Modern Highlife singer, in a new interview with Hip Hop World Magazine, revealed how he came to the point he is now. He talked about his journey to the top and the difficulties he encountered along the way. Read excerpts below:
How did you start your music career?
My mum was Pentecostal, and we had this church called ‘Church of God Missions Intl’. So when I came there for the first time, I was marveled and when I saw everything that was going on, I decided on my own that I was going to join the music department because that was the most interesting thing I found about the church so I went close to them and I had to meet the music director. My closeness to him got me closer to the choir and then I became the choir conductor.
How did your parents react when they saw you pick interest in music?
At first, my mum saw me at the choir stand and she was very surprised because she never thought that I would go there. She was wondering what on earth could have taken this boy to this choir stand. I didn’t want to look at her the first day because she would distract me, I had to do my thing and without letting her distract me. After service, I went home and when she got home and saw me, she asked me one question – What were you doing there, ehn? Do you want to sing? I told her I just wanted to be a part of God’s work and with this, she left me because she felt I was just doing it for the church.
When did you finally decide to go into music?
I would always come for drum practice because I later moved on to learn how to play the drums, and the pastor would come to tell me that I was disturbing his counselling class. I would sometimes wait outside the church or in a corner for them to finish and leave before I went back to practice so that no one would complain that I was disturbing. Then one day, the pastor saw me waiting and said “I have been seeing you here all the time, I don’t understand but I can see that this thing is getting serious, I have this friend of mine that just came back from the states. He’s trying to form a music company with which he would be training kids to go to school to study music. If you’re interested, I can link you to him. And I said “yes”, I was interested. He gave me the man’s name and address and told me he would tell the man to expect me so I should go there in two weeks. I didn’t tell my parents about that, I went there and saw that everything was perfect. They had this big set up of equipment much more bigger than the church. It was like a world of its own. I went in there and was so surprised because I never expected it to be up to that extent. When I got inside, I introduced myself, and he recognized me and told me that my pastor had told him to expect me, and he accepted me.
He told me to play what I knew how to play but I told him it was just the church rhythms I knew. He didn’t care; he said I should play it for them. It was like a rehearsal time and they were all watching me, I was so nervous, I didn’t know what to do because I saw the drummer stepping away from the drums, and I just thought that this guy is way bigger than I. I went to the drums, and did a little routine from the church hymns and when I finished, I wouldn’t say he was satisfied but he just said “Ok, do you really want to study music, because what we are looking for are people that really want to study music as a course in the University, then we would train them and they would come back to work for the company.”
Early struggles as an artiste
Growing up as an artiste was very difficult. When I left that company because they were relocating to Port Harcourt, and I didn’t want to go with them, and that was where the problem came up, so I had gained so much experience with music. I could play the drums, I could play the piano, and the guitar and could also do back up vocals, so the experience I gained helped me to try other genres, and we got upwards of 5000 songs in our repertoire. That was so much experience for me growing up with that band so when I came out, and joined a different band I never thought I was going to become the artist that I am today, all I wanted was just to make music so I found myself playing with different bands. From then I had this love for high life and I embraced it because that was the only kind of music that the bands play that had people coming out to spray money and I could go home with a little cash in my pocket. From then on, it became interesting and from there I knew high life was very special because its original and it’s African, it’s something that people could easily sing alone to. So I had to start learning songs from artist like Osadebe and Rex Lawson, and even from bands from Ghana, and from then on it became everything I did. I became a back up for Mr. Raw who is a rapper, giving him background vocals when the thought of doing music on my own came to me because most people didn’t know that I came up with his choruses back then. So it was while I was doing that I had the thought of becoming my own artist and my own brand.
Why the name Flavour?
At that time, I was playing with different bands, there was this guy at one of the first joints I started performing called O’Neal’s. The guy’s name was Flavour Shelters, he was into Estate Management and all that, and people always said that we looked alike. Whenever I went there, people would say “Flavour”, and when I turned, they would say “no, not you. Where is your brother?” He was very famous. So when they wanted to introduce the band group, like maybe our band leader wants to make some introductions, he would be like ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, right about now we have – at that time, I was on the keyboard – He would say we have so, so on the drums, so, so on the guitar and on the keyboards, we have -then we would turn towards me and be like – Flavour and I would give a ‘thumbs up’, and that was how it started. I didn’t give myself that name it was just like that.
What song brought you to limelight?
I wouldn’t say it was this particular song. I think it was a collection of everything. It’s like a wind. Some songs I do would appeal to the east, some would appeal to the east and the west while some would cross borders, so I don’t know the song that I can finger and say this is it. However, I have some big songs that wherever I go, I must always perform like ‘Nwa Baby’, ‘Ada Ada’, ‘Chinny Baby’, and so many others that I know it’s a must for me to perform.
If you were not a musician, what else would you have become?
I think it would be football. I love to play football so much, and whenever I come home to Enugu, I always play football with friends. We either fix matches or play against each other but football would have been a second choice for me.
Tell us about your journey from Enugu to Lagos
In Enugu at that time, I was coming out big, and Enugu is a small city where everyone knows each other. So everyone knew the guy Flavour, and it was so nice and cozy, but the money was not coming. It was all about the girls because there are many universities here in Enugu so there were many babes (laughs) and wherever you went, you would see them. And they liked me so much so I was feeling myself, feeling what I was doing. I felt that with the love I got from ladies here I could do anything- go to any club. Things were just so easy for me and I began to feel like a star, but I noticed that I wasn’t making money, and I wasn’t pushing myself. I had no competition so I forgot about my dream to push myself across borders due to the distraction I got mostly from women and then life in Enugu. Enugu is so chill, and the people want everything easy. Even if you don’t have money to spend, as long as you dress cool, act like a fine boy and up your swag, girls will follow you. Then once in a while, you travel and come back, people will say that this guy has not been in town and he just came back. Those are the kinds of things people want to hear but it wasn’t working for me. I had too many distractions, and was just misbehaving. And then I decided to help myself. No one could talk to me; everyone was just saying, “you’re doing good”, because they were only seeing the small Enugu town. One day, I said to myself, ‘is this how I’m going to become that musician, that ambassador for music, that icon? The answer was ‘No’. So I decided to push myself higher.
I had Obaino music in Alaba. He was interested in me, and when he called about marketing my album, I came to Lagos to see him and that’s how I began to get used to Lagos life. It was kind of difficult because back then, I always travelled by ‘night buses’ in order to avoid the hassles of the day. I didn’t care about the risks involved and even when I got to Lagos, I had no place to stay. I had a friend but he would always demand that I give him money to fuel generator but after he collected money, he would switch off the generator after sometime I would wake up at night due to the heat, so it was very difficult. But finally, we’re here.
Any wedding bells soon?
At this time, I’m still going to be concentrating on my music because I don’t want to have my family and be all over the place, I want to have time for my family. And with the way things are now, I will just be all over the place trying to keep this and keep that and so on.
Three things we don’t know about you
I don’t know things you don’t know but I will tell you things I think you don’t know.
No 1. I’m quiet and I’m original. I don’t like noise.
No 2. I like helping people. However it comes, if someone is in need, even if it doesn’t concern me, I just like to help. That’s something I do without even knowing.
No 3. I’m so blunt. I don’t care, I will tell you it has to be this way no matter who you are.