Etcetera is one of the genuine musicians in the country at the moment. He is still relatively new in the industry, having signed his first professional contract only years back but this didn't deter him from beating established names like Dare Art-Alade and 2Face Idibia to one of the golden 'headies' at the last Hip Hop Awards. His album, according to reports, has also gone platinum.
Born Paschal Uche Ejikeme to parents of Imo State origin in Warri, he grew up in the prison town of Kirikiri (in Olodi, Apapa, Lagos) and stumbled into music during his days in the church. He hung out with Notes and Tones for sometime and used the opportunity to tell us this much about himself…
Apart from the award you won at the last Hip Hop World Awards, have you won any other award?
Yes, I got one last year for the Best R'n'B Love Song at the Superscreen Awards.
How did you feel displacing established names like Dare Art-Alade and 2Face Idibia to win the award for the Recording of the Year?
When it comes to music, for a professional, you just go out there, do your thing and hope for the best. At the awards, I knew I had done a good job and that I had a quality song, so I wasn't threatened. I was expecting the best.
How much do awards mean to you?
For me as an individual, the plaque is not all that matters. The award that means the most to me is the one I get from people on the streets. When people walk up to me and tell me that they love what I am doing, that they listen to my songs or that they are my fans, that is the greatest award or recognition that any artiste can ever get. The plaque comes in handy because it helps mark milestones in an artiste's career, but the fans are the best.
How many musical instruments can you play?
I play the piano, the lead and bass guitars, drums and the harmonica, but I am best with the piano and the lead guitar.
Do you also produce?
Yes. I do most of my stuff myself. As a musician, when you write your song, you do it with the instruments. That makes it easier for you at the studio, because you have your scores and progressions, etc., unlike when you don't play any instrument at all and expect the producer to do everything. This could be dangerous sometimes because they might not be able to get the particular feeling you had in you when you were writing your song.
What do you call your brand of music?
It is called alternative music. It is more encompassing when you call it that, it still allows for the infusion of other genres of music, but definitely, the basic has to be rock.
How did you come across that type of music?
I grew up listening to music from the like of Brian Adams, U2, Coldplay and right now I'm listening to a lot of John Mayer. Alternative music to me as a musician is one very good way I can be me. It is one area I am very comfortable with. It is one area that at any point in time I can hold mine with any other artiste in the world.
Do you have any church roots?
Yes, I come from the church. I was born into a Christian family. I was a member of the St. Joseph’s Catholic Church Youth Organization, Kirikiri. There was a time we decided to buy our own music equipment. We chose a particular Sunday to display them to the entire church and hired some people to come and play them for us. But when they came, they started charging us some crazy amount of money and the highpoint of it was that they walked out on us. It was so embarrassing and I walked to the president and made him understand that a situation like that was not acceptable. I told him that it would be nice if we learnt to play those instruments ourselves. So, I chose to learn to play the keyboard. I took it home and started learning the primary chords and it felt good. That was when I had the first inkling that I could make a career out of music. So, I decided to do it the proper way and went to the MUSON where I learnt to play the piano and the guitar properly.
Then, I started playing for churches and that was what you could call my I.T. I then went into the studio and recorded a song and it sounded good.
What was the first song you recorded?
Michelle. It was recorded in 2003.
When was the first time you played a musical instrument?
I998. That was when the church incident happened. I was never cut out to be a musician. I stumbled into music and by that time I was already an adult.
How did you get into X3M Music?
I got to meet Steve Babaeko through a friend of mine. Babaeko wanted to form a record label and was looking for something totally different from the kind of music everywhere at the moment. He was looking for a different kind of musician and my friend told him about me. He took my CD to Babaeko and he invited me. We met the next day and I got a contract. That was in 2007.
Were you born in Lagos?
Nope. I was born in Warri. My father was a prison warder. It was while he was working in Warri that I was born. He was then transferred to Kirikiri Prisons in Lagos and we all came along with him. But we are originally from Njaba LGA, Imo State.
Given that your brand of music is not that common in Nigeria, what has been the reception since your debut?
Fantastic. Nigerians are well read. Nigerians are well exposed and we have cable television all over. Nigerians are also well travelled. We have about 180 million people in this country and I believe that about a million of them understand my brand of music very well. A couple of days back, my management called me and told me that we have sold a million copies of my album.
At what price was each sold?
It is not the artiste that determines the price of his work, it is the market forces. The career of the Nigerian artiste is determined by a particular sect and these guys are located somewhere in Alaba International Market. They are the ones that call the shots when it comes to music. It is so pathetic at the moment that they are even suggesting to some artistes the kind of songs they should play. For me, I am a musician. Music is art and art comes from within. I am bringing out me, I am bringing out what I have inside of me so nobody has the right to put something into me. This is why artistes have been clamouring that the government should come into this branch of entertainment. The artistes are ambassadors of the country and are selling the image of the country. They also attract good revenue to the government. Music plays a much bigger role than people give it credit for. Musicians are like preachers and they influence the society.
What inspired Michelle?
Michelle is like somebody going on a journey. In that song, I am trying to put a face to that journey. Michelle in that song is not a girl, it represents anything in life that one is looking for. It represents the target of that journey and it could mean different things to different people.
Why then did you choose that particular name?
It was the name that came to me. It could have been any name. I just used it to put a face to my target. I am just coming into the industry and Michelle has helped me define that journey.
What is your educational background?
When people talk about education, they tend to limit it to just formal educational qualifications. To have a degree, Master’s or PhD is cool. But personally, I see life generally as a classroom. The events of each day are our lectures and at the end of the day, the exams would be set and marked by God and the results determine whether you make heaven or not. If you still insist on my formal educational qualifications, I did my primary school partly in Warri and Lagos. I did my secondary in a public school here in Lagos. After the post secondary level, I went to Muson.
What has been the reaction of your family to your career?
They never discouraged me. My dad died before I recorded my first single, my mummy died when I was very little. So, unfortunately, they never heard me.
Your music is kind of soulful and the ladies tend to dig that kind of stuff. What has been their reaction to you?
The ladies play a major role and will always play a major role in the life of an entertainer. I value them a lot. They are there and can make or mar you. They have supported me this far in my career and I am grateful for that.
Any particular one?
Right now, there is no particular lady in my life. I am totally single.
What are the qualities you cherish in a lady?
I might not be looking for love in a relationship. I am more comfortable with an understanding lady. A lady that can understand that I am a musician and that I need to be alone at different periods. A lady that would understand that I am a loner. I also need someone that would operate on the same frequency with me.