Artistes No Longer Make Money From Albums - Adewale Ayuba - THE NEW DAWN ONLINE

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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Artistes No Longer Make Money From Albums - Adewale Ayuba



Bonsue Fuji musician, Adewale Ayuba, also known as Mr Johnson, speaks with SHADE METIBOGUN on the music industry, the state of the nation and his new role as the Bobaselu of Ikenne Remo. Excerpts:

The last time you released a music album was in 2015. What have you been doing since that time?

I released Reloaded four years ago. The delay in releasing another album is not my own making. It is due to a societal problem. You will spend so much money producing an album, but copyrights violators will not allow you to enjoy your work. I can’t even recover the money that I spent producing the album because they will steal the songs and reproduce them. Every Nigerian musician is a victim of piracy. We don’t make money from albums any more. It is a wasted effort.

We don’t want to keep wasting money, but our fans keep requesting more music. In fact, no record label will sign us now because they won’t make any profit from it. Record labels can only make their money through the sale and release of new albums, but they are also affected by piracy. Except government helps us to solve this problem, there is nothing that we can do about it. What we do nowadays is to remind music fans that we still exist. We can record a three-minute song and circulate it on social media, especially on YouTube, so that people will remember we still exist. Whenever we perform at an event, we make some videos so we can distribute them.

Do artistes really make money nowadays?

I am one of the luckiest artistes in Nigeria right now because of the type of music I play. I get invited to different functions, such as house warming parties, funerals and wedding ceremonies. Every blessed week I am always busy and they spray cash at most of the events. That is the only way we make money now. Recording new music albums is now a thing of the past.

Traditionally, a recording artiste should have about 20 staff. Unfortunately, most artistes cannot afford it because they are barely making enough money to sustain themselves, not to talk of 20 other people. If an artiste engages 20 people to work for him, he has automatically reduced the number of unemployed people on the streets. Just imagine the number of artistes in Nigeria and the number of people they would have, under normal circumstances, taken off the streets.

As an artiste, one must also have a lawyer who will take care of the legal aspect of the business. Sadly, many of us don’t have the means to pay for the services of a lawyer. One should have a stage manager and a public relations manager, but I can’t afford them right now.

What is the way out of this challenge?

If there is a problem in this country who will Nigerians turn to? Of course, it has to be the government. Every state is supposed to enact a law that will take care of piracy. When one pirate is caught, the others will naturally run away, especially when they realise that the government is after them. The problem of piracy is beyond stakeholders in the entertainment industry. Stakeholders are losing a lot to pirates and other copyrights violators. We are not asking government to pump money into the entertainment sector or to release our albums for us. Many marketers are ready to do that for us if piracy, which is the major challenge facing every Nigerian artiste, is finally eradicated. It is our intellectual property that is at stake. If anybody steals our property, we are asking the government to help us put them in jail. If government can do this for us, we would be able to pay tax. If a government official comes to me now and demands tax, I will ask him where he wants me to get the money from. Even government is losing a lot of revenue in taxes to piracy.

Is that why people are no longer interested in making music?

That is it. About 15 years ago, record labels regularly signed new artists and splashed money on them. That cannot happen again. When last did you read in the newspapers that a new artiste was signed? They are killing talents.

Sometime ago, I had an interview with an artiste and she said there was no record label in Nigeria anymore. What is your take on that?

What is a record label? Is it not when you get signed and they spend money so that you can go to the studio and make good music? The record label expects to recover its capital and make profit through sale of the album. But pirates will not let them achieve this. You cannot blame record labels at all.

It doesn’t look as if the younger generation is interested in Fuji music nowadays. Why is this so?

Fuji music is very expensive to produce, compared to other genres of music. My band boys are 35 in number. Who can afford to take care of them? When I am performing, 22 are always with me on stage and they are all functioning at the same time. One of them takes care of the music equipment. I have a stage manager and the one that will pack the equipment. How do we pay them? We do that through praise singing. How many star artistes can do that? They can’t play Fuji. They will prefer to go to the genre that they can do from their laptops. They will generate a tune and sing to it. When I started getting involved in the music industry, things were not like it is today. Sony music signed us and put N40 million on the table. Everything went on smoothly, but it was only for a while. Things are no longer like that. A record label is the number one destiny helper for every artiste.

Since the present crop of Nigerian artistes are not interested in Fuji and Apala brand of music, don’t you think that those genres are slowly dying?

It is still the same problem. They cannot manage whole music bands. I can count the number of Juju musicians who are still active in this country. Only a few musicians are currently playing Juju. The women call their brand of Apala music, Waka and they are also few. My studio is right here. I have spent a lot of money on it. I have no other job I am doing, but if I dare it, I won’t make money from the album.

Everything is in the hands of the government. We should all rise and tell the government what to do. Many journalists have come to me and requested that I should sing about the state of affairs in the country, but I told them to also use their pen too. It is not about one person alone; we should all raise our voices until we are heard. When Abiola was in prison, I sang that they should release all political detainees. Abacha was looking for me after that. How many journalists reported that I was rotting away in America because of Abacha’s crisis? It was after Abacha died that I returned to the country. I have done my part. They should also do their part. You can’t write stuff again. That is the state of things in this country now. We have mouth, but we cannot talk.

Would you say that life in exile was a blessing in disguise for you?

Yes, I will say it was a blessing in disguise for me, although I didn’t plan to relocate abroad. We all pray that we have the financial strength to send our children abroad because the education system in Nigeria is not working. Thank God that the government of Abacha sent me away. If not, I would not have found my wife. My children and I wouldn’t be American citizens today. It was as if God knew where Nigeria was going and He decided to prepare me for it. I am really grateful for the opportunity.

It is evident that the COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a big blow on global entertainment. How has it affected you?

It has really affected us. In the early days of the pandemic, there were restrictions on the number of guests who could attend an event at a time. We had to cancel up to 20, if not more than 30, shows at the time. I thank God that the hosts didn’t demand a refund of their money, only postponed the events.

You launched Bonsue clothing line some years ago, but we have not seen clothes made by that company for a while now. What happened?

When you don’t make enough money, all your plans take time to come to fruition. I had the dream about 15 years ago, but things did not go as planned. So, I had to focus on other priorities.

How did you come about the word Bonsue, the dance steps and the music style? What does it mean?

I give glory to God and my mother. That word Bonsue is the word they normally use to abuse me back in the days. When I was young, anytime my mother sent me on an errand, I would sing and dance all the way. By the time I reached my destination, I would have forgotten what I was asked to do. I would just stay there and not return home for fear of getting the beating of my life. Each time she wanted to send me on errand, my mother would say to me, “Don’t go there and do bonsue. Just get what you were sent to get and come back home.” I don’t know where she got that word from, but it just stuck with me and I decided to use it when I started singing professionally.

At first, it wasn’t easy. You know Nigeria record labels don’t really care about their artistes. They just want to make money from them. They don’t want someone they can groom from the scratch. Each time I went to them, they would ask me the kind of song I wanted to do. If I mentioned Bonsue, they would ask why I didn’t want to sing like Barrister. They mentioned other big names in the music industry and asked why I can’t sing like them. In the end they would ask me to get out of their offices, but I thank God for my life and the journey so far today.

How were you able to break even with your kind of music?

There is a man called Tijani Akinlaja. He is the owner of Success Records. I went to him after I was rejected by different record labels. He said the same thing that others told me: that I was not a super star. But he offered me a partnership deal. He said I should raise 50 percent of the money required for recording my songs. I agreed and went to my mother and requested financial assistance. I told her about my conversation with Akinlaja and here we are today.

At what point did you break up with Akinlaja to sign a deal with Sony Music?

I produced five albums with Tijani Akinlaja. He is a very good man. He is like a father to some of us, but everything in life has its level. You cannot compare Sony Music to Success Records. Sony music is International, and they have all the packaging that can push you. My exit from Akinlaja’s Success Records was based on a mutual agreement. It was like leaving secondary school for the university. When I left, he wasn’t annoyed. He is my father till date. If you go to Ketu today, you will find him there. He printed all my oldies and I didn’t collect a dime from him. I didn’t take royalty from him.

What is the secret behind your youthful looks?

I give God the glory. Let me also say that self-discipline is the secret. In all the time I have known King Sunny Ade, I have never seen him eating more than twice in a day. He eats just a small quantity of food. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. I attend social gatherings, but can’t see me getting drunk. I have never been to a nightclub. If you happened to meet me there, it would be that I was there on duty, either to sing or to collect an award. That has always been my lifestyle. A lot of people ask me the same question. I just believe it is the way I live my life and the peace of mind that I have.

Do you plan to feature younger artistes in your works anytime in the nearest future?

How many of them are still singing now? It is the same thing affecting all of us.

When a man is conferred with a chieftaincy title in his home town, it means that he is nearing retirement and ready to settle down in the community. Does this explain why you were installed Bobaselu of Ikenne-Remo?

It is based on good will. After they had seen my achievements, the elders of Ikenne in Ogun State decided to honour me with a chieftaincy title. To me, it is like an award. As the Bobaselu of Ikenne Remo, it means that I am qualified to rule together with the king. I have been doing that through my music. Now that I have a house in Ikenne, it means they want me to come home more often. I normally go but since I have my own house there, I may be frequenting the place. I am grateful for the honour and privilege given to me.

Do you think President Muhammadu Buhari would have performed better in office, if he was much younger?

You see, I can’t lie to you. Everything is not from Buhari. The man is just unlucky and at the same time, we Nigerians are stupid for electing someone who is this old as president. What can we do? Your votes don’t count anymore in Nigeria. Everything is based on corruption nowadays.

As Nigerians look forward to the 2023 general election, what is your advice to them, based on the collective experience under the present Federal Government?

I love this country, but Nigeria is too big to be one nation. I also support restructuring 100 percent. I am not saying that Nigeria should divide or we should change our name so that everyone can go their separate ways. No, that is not what I mean. We have a system that worked for us in 1963 and that is regional government. That is the platform Obafemi Awolowo and Nnamdi Azikwe used to give us free education, the best education in Nigeria and other good things that we enjoyed in the past. We didn’t have oil then. Abuja shouldn’t be the centre of everything. Let us go back to the regional system of government. If this fails to work out, then we should split.

Credit: Thewill

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