Saturday, 22 August 2009
BY CHUKS NWANNE
The last time he was in the country, Germany-based-Nigerian artiste, Ade Bantu, practically refused to talk to the media. Even the day he was tricked into an improptu interview during his last visit to The Guardian, Bantu carefully escaped the trap.
However, the opportunity provided itself recently at the Black Tie Gig event organised by Xtreme Music to celebrate Etcetera’s latest achievement at the Hip-Hop World Award.
“Basically, I was avoiding the media then because I was in a period of solitude; I just came in and didn’t feel like creating so much noise,” he says in defense. “I really wanted to reflect on where I want to go in the next five years of my career. So, I was really hibernating and not in the right frame of minds to share any of those thoughts with anyone yet; as I needed to concretise them.”
The result of that long period of avoiding the media has finally come. The dreadlocks wearing musician is already putting final touches to his latest album, Sound Clash in Lagos, which he plans to release later in the year.
“It’s basically a collabo; I’ve always dreamt of collaborating with producers, singers and song writers that I’ve always admired along the way. So, what I did was stay in Nigeria, work diligently and feature some friends and colleagues I feel have something to add to the table. But I didn’t want them to sound their usual self; so, I challenged them.”
IN one of the tracks, Show Them Love, featuring African China, Bantu frowned at the incident in Akwa Ibom State, where innocent kids were accused of sorcery.
“I spoke to African China about the incident; I saw the documentary on British television. I said to myself, ‘how come people are not talking about this.’ Apart from the journalists, people seem not to be worried about this issue. So, I sat down with China and we came up with a song. We also have a project called Show Them Love, with which we will be campaigning against child abuse.”
In the new work, Bantu, whose music has shades of activism, has a politically conscious song, Martching To Aso, featuring the petit singer, Azadus.
“The song is politically charged; we commented on Niger Delta and other issues. So often, you feel helpless; you feel like your voice is not being heard and that politicians have become immune to your words. The longer I stay in Nigeria, the more I get frustrated. For instance, I don’t tell my driver to buy fuel for me, I do it myself; I queue for about two to three days, so, I know there’s a problem.”
Though no official date has been fixed for the release, September looks plansible. “I’m also doing another album for the German audience simultaneously. So, I am shuttling between Nigeria and Germany right now.”
IN the new album, Bantu also recorded a tribute track to the late highlife maestro, Orlando Owoh. “I’ve been a fan of his for long; I planned to record an album with him, but unfortunately he had stroke and couldn’t do vocals anymore.”
Determined to honour the legend, Bantus went in search of a similar voice for the track. “I had to make do with another singer from Mushin, Seinde Jo; he sounds very much like Owoh. I swear, if you hear his voice, you will marvel; it’s incredible.”
MEANWHILE, Bantus has parted ways with his former label, Xtreme Music. In fact, the new album will be released on Bantu’s Pako Records. Was there any disagreement with Steve Babaeko’s Xtreme Music?
“Nothing happened, I licensed my last album to Steve. It was wonderful working with Babaeko while I was away; but when I came back, I noticed I have to run the affairs myself. I sat down with Steve and I got his blessings to move on. But this is not about another Nigerian artiste setting up a label; it’s about adding value to the products.”
Inspite of his cross-continental star status, Bantu is a very humble person and you won’t see him wear his ego on his chest; his stardom has got nothing to do with his personality.
“I come from a very humble background; my parents never made me feel special. I try to be humble because I’ve studied the great people; what makes you great is your humility. For me as somebody who wants to keep it real, not by trying to be overzealously strict, but by trying to connect to reality; I always need to touch base.”
Talk of friends, Bantu is very selective.
“I don’t have sycophants around me; I have very few intimate friends and I listen to their pieces of advice and they help me a lot. Some of my friends will be like, ‘Ade, you can’t take okada,” or “you can’t take bus.’ This somehow detaches you from the reality; it makes me feel like a politician and dead to the feel of the people,” he muses.
He adds, “if I enter a place, I will greet the gatekeeper, the cleaner… everybody. I’m just fortunate to be in the limelight, but ultimately, it’s about these people that identified with my music. I’m based in Germany, but when I go on the streets, conductors hail me, kids come together to sing my song, No Vernacular. For me, that’s enough.”
Bantu, who recently performed for the German President at a summer get together on special request by the president, says “this is good for me because I now see myself in a position I’ve always dreamt of –– being an ambassador of Africa in Germany and Europe.”