STORIES BY CHUKS NWANNE
The weather was still very bright the time I set out to hook up with him in one of the popular Ikeja bars. But few minutes to my destination, heavens let loose –– r-a-i-n!!! Sure, I managed to escape the showers. J Martins looks very tired; it shows all over his face. All through the interview, he keeps yawning and adjusting his sitting position.
“I’ve not been able to sleep because I’ve been very busy working. In fact, from here, I will be heading for South Africa to attend the Channel O Awards,” he says working his blackberry phone.
You need to see J Martin’s reaction when I reminded him of his days in his brother’s music studio in Onitsha, Anambra State.
“Yes, my elder brother. Wow! How did you get to know about that,” he quizzes. “They produce more of Eastern kind of music such as highlife and stuff like that; I didn’t really work with them, but I used to go there to help them with things.”
Known more for his hip-life beat, which is becoming very popular among Nigerian hip-hop artistes today, Martins-Okey Justice’s music career actually started in the church when he joined the choir.
“I was a chorister in my church and later, I joined the church band; that was where l learnt to play drums and later bass guitar. Up till date, I’m still a member of the Dominion City Choir.”
Unfortunately, present day artistes seem not to be interested in learning to play at least one musical instruments?
“Well, I think it’s a personal opinion; it depends on what you want out of life. By the world standards, every performing artiste should know how to play at least one instrument. I’m not talking of producer here, but artistes.”
It appears you spend more time making beats?
“I actually spend more time listening to music more than making beats for people.”
Then you decided to make your own music?
“Yes, a lot of people know me more as a producer, but I just decided to go back to where I started; that’s singing.”
Before his hit track, Good or Bad, featuring Timaya and P-Square, which many believed launched him into the industry, J Martins had recorded other works, which were popular in the Eastern part of the country.
“Get The Vibe had a lot of airplay in the East, especially on Cosmo FM, Enugu, where it was widely accepted. I also did Swagger Dance and one or two others; I’ve been doing music for long,” he quips.
But Good or Bad did the magic for you?
“Well, the music is rich; it’s something different, so, it was able to get the break. When people say it’s the song that brought me out, I just say, ‘whichever way, we thank God.”
How did you arrive at that song?
“Actually, the beat itself had another song on it when I first recorded. But after listening to it for some time, I decided to put it aside because, I felt the beat was asking for more expression; I decided to expand it. I wanted to do something different, so, I brought in P-Square, Timaya and others to do Good or Bad.”
There’s always an influence of highlife in almost all your beats?
“If you listen to my production, you will notice that I’m not a noise maker in terms of beat; my beats are always cool,” he says yawning. “Even when you don’t know the song, once you listen to it, you will see yourself moving. I try to find the best way to approach songs. As for the highlife stuff, it started from Do Me (by P-Square). After that, the rest is history.”
You did Do Me?
"Yes, with Paul Okoye.”
Even in Ada Owerri, a song he did for Bracket, you could feel that highlife rhythm. In fact, the Yori Yori crooners branded J Martins ‘king of highlife beat’ in that track.
“When I was quite younger, I used to enjoy music of the old men. People like Osadebe, Oliver De Coque, Goddy Ezike, Price Nico Mbarga, Paulson Kalu and the rest of them; their music greatly influenced me. But at a point, I discovered their kind of music was fading away, so, I decided to bring them back in a more modern way. That’s why you see me do the kind of songs I do.”
Meanwhile, expect surprises in J Martin’s latest album, Elevated, which is already on music shelves around the country.
“There are two personalities of me in that project; the first four songs is about the hip-life, but the other four songs are tracks you don’t expect me to do.”
“Because, possibly, you are not expecting that kind of song from me; maybe by the time you listen to the album, you will understand what I’m talking about. It’s been said that every producer is on one pattern, but I’m versatile; I’m grateful to God for giving me that talent.”
Why Elevated for an album title?
“I called it Elevated because it’s a process; everybody is aware of that. If a process is good, everybody knows it’s good and if it’s bad, people know. The album has tracks such as Oyoyo, Iva, Believe, Change, Good or Bad Remix (rap version), featuring Vector; there are eight new songs in the album altogether with two remixes.”
Are you satisfied with your first album?
“You don’t expect to be satisfied always; no one will always be satisfied. It did very well, but you can’t always be satisfied.”
So, what are you doing to ensure this new work is successful?
“I wish to expand my network, put more effort in pushing and spreading the word to my fans.”
Does that include an album launch party?
“I’m not planning any big album release party; we are just pushing the album into the market. It’s not about doing album launch party, after that, what else? I’m not saying it’s not good to do a party, after all I’ve been attending the ones organised by my friends. We might decide to do something later, but for now, we are interested in pushing the song into the market.”
Most of you artistes seem to be moving to Lagos?
“In a way, you need to come to Lagos, but first of all, you have to prove yourself in your locality. For instance, P-Square came from Jos, Timaya and Duncan Mighty came from Port Harcourt, Nigga Raw and I came from Enugu… there are many of them that came from our different zones to get to where we are today. You have to understand that Lagos is the centre of entertainment in the country.”
But people like Nigga Raw maintained base till date?
“That’s an untapped resources,” he notes. “Everyone was more interested in ‘yea men, yo men’, but he’s doing something different. Today, we know him as the pioneer of vernacular hip-hop music in Nigeria.”
Though a graduate of Business Administration from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), buying and selling is the last thing on the Abia State native’s mind.
“There will definitely be business, but it depends on where it’s coming from. There’s music business, there’s media business and others. But don’t expect me to go into buying and selling,” he says with laugher.
What’s your relationship with P-Square?
“Very cordial; they are more like my brothers,” he declares.
And you are aware of their problem with their landlord? In fact, the man claimed he complained to you when your friends started breaking their apartment to set up a music studio?
“Well, I don’t know about that; you are the one telling. Most of the times, I’m not always available, so, I can’t really say.”
But the man mentioned your name; it was in the news?
“I’ve never read such story. Even if that’s true, is it supposed to be public? Meanwhile, that story must have been written by one reporter.”
We are talking of an interview granted by both the landlord and Jude, P-Square’s elder brother?
“Well, I’m not aware of that.”
At this point, it was obvious J Martins didn’t want to comment on this matter, so I let him be.
MTN Nigerian Music Fest gets more support
EXCITEMENT is in the air for the MTN Nigerian Music Festival, which holds next weekend in Lagos. Already, Terra Kulture, the art centre on Victoria Island, Lagos has thrown its weight behind the project.
The centre will play host to music notables in an evening of royal retreat as a prelude to the festival billed for November 21 at the Oceanview Plaza, Victoria Island. The Owerri show will now hold on November 28.
Apart from MTN Nigeria, other sponsors of the project include Skye Bank Plc.
Legendary Nigerian music ambassadors including, Sir Victor Uwaifo and Pa Fatai Rolling Dollar, as well as Christy Essien Igbokwe, Sir Shina Peters, Weird MC, Obesere, Faze and Olu Maintain would be hosted to an evening of exclusive dinner, dance and wine at the Terra Kulture.
Current notable artistes, namely MI, Wande Coal, Terry G and J Martins have also been signed on to perform at the festival in Lagos.
Also billed for the day is Evi Edna-Ogoli, the popular act in the 1980s and 1990s. She will fly in from France to join other artistes to celebrate their own works.
Also, Island Limousine, a car hire company, has indicated interest to partner with Ruyi Communications to make the show glitzy and memorable.
The company is dedicating two Hummer limousines to convey performing artistes from their hotels to Ocean View Plaza, venue of the Lagos leg of the festival.
Tickets are available at selected Skye Bank branches in Lagos and MTN Nigerian Music Fest train located at strategic neighbourhoods around the city. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.nigerianmusicfest.com.
XL5IVE Swagger s in
After years of performing abroad, Nigeria-born-Europe-based artiste, Perry Stevenson Ohens, is back in the country in preparation for the launch of his debut album. Scheduled for Saturday, November 28 Lagos, at Planet One, Maryland, Ikeja, Lagos, it will feature a special red carpet reception, with notable celebrities being expected.
Popularly called XL5ive in the entertainment scene, the artiste, who launched into the music industry with Olomi, it set to serve his 14-tracker album with tracks such as Olomi, Shallangolo, Omole, Irawo, Trouble, Send Me a Letter and the title track, Swagger My Way.
His ability to speak multiple languages such as Esan, Yoruba, French, Magyar (Hungarian), and Dutch, has a strong influence on his music, giving it a universal feel. His songs come with a blend of Western and Afro-Caribbean style, fussed with Nigerian flavour.
A protégé of legendary producer, Larry Ifediorama of the PolyGram Records, Tony Oghuma, and late Ladi Lawal, Xl5ive started singing at a very tender age, though his career was truncated by his love for and proficiency in foreign languages as a student, leading to his first exposure to Europe by the sponsorship of the Embassy of France, through Alliance Francaise.
However, living in Europe for about 14 years in pursuit of linguistic knowledge, did not completely take over his unquenchable musical ambition.
“I care so much about my music and could never imagine not committing everything to it as much as I do. With my enriching experience so far, I have figured out how to work in our unique setting.”
He continues: “Sometimes, with a first album, it seems like swimming in different oceans, battling to navigate to a plausible destination. But I have a strong conviction that this is a surefooted journey.”
Blacktribe returns Addicted
Their first effort was in 1999, when they recorded Be Ma Girl, featuring 2Face Idibia and Blackface of the defunct Plantashun Boyz; Paul Play produced the track. The duo returned the following year with yet another single, Nino. The track produced by Nelson Brown, made noticeable impact in the music scene then.
Their first album, Past And Present, produced by the duo of OJB Jazreel and Nelson Brown, was released in 2004 under CK Music. The nine-track album was followed by Make Way, after which nothing has been heard from the group.
After months of fine-tuning their beats in the studio, Abdulmalik Usman and Daniel Nwankwo of the Blacktribes are back with their third. Titled Addicted, the artistes are very optimistic that the new work billed for release next month, will easily find it’s way into the Nigerian music market. Well, let’s see how it goes.
The 12-track album featuring 2Face Idibia, Timaya, Sound Sultan, OJB, Mallam Spicy and Prince Banton, has tracks such as Chacha, Ife, Trusted Friend, Ganja, Gbabeski, Follow Me Go, Story, Leave Am, My Size, U Make Me Wanna, 2nite, Wondale, Chikito and Addicted. Producers K Solo, Spanky, J-Sleek, Dr. Frabs, OJB and Jiggy Jegg and have their hand in the album.
Shot in South Africa, the videos for Trusted Friend and Chikito are already on air, while the production crew is on the verge of returning to location soonest to shoot the remaining videos.
Blacktribes has be part of major music concerts in the country such as Star Trek, The Play Safe Campus Tour for the awareness of HIV/AIDS, Y’hello Africa, Taraba and Benue States government organized Peace Concerts, Big Brother