In this chat, musician and UN Peace ambassador, Sound Sultan reels out what to expect in 2013 from him and his crew, Naija Ninjas and other sundry issues. Excerpts:
It is not every time one has the privilege to meet with one of Nigeria’s music ambassadors in his domain for a chat. Tucked inside an estate in Amuwo-Odofin, a suburb of Lagos, is where this music genius resides. It is a cool Friday afternoon and his wife, Farida and two kids, Zara and Mayowa, are at home.
Twelve years on stage is no mean feat for Sound Sultan who got into people’s consciousness in 2000 with his 'Jagbanjistis' Video, captivating the nation as a young musician who was not afraid of experimenting.
With no air of stardom about the tall and lanky singer, he notes his parents were supportive of him, also Baba Dee, his senior brother, who was the first to go into showbiz. "He was the one who told my parents that I wanted to do music. Thank God I chose music", the musician says.
"This year by God’s grace, the record label now has four artistes signed on it apart from Sound Sultan and Baba Dee. We have Kamar, a wonderful rapper from Satellite Town. His real name is Olumide Harding. We have YounGrace whom we can call the 1st lady of Naija Ninjas. Her full name is Grace Edoja. Sean, whose real name is Seun Morinafe, and also Blackah with full name Bunfa Pinfa from Jos.
"All these young artistes are coming out with their own singles and videos. We are shooting a lot of videos. I have already shot a video in the United States and it has been released in Nigeria. The video, called 'Good Girl', is enjoying heavy airtime right now.
"That’s the first video I dropped this year. I always drop something on the first of January. With the video, more people have downloaded the ‘Good Girl’ single and it has further pushed the song into the market. Having done that, the record label is waxing stronger. Baba Dee has dropped his video called Pack Well. He is shooting the video to his new single,’ Go Down’.
"As regards Naija Ninjas, we are working hard to make sure our artistes are known because we are shooting videos, we are promoting, we are going on club tours, radio tours, TV tours. With the rebirth of the Naija Ninjas, we are planning a press conference to be held soon. By the time we are through with our recordings, definitely the group will have a big show like I had my own concert last year to celebrate my 12 years on stage. It was a huge success and beyond me," Sound Sultan recounts.
Notably, Sound Sultan carries the burden of the Naija Ninjas, a group he and Baba Dee nurtures. With different musical groups like EME and the Marvin Crew headlining 2012, the heat could be said to be on the former to show if they have something better to offer music lovers. “
"Naija Ninjas is doing something really spectacular and we hope to headline events this year and come out with own uniqueness as much as God can help us.
"The Naija Ninjas used to be a name I shout about and people did not know that it was a name we wanted to eat from. Now it is our franchise. We have floated the clothing line before. We are restructuring because of our production company. Naija Ninja has passed through a developmental program like Kamar is different from others. God has blessed me as a song writer, song arranger and with this experience, I can rob off on the younger artistes and open more doors, grooming them into finished products.
"For Kamar, we have shot his video and it is still under the post production stage. The video, Aropin is a hip hop track featuring Sean and Sound Sultan. Aropin Video is dropping by March. YunGrace has a single, ‘Halla at Me’, an R&B that she uses in killing all the stages that she has been. That is the song, we probably gonna shoot and it’s shooting itself already. By the end of February, we would shoot her video. Naija Ninjas has been in the game for a while and we have studied the industry.
"Right now, I have one of the best talents in Nigeria in my hands and only need to harness their potentials into a package that will bring money.Having said that, we have a package that we have been building since last year and this year, it’s going to be bigger. Like Blackah, he shot a video, 'Party Blow' two years ago and we are working on doing something bigger.
"He is a reggae/dancehall artist. YunGrace brings a female R&B touch with a bit of Pop. Sean has his Naija R&B style. Kamar is coming with his Hip hop, Blackah and Baba Dee with their reggae style. And me, I don’t know the style that I do (laughter). The Good Girl song is a dancehall song. It’s just a way of telling the people that they cannot box me into a corner," the musician says.
Widely known for his lyrical creativity, Sound Sultan, a graduate of Geography and Regional Planning, started music with an eight-man band 12 years ago at the Benson and Hedges Competition Show. This earned him a place in the Nigerian music industry. With six studio albums released and several collaborations, he is one of the few respected Hip-hop crooners in the country.
Recounting on his high moment of 2012, he said, "Fans said that they would have paid more for my show which I did to celebrate 12 years on stage. It was star studded and everyone enjoyed the show. As regards award, I always win one every year. Towards the end of 2011 to early 2012, I was given the UN Peace ambassador. Apart from the Headies 2012 award last year, I was given the Ox-Fam Food Security ambassador along with Tu Face and Lamin.
"Our roles are to be the mouthpiece and role-models to African people, and make them understand the importance of agriculture and get an alternative source to food sustainability. Like the FG initiative to buy phone for farmers, I feel that is not the first thing to do. What I feel should be done is the interest on loan from banks to farmers should be reduced first so that they can be able to borrow and pay back to the bank."
At the Felebration week last October where Sound Sultan and his crew came to perform at the Shrine, the Jagbajantis crooner was believed to have shown much respect to his colleague, TuFace. When journalists asked him which international act he would like to do collaborations with, his reply was "Tuface".
Now, he explains, "I am just trying to tell you that we don’t value our own in Nigeria. From my years of being in the music industry, I have related with international artistes that I used to look up there as my role models and I found out that there was nothing special that these musicians have that Nigerian artistes do not possess.
"Maybe you have not met with these artists and see how simple they are yet we accord them a lot of respect more than our own. I have done four songs with Wyclef Jean. When I was growing up as an artiste, he was someone I looked up to. He can rap, sing and do all sorts. Talking about TuFace, I can count about 8 songs that I have done with him right from when he was with Plantashun Boys.
"Nigerian musicians deserve recognition and I want you fans to buy our original CDs because that is a way of encouraging us. I did a song before the fuel subsidy rally titled 'Temporary turned Permanent'. The song took a swipe at our government and you know they won’t play it on TV or on radio. So Nigerians want to listen to my song, they should go and buy the album," he says.
Lanre Fasasi (his real name) notes that the music industry was growing rapidly even though some may have said we do not have an industry but a music scene in Nigeria. "The music industry is rapidly growing. Government is still waiting on how to be involved in the music industry since our labour union, PMAN has not got its acts together but maybe they will take us serious.
"The amount of money musicians make now is way beyond what was made before. Nigerian artistes are featuring international artistes, Grammy award winning artists. Nigerian musicians are now being reckoned with in the big league of stars, trust me. Yes, we have Fuji and juju musicians who have always been there but what I just want people to understand is, you can never sell your style as it were in developed countries.
"What a Nigerian musician can sell abroad is his or her content. If you want to do rap or hip hop, do it the Nigerian way or with an infusion of your root. Now that the music industry has been ‘hip-hoppalized’, you can still create something new and that is why I always respect those who think outside the box and bring out something different."