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No situation can push me out of Nigeria again
It is no more news that Juju maestro, Jide Akinwumi, widely known as Jide Chord, is back in the country after spending 25 years in London. The iconic juju singer who has been in the country for about three months now, told SEGUN ADEBAYO at a recent function in Lagos about his sojourn abroad, the pains and gains of his journey, how he planned to take his career to another level and why he relocated finally to Nigeria. Excerpts:
THERE had been several media reports about Jide Chord’s relocation to the country. I also understand that you have been away for 25 years. What actually brought you back home?
The fact is that it is no more news that I have relocated to Nigeria about three months ago, having been away for more than 25 years but what is news now is that I have come back to add something different to the Juju music that the people know. I understand people have been longing to hear me talk about my return to the country. I have come back to give my fans what they had been waiting to feel for many years. It has been a long time since I had direct connection with my home fans. So, I felt I should come back home to reignite that passion and rekindle people’s interest in Juju music. Many know my brand for a long time, despite the fact that I had been in London for several years. It won’t be difficult planting myself in the social whirl again. Sincerely, It has been fun moving around since I came back. I have met quite a number of new faces and corporate organisations who know my worth when it comes to juju music and my contribution to music at large over the years. They have signified their utmost intention to partner with me on this new project. In a matter of months, we will set the ball rolling again and the people will surely have fun.
Entertainment industry in the country has grown in leaps and bounds over the years. Do you think your kind of music is still relevant to the fast changing face of music in the country?
It is not a hidden fact that the Nigerian music industry is going through some very interesting and mind-blowing development stages right now. Everybody is aware of this development, even in abroad. We have seen how things have changed tremendously in the country through music in the last couple of years, especially in the entertainment sector. I want to be part of that transformation or contribute to it in my own little way. Aside music, Nigeria, as a nation, is equally going through some interesting stages right now. To say that I want to be part of it will be an understatement. I have come to team up with the right set of people who have been on ground for a while monitoring the trend.
Why do you think you have come at the right time, giving the fact that the country, despite the developments you have mentioned, is also facing some serious security challenges....
We all know that things are quite hard right now. The country’s security is fragile. But in the midst of all these, the people still need to be entertained, no matter what. Let’s not dwell on the negative side of the country. We must think about the good sides as well. I know It's going to be exciting because the market is bigger and other artistes have their own share of the market. I am surprised at the level of transformation that the music industry is going through and I want to be part of it.
But these developments that prompted your coming back to the country have not just started, why are you joining now that things appear to be rosy, especially in the entertainment sector?
UK is more developed, no doubt. Nigeria still has a long way to go in developing infrastructure and the business environment. But in terms of music, I know the country is witnessing a huge transformation right now. Having said that, I believe that at my age, I have more to contribute to music for the development of the country than I can contribute to the UK. Over the years, I have represented the UK in Japan, in the United States of America and other countries around the globe. I thought it was high time I returned home. I know the younger generations have a lot to learn from me. I have been in the UK for many years; I believe the time has come for me to expand my frontiers to Nigeria where I started my career.
What actually took you away from the country in the first place?
The truth of the matter is that, in 1988 when I travelled out of the country, it really made sense to leave. It was very easy going abroad that time to do anything you feel like. The economy of the country was thriving quite well those days, compared to now. Although, I know things are changing gradually. I left the country in search of a greener pasture. Talking about what took me away in the first place, I didn’t just decide to leave, and I had been visiting the UK as a teenager before I finally left in 1988. My younger siblings had gone abroad even before I decided to travel. So, it was just like I was going there to stay with my people since I have a British passport. But unfortunately, things didn’t go as I had thought before I left.
How did things go when you got to the UK?
When I got to the UK, I faced a different challenge entirely because I had a limited access to some facilities my siblings enjoyed over there. It got to a point that I had to ask questions about what I perceived as an unfair treatment and I was told by the UK authorities that my siblings were enjoying the facilities because they are Britons. They told me I won’t be able to enjoy the facilities because I am a Nigerian and I will be treated like a foreigner. I had to start from the beginning. It took me a couple of years to settle down.
How did you handle the situation?
Those were trying moments of my life but I was not moved about the unfortunate development because I knew what I had come to do.Along the line, I was trying to build my music career but I needed a job so as to settle some bills that had piled up while I was not working.
What kind of job did you do?
I did a lot of menial jobs like cleaning floors, washing cars, taxi driving and also worked as a security personnel. I also worked with an Insurance firm for a couple of years before I finally got my work permit. The experience back then was not funny but I enjoyed every moment because it really helped me to think fast in handling certain situations around me very well. Life in London was very interesting. Having worked for many years, I decided to stop when I had made enough money that could sustain me and my family.
Did you ever think of coming back home when the situation was not conducive?
I never thought of that because I was very focused.While I was doing those jobs, I was also playing music by the side in the church because I actually used the church to launch my music career in the UK. It was after a while that people started feeling like this guy can’t continue to play in the church for the rest of his life. I decided to commercialise my music but I never left the church.
There were reports that you returned to the country because you had a problem in the UK. How true is this?
I don’t know about any report like that. I had been in the UK for twenty five years. I have my base there and I had never been involved in any problem that could have led to my return. Those reports have no iota of truth in them. I didn't have any kind blemish or problem in London. I had even represented Nigerian artistes there because I was widely recognised by the government of the country. So, what else do I want? I have stayed there for a long time, so if I decided to come back home, I don’t see any crime in that. People just like to cook up stories when they don’t know what you are up to.
How acceptable was Juju music in the UK and other countries you have taken it to?
Juju music has a global appeal. You will agree with me that it has continued to survive despite the introduction of other genre of music over the years. Like I said earlier, I had taken juju music to many European countries and I can tell you that the kind of respect and reception I got was very impressive. I pioneered juju music in London and before I left the UK, it has not changed a bit. I know that King Sunny Ade, Admiral Dele Abiodun, Sir Shina Peters, Ayo Balogun and others are doing quite well musically in Nigeria and abroad. They come to the UK regularly to perform at shows.
How would you rate the acceptance level of Juju music abroad to that of Nigeria?
There is absolutely no reason for comparism because juju music started from here and the foundation is still very solid as ever. Let me also let you know that juju music is still the people's choice when it comes to big-time parties in the country. You can’t conveniently compare the acceptance level of juju in Nigeria to what obtains abroad because in abroad, it’s a different ball game. And, that’s why the likes of Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade will always be relevant in the music industry in Nigeria. No matter the level of development that may happen to the industry in Nigeria, juju will always be in this at the forefront. In fact, the transformation will only open our minds and eyes so that we can see things differently and work on how to keep up with the trend.
How did you find your way into music in the first place?
The number one thing that led me into music was my passion. My passion for music grew so strong that I could hardly do anything without singing or playing one instrument or the other. Music had always been part of me since I was young. I had always loved to pick up any song and start playing different drums to it. So, over time, I developed the interest in it. I believe I have music in my genes as far as am concerned because my father and mother loved music to a fault. And, aside this fact, my maternal grandfather was also a musician.
I understand you practised journalism before you left the shores of the country, what killed that dream?
I would have remained a journalist or a banker. Like you said, I practised journalism for a period of two years and I did banking job too for sometime before music took away everything from me. I was a reporter with The Punch newspaper back then before I travelled out of the country. I could have been a standup comedian or a magician but the passion for music would not let me rest.
Tell me about the magician aspect of your life, I know you used to work with the late Professor Peller….
I am an adventurous person. I love to try my hand in different things, no matter the challenges that come with them. I met Professor Peller when I was working in the Punch newspaper. I know you want to ask me how it was working with him; the truth is that, it was fun and one big adventure that I will never forget. I learnt about quite a number of things when I was working with him. He took me as his Public Relations Officer, what you guys call media publicist now. There were so many interesting experiences while I was working with him. But I don’t want to go into that now.
How long have you been in the country and what exactly did you miss about London?
Well, I have been in the country for three months. I have been working with my new management on how to get things done and look at how we can penetrate into the market with the fusion of some of my new and old songs. If I start to tell you what I miss in London, we won’t end this interview today but I do miss London so much. I really don’t want to dwell on that now. London was very interesting and the experience was mind-blowing. To say the least, it was awesome.
Do you think you have what it takes to be on top of your game again?
The people will determine that. My fans will play a major role in determining the face of things to come. When I say the people, I mean juju lovers who kept calling while I was away that I should come back home. I have teamed up with a new management like I said, they are working tirelessly to ensure that everything works perfectly according to plans. I have enough experience that would push me back to the forefront in the industry. Let me also let you know that since I came back to the country, I had been playing at several events virtually every week and the proceeds have been very encouraging. The stage is quite different from what we used to have back in the days but I know I have got what it takes to succeed. I know some people do say that Juju singers are lazy because we don’t produce albums or shoot videos like our colleagues in other genre of music do but the fact is that, we are not lazy. We play regularly at shows and we are very comfortable with that. I had produced albums before and we are actually working on a new album which will be released as soon as everything we need is set.
Can you compare what you make at events in Nigeria to that of the UK?
I don’t like to talk about money. To a British man, it’s too vulgar. You can’t compare what I make in the UK to the Nigerian market. They are two different things as far as I know. The structure is different; the markets are different and even the audience. This is Nigeria; let’s talk about what is happening here and leave London.
Will you travel out of the country again if things fail to work out as you have planned?
I have come back finally. I am not going anywhere again. I have spent a lot of years in a foreign land; I am tired of that. I have come to stay and whatever the situation, I will remain in the country. No situation can push me out of the country again. I thank God that I came back with good stories to tell. The most important thing is that I am back and I am happy to be among my people again.
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