Monday, 18 May 2009

One-on-one with Jah Squad

THEIR performance at D’Yard, a new hangout in Lawanson, Lagos, turned the crowd wild in excitement. In fact, the two energetic ladies nearly stole the show from 4kasibe crooner, DJ Zeez, who headlined the gig. Aside from their stagecraft that caught the attention of all, the energy that comes with their raga raps stands Jah Squad out from others. The music, a fusion of raga and hip-hop, reminds the listener of the days of Patra, Yoyo, Chakademus and Pliers, Shaggy and others. “We want more, we want more,” rented the air as the ladies made way for DJ Zeez. At that point, it was obvious that Jah Squad had won the heart of many.
Few weeks later, the group returned on the same stage, where they clinched the first position at the maiden edition of D’Yard Open Mic, a platform created by the outfit to encourage talents as well as discover new acts.
The drama of the night started after the contestants had finished their performances. From no where, Jah Squad appeared, requesting to mount the stage for the contest.
Going by the concept behind Open Stage, the group got the last slot to gig that night. Half way into their performance, the crowd gave their verdict with cheers and applause; even fellow contestants nodded in approval.
Abimbola Caroline (Angel) and Chika Ekpendu (Ling-change) were at The Guardian recently and we got talking.
Though she had no formal training in music, Abimbola’s interest in music dates back to her childhood, when she joined her Church choir in Oyo State. She later relocated to Lagos where she met Henrietta Kosoko, wife of popular actor, Jide Kosoko, who linked her with Tony Tetuila as a backup singer.
“When I came to Lagos, it was difficult because I didn’t know anyone to talk to until I met Henrietta in the church. She discovered I had talent in me and introduced me to Tetuila; I worked with him in his album, My Car. But we later had issues, so, I left his band,” Angel says.
What was the problem?
“I don’t want to talk about it now,” she replied.
But does it have anything to do with music or just personal problem?
“It’s personal and I don’t want to talk about it, meanwhile, it’s all history now.”

FOR Chika, the second member of the group, playing music is like a dream come true. “I have this passion for music at early age; I love music very much. Right from then, I always dream of becoming an artiste in future. I knew I have the talent, which is from God.”
From backing up artistes in Lagos and playing at parties, Chika joined a performing group, Jah Cross Family, where she met her partner, Angel.
“We were nine in number; Angel was part of the group. I discovered that Angel is into my kind of music; we do almost the same pattern of music. Right from time, I love raga music. I do other styles, but raga dancehall is it for me. So, when we left the group, we teamed up to form Jah Squad.”
“We’ve been together for four years now and we’ve recorded songs such as Dance All Day, Romantic Call, Boy U 2 Fine, Na You I Love, Year Of Grace, Angeli and others,” Angel adds.
Your music sounds more like Patra?
“Yes, we look at Patra, Shaggy Chakademus and Pliers as our role models. If you look at the industry now, you will discover that few people do that style. So, we are a kind of trying to fill the gap,” Chika says.
On their compositions, Angel informs, “we do our compositions together; she takes the raps while I do the slow side of it.”
Soon, fans of Jah Squad will play their songs in the comfort of their homes.
“We’ve been working for some time now, but the album will be out. We actually have a single, Dance All Day, which we are promoting the video on air; the track will be part of the full album,” says Angel.
What’s the title?
“Year of Grace,” Chika reveals.
It sounds gospel?
“Well, there’s a bit of gospel in our songs; you may call it gospel raga. But it’s all about saying this is our year of grace.”
How do you intend to sustain the group?
“It’s about understanding,” Chika quips. “We love each other very much.”
So, tribal differences will not be an issue?
“Our families are very close; we are family friends. So, even if we have problems, our families are there to mediate and help us settle the matter. But the truth is that music brought us together and we are staying like that,” Angels enthuses.
Meanwhile the group is working on two singles, which will form part of the main album.
“We have about 16 singles now,” Chika sings.
Don’t you think you are having too many singles?
“The thing is that as artiste, you are doing the music for your fans not really yourself. So, sometimes we do a song and if it’s not well appreciated by our fans, we still go back to the studio to rework it. We are working constantly; you know music comes any time.”
Aside from music, Jah Squad is also involved in other businesses.
“We do so many crazy things, like customising names on silver and carvings to make blings,” Chika says amidst laughts.
How do you manage to do the carving?
“We don’t have machines, but there’s this Chinese company we go to for that. We create the designs and go there for carving. It’s simple; we have the materials and if you want us to carve your name on it, we will do it for you now,” Angel adds.
That means you have interest in fashion?
“We are seriously thinking of making it a serious business. But we are still waiting for Governor Fashola to finish breaking the buildings before we open our shop; we don’t want our shop to be broken,” Angel says jokingly.
Are you even thinking of settling down soon?
“Well, as artistes we are not really thinking of that for now,” says Chika.
Angle says, “marriage affects career and as an artiste; you don’t move out the way you used to, you have responsibilities… a lot of them. So, we are not thinking of that now, maybe after our first and second album, then will we start looking towards that.”
You might end up with someone in the industry?
“That will be better,” Chika quips. “He can even be our manager. I just want someone that will understand my musical career and respect it.”
Having seen Jah Squad on stage at different occasions, collaborating with Egberi Papa I of Bayelsa, Timaya, will surely make an interesting viewing; even the ladies know that very well.
“Ah, we will scatter the whole place,” Chika screams.
“That place will be on fire; we are looking forward to working with him sometime in the future,” Angel says.

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