His real name is Oluwadamilare Okulaja, but we all know him as Durella. He even has an oriki for himself and in almost all his songs you will hear him hail himself, Durella Miskiyaski, Tugbaski, Omoyagbuaski, king of the Zanga.
He is the premier artiste of TC Records and he knows his art. He has successfully thrown off the uneven comparison which people have place between him and D’Banj and fully defined himself as a unique and gifted artiste.
With $50,000 won from MTV Base Zain Advance Warning last year, a lucrative album King of the Zanga, and new deals and contracts coming his way daily, we also hail the king of the Zanga.
Because back in the days when we were growing up, if you walked up to a girl and told her that you stay in Mushin, she would run from you. She won’t even think of even visiting you. So, being a creative person, I coined this name and when I go out and tell a girl that I stay in the Zanga, she gets interested and inquisitive. But really, what Zange means is ghetto. Anywhere in the world that has a ghetto, has a Zanga. There are so many other slangs in Mushin, but I like inventing my own things. When I got to TC Records, they really loved the slang and that’s why the title of my album is King of the Zang.
How did you get the name Durella?
It came out from my modification of my name. it used to be Durell when I started newly, but later became Durella. It came from my name, Oluwamdamilare Okulaja.
When did you start singing?
I started signing when I was broke. There was no money with which to go to school and my mom was striving very hard for m. I have several step-brothers and step-sisters. My mom had me when she was young, maybe 20 or less. My dad left her and I was brought up by my mum and grandmother.. I always knew I had the talent to sing, so I said to myself, Durell, no money, no nothing and I got talent. So, if I can use my talent to make money, I won’t need to disturb my mom and my grandmother again.
When was this?
This happened when I was in LASPOTECH (Lagos State Polytechnic) in 2004. I could not graduate because there was no money.
Are you planning to go back to school?
For wetin now? I am not planning to go back to school. Which head I wan use read? Now na music hour, no more book hour. It is music hour all the way. I have passed through school, that’s the important thing. If you don’t pass through school, it is going to tell in your music.
If you listen to my music, you will know that I passed through school. Even though I no finish because the book no enter my head. And the reason why it didn’t enter was because I was at the same time thinking of how to make money. Help was not coming from anywhere.
Is your dad still alive?
Yes, he is still alive. He is in America.
Do you relate with him?
No. I don’t relate with him, but I miss him and I pray to see him sometime. No matter what happens, he is still my father. I have no ill feelings against him. It is not easy to father a child and it is not even good that he ran away, because if he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have become a musician. I don’t have anything against my father because a lot of people see my today and they tell me that I look like my father. I pray that God brings him back so that we can sit down one day like father like son.
Do you visit your town?
Yes. I am from IIjebu Ilisan in Ogun State. Last Ishobi Day, I went to perform for them and I was well received. I had never seen a crowd like that before. Everybody appreciated me because they were happy that a star could come from there. The closest star they have in my area is Adewale Ayuba who is from Ikene I remember when we were younger, he used to perform at the festival but now I am taking over.
Let’s talk a bit about music. The King of the Zanga is your first album. Which of the songs there was most challenging to you?
The song that gave the greatest challenge is Merciful God, because I had actually wanted a long time to have an album with a Christian song in it.
But since I don’t sing Christian songs, I found it very hard to even start composing one. Then immediately I started looking at what God has done for me and the way He rescued me from so many accidents, I was able to get enough materials and inspiration for the song. Merciful God is just for me to show my appreciation to God for all He has done for me.
When did you start performing on stage?
I used to perform on the streets. I used to have a partner called Bondy and we used to do our thing on the streets and in the Zanga. But I went my own way, at a point and became fully focused on my career. It was in that process that I got signed on to TC Records. We met at a fashion show in Ibadan and within one week, the whole deal was finalized. They also gave me a house in Surulere.
Where were you staying before?
I was living in Mushin with my parents. I still visit Mushin every week on Sundays because my church is there. I worship with Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries, I like going there because it also gives me some privacy.
Are you a very religious person?
Yes. I was brought up that way and I am sticking with it.
Do you take part in any of the church’s activities, like singing?
I am always busy. I wouldn’t want a situation whereby I won’t be able to meet up with my obligations in church.
How do you take the comparisons that have been made between you and D’Banj?
We are two different people. If you don’t want to believe that, go and listen to our two albums very well. He is good in what he does and I do well in mine. I no be a No Long Ting guy. I don’t use his slangs and he doesn’t use mine.
You perform with a lot of energy on stage and in your videos, how did that style come about?
I grew up in Mushin which is a very violent area. There used to be a lot of fighting, but I am not a violent guy. I don’t like fighting. When I was young I had a covenant with God that if He guides me and I grow up safely, all the energy I would have expanded on violence, I will channel it into my art. I also saw the kind of strength these people use to fight. I said to myself that instead of being a solider of the street and using all this energy for street fights, I will use it to make money and be a success in life.
You won the MTV Base Zain Advance Warning competition last year, what were the challenges you faced on your road to victory?
I faced a lot of challenges. My opponents in that competition, Waje and Kaha were not sleeping themselves. They came to work, they came for the money but God just said I should win. I was leaving the country, I left with my Bible which I didn’t stop reading. I worked hard for it and God crowned my efforts with success.
You are very passionate about the Zanga, do you have any plans for it now that you a star?
My plan is to make an impact in this industry so that a lot of people in the Zanga can come up and achieve something. I plan to help people in the Zanga.
There are plans t provide musical, sporting and academic opportunities for kids in the Zanga. I was raised in the Zanga and I am going to make sure the Zanga reaps from me.
What kind of message do you try to pass with your music?
I try to tell people to forget about other people who do not want their progress. There are so many enemies around, that’s why you hear me keep mentioning enemies in my music.
You will also find your best friends and greatest enemies in the Zanga. I try to tell people to be focused. People should move forward and keep progressing.
Who is your role model in music?
The Notorious BIG. One thing with his music is this, if you want to come through and succeed, don’t let people see you coming. When they see you coming, they will know where you are coming from, but when they don’t see you coming, they will not know where you are coming from and they will pay to know. The world is worldly. They are very curious. People say I behave like TuPac. But I love the Notorious BIG and that’s the way it should be.
Where and when do you get the inspiration for your songs?
Most of my inspirations come from the Zanga. I can write a song anywhere and at anytime. It depends on the level of inspiration. I wrote Shayo under 30 minutes.
Once you have written a song before, it will no more be difficult to write again. Music is part of me. I am not going not going to be outside the whole day. I don’t drink the whole day, I am not with my woman the whole day. Even if it is just one or two hours I have a day, it is enough for me to work.
Talking about the ladies, how do you manage them now that you a star?
When I was young, I never had a girlfriend. Girls never used to like me. I don’t really know why, but also my girls are everywhere. I can have a girl for everyday of the week, but I am focused on what I am doing. Girls come with success, but they won’t get to me.
If you are looking for a girlfriend now, what type of girl would you go for?
I want a girl that will understand you that I am the king and she is the queen. And for me to marry the queen of the Zanga will be a very big honour.
She must be God-fearing, she must not be a typical Zanga girl who fights a lot. I need a very sharp girl who will keep me on my feet and spur me to be active. She must be very reasonable and beautiful.
- This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, July 16, 2013