ON Sunday, January 25, 2015, veteran actor cum film maker, Alhaji Hassan Taiwo (Ogogo), who is also a traditional musician launched his second album, Ogogo Oba Esa. The event which held at 10 Degrees Event Centre, Oregun, Lagos, attracted dignitaries from all spheres of life, including politicos, society pillars, entertainers and many more.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with the Ilaro, Ogun bor entertainer on this and much more in Ikeja, Lagos, on Wednesday, February 11, 2015.
You’re a renowned actor cum film maker, how come you suddenly turned a musician?
Yes, I am an actor cum film maker as you said but that doesn’t stop me from exercising the other side of my God given talent. And in my own case, it’s not as if I became a musician overnight. It’s generic. The kind of music I do is called Esa (chant). It’s a traditional stuff, and it runs in our family. We inherited it from our parents. I didn’t learn it from anybody. You would also agree with me that there is a wide difference between what you acquired and what you inherited. It’s not as if I am poke nosing, we also have a lot of musicians who act with us. It’s just a matter of talent. I don’t see myself usurping anybody’s territory. I don’t sing fuji or juju nor am I singing Apala or hip-hop. What I do is purely traditional chant which is meant to showcase Yoruba culture. It’s full of eulogies from different family backgrounds, among Yorubas. My kind of music has correlation with Theatre Arts which I practice. Even those who were familiar with my style of acting before I became popular quickly identified me with the talent and gave me a nickname, Olohun iyo, because of my creativity. That time, we used to do stage play, and mostly traditional. When we had to eulogise the Obas and their subjects in the palace, I would be the one to interpret the role and I always handled it perfectly. They discovered I was very creative in that aspect and nobody could compete with me when it comes to traditional chant. And in 2008, about eight of my colleagues, including myself, Dele Odule, Sunday Omobolanle, Baba Ijesha, Ronke Ojo, Moji Olaiya, Peju Ogunmola, Mr. Latin travelled to the US purposely for stage play. But quite unfortunate, we couldn’t get all the necessary costumes and other materials needed for the play because it was in America. If it were to be Americans that wanted to do the stage play, they know what they would need that would suit their culture and they could have made adequate preparations. But our promoter didn’t bother about that. In that case, it became impossible for us to perform. It was painful that all the way from Nigeria, we couldn’t achieve our goal. But we didn’t know it was a kind of blessing. So, when I discovered it won’t be easy to do the stage play, I came up with chant display. And all of us did different kinds of cultural chants. When I was called to perform, I introduced a unique style of chanting and it was well applauded by all. So, that’s how we all forgot about stage play and concentrated on chant. We’re all engaged in chanting traditional eulogies from different family background and this excited the audience and even our promoter. The promoter told me he didn’t know I could do this kind of thing, he would have invited just about three or four of us and everything would have been okay. But I told him it was good we were many. The larger the number of performers, the more interesting and colourful the event would be. In fact, the man was so happy with what we did. He was happy and so we were too. Nobody believed we
could make the kind of money we realized at the show. We all smiled back to Nigeria with huge amount of money. And all of us acquired new exotic automobiles from the money.
When I came back to Nigeria, I decided to release an appreciation album for those who stood by me during my trying period. The title of the album is Idupe (Appreciation). That was my first album and it was released in 2009.
So, Oba Esa is not your debut album? But not much was known about the one you’re talking about, why?
Yes, Oba Esa is not my first album. My first musical job was Idupe and it was well accepted. Although, I didn’t make any profit, the marketer ran away with my money.
How much was the money?
It was over N2m but I have handed him to God. Now, God has blessed my career beyond expectation. He is the one who doesn’t have any rest of mind because anywhere he sees me, he won’t be comfortable because of guilty conscience.
Can we know the person you’re talking about?
It’s not necessary. I have moved on. God rewarded me, I met another reliable marketer, Hasolad and we agreed to work together. That’s how the second album, Oba Esa was produced. I give thanks to Almighty Allah, it was a huge success. In order to create more awareness and publicity for the album, we decided to launch it elaborately. We couldn’t invite just any musician, we had to settle for Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde Marshal (K1 de Ultimate), who we believed would give our effort the needed crowd. And I give thanks to Allah he didn’t turn down my invitation. He wholeheartedly agreed to perform but advised we pick another date because he would be very busy during the electioneering campaign. Initially, we planned to launch it around December 2014, but with his advice, we had to move it to January 25, 2015. We thank God it was successful. I was so surprised to see K1 particularly happy about the event. It was his manager, Bayo that called on the day of the event and told me I should be expecting them soon. He said they just came back from Offa, Kwara State and K1 had to rest a little before proceeding to the venue of my event. I was happy to see him as pledged. It’s very rare to get that kind of favour from a musician of his caliber. He arrived the venue exactly the time he promised to show up. And he really thrilled while the event lasted. I am sincerely very grateful to him and I pray Almighty Allah reward him abundantly.
How would you describe the event?
It was amazing. It’s a huge success. A lot of people came from different segments of the society, including politicos, high society and of course my industry. I am sincerely grateful to Ogun Commissioner for Culture and Tourism, Chief (Mrs.) Yewande Amusan, despite her schedule she still graced the event. The same thing goes to our royal father, Oba Kehinde Gbadewole Kugbenle (Agunloye IV) and a lot more. I am using this medium to appreciate them all.
What’s the difference between your kind of chant and the regular one?
Chant is chant but the only thing I do differently is that I modernized what is popularly known as Ewi and made it danceable. The beat appeals to almost everyone, old and young, educated and non-educated, students, market women and others. Oba Esa is an album that everybody can dance to. And as you dance to it, you will also learn one or two things from it. It’s not just ordinary music. It’s very unique in so many ways. The kind of music I do can be used to advise or counsel people. It also has current affairs and all that. If you’re not from a masquerade lineage, you can’t chant perfectly because it’s an inheritance. It’s not just what you can learn on the street, just like every other music.
Does it mean you’re from a masquerade lineage?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean I worship masquerade. Our kind of chant is different from that of Olanrewaju Adepoju, he’s a fearless man and he always hits the nail on the head, no matter whose ox is gored. It’s very easy for everybody to understand his message clearly once. But ours has to do with eulogies from different family background which makes it more complex than the regular Ewi. However, the fact that you’re into all these doesn’t mean you don’t believe in God. I am a Muslim and I worship my God. All I am doing has not in any way affected my relationship with God. I don’t worship idol. All I have achieved are from God, not masquerade. The chant I do is a talent and it’s a family thing. Masquerade is just a kind of cultural display, it’s not meant for worship. Besides, you can’t see me following a masquerade, I don’t worship masquerade at all.
How many copies of the album have you sold?
I can’t say yet, all I know is if we turn out 300,000 copies, it’s going to be a sell-out. Everybody will love to listen to it. We have it in audio and visual.
How much did the album gulp?
It’s a lot of money.
Where was the visual shot?
Everything was shot in Nigeria.
You said Esa is a family inheritance, how many of you are involved in the family?
Almost all of us. If you listen to Ogogo Oba Esa, you will hear different voices, playing different parts. I am not the only one, we’re from the same family, myself, Muhammed Abduljeleel Adeyemi, Pilly Kamaldeen (omo Alaketu), Lateef Dehinde, Oloko and few others. We’re all relatives. All these people I have just mentioned are leaders, but we also have some up and coming ones we’re still training.
What makes Ogogo relevant all the time?
It’s Almighty God. It’s beyond my knowledge.
– TADE ASIFAT