. When they planned to come to Nigeria, they sent someone to me, and some units within said that if I was the one to play the role, they wouldn’t grant authority for that to be done.
Because of some internal issues. So, they left and went somewhere. I have to accept a big mistake on their path because, I, who happen to be a Theatre graduate, the second person to serve the Master himself should have been the best to play the role because I under studies the ways of the Master. They needed to take some Nigerians as advisers for the production, if they weren’t going to use us.
But you were at the Eko Hotel & Suites during the final show?
I was not part of it, but Seun made me to watch it on the last day of the show.
What are the areas you think they should have improved upon?
Every area, it didn’t not portray what Fela represents. I don’t know why a white band will be continually milking out of Fela’s success. Anyway, we don’t need to go back to that again.