Clarence Peters is one of the defining points of the current musical revolution in Nigeria. His videos are top class and positive tales about his kindness and talent have kept both the young, new and the old at his heels. He is about the youngest video producer in the country, but just check out any of his videos (we don’t need to mention any names, but you will definitely see Capital Records before you watch any three Nigerian musical videos in succession).
Notes and tones was able to get an audience with the very busy young man who did his film studies in South Africa. He is so busy, he tells us, that he doesn’t even have to comb his own hair so all the visible hairs on his body have gone shaggy. We talked about his work, the Nigerian music industry which he refuses to acknowledge, his relationship, with his father – Afrojuju exponent, Sir Shina Peters and his mother, the movie queen, Clarion Chukwura and a lot of very interesting issues…
Q:Were you at any time going to take after your dad in his line of work?
A: When I was growing up, I stayed with my grandmother in Ibadan. From our place then, I had a very good view of premier Hotel and that was the area where my father’s music was making waves. So I used to have my own children’s band with our bottles, cans and beverage tins. We used to stay in a corner to play our own music and that was the closest I got to following my father’s art. I respect his music but I doing it was never an option.
Q: Your parents are well known public figures, how has being their child affected you?
A: Positively, I learnt a lot from them as a kid. But I never strayed with my father, I stayed with my mother. I had the opportunity of having contracts with a lot of writers, producers, editors and directors. By the time I was nine years old, if you woke me up from sleep to define what characterization was, I could do that of hand. I got a lot of exposure from it and was away of the politics and history of the Nigerian entertainment industry.
Q: What is your relationship with your dad now?
A: I haven’t spoken to my father in three months because he deep changing his SIM Cards. Please tell him to stop changing his SIM cards so that we can talk.
Q: How does he feel about what you are doing?
A: We haven’t got around to talking about it, but I guess he is okay with what I am doing.
Q: When did you really start learning to do this?
A: I started doing play jobs since I was ten years old, by the time I was 15, I was already working as a co-director /assistant director/script supervisor for documentaries. By the time I was 17, I left to finish school and then went to work with Tajudeen Adepetu. I tried to pay attention to everything I was seeing except (which is strange) I never handled the camera. I used to be scared of the camera because I used to see it as very complicated. I knew all the rules; I knew everything about working with it but the camera was a very scary thing. So when I got into film school, I decided to face camera head on. I wanted to major in directing but then I realised that no one could really teach you how to direct. It’s a skill that you have to have inherent in yourself. They teach the basics which I learnt in the first year because I was already familiar with them having worked with them for a long time. So I just decided to face the camera because I don’t want to come back to Nigeria and find a D.P telling me that I can’t achieve this or that when I know I can achieve it.
Q: What are your views about the Nigerian music industry?
A: There is no music industry in Nigeria. We have all been lying to the people because everyone believes that there’s this organisation or concrete structure called the Nigerian music industry. Everything is all false. There is no structure. People are just getting shows and getting paid but it’s temporal. We all know that. Everybody is getting paid by the corporate and they are always looking for the next best thing. As soon as they find it, they carry their money and move there. So we don’t have structures. Our market doesn’t exist and you cannot really find a recording artiste – an artiste that will simply say, “I record. I don’t do shows and I have my small Jetta and my three-bedroom apartment and I am comfortable. I can make real music and as long as I can sell to my fan base, I am okay.” As long as the industry does not have that, then there is no industry. Don’t even get me started on whether we have guilds or not, that’s a completely different story. Until we can find recording artistes that are true to what they are doing no matter the kind of music it is and there is a market that will pay you for your work; a market that will respect your intellectual property, then we cannot lay any claims to a music industry. If you are basically talking about the music industry, what we have right now that you are seeing is just a couple of that are getting paid; another couple that knows how it should be done and are talking about it but when it gets to action, they are not there; another couple who try but get frustrated, so I have no choice but to give in and agree with everybody that there is a music industry in Nigeria.
Q: What then do you think are the solutions?
A: True everybody keeps talking about problems and no one ever proffers any solutions. I don’t think I have the answers. I don’t think any single person has the answers but I think we need to get people to respect other people’s intellectual property for one. Another, which is above everything else, is that we need a structure for marketing. We need to be able to estimate how much an artiste can make from the sales of a good album and how much he would make from an average album. There has to be some guarantees; some channel that one should follow and when those are done, I think we can start talking about having a music industry.
Q: Why do you wear this look?
I just don’t have time to comb my hair. I didn’t keep dreadlocks or something. What happened was that Ileft my hair for some time. It first of all became Afro and whenever I combed it, I cried because it was very painful. So I decided to leave it like that and it got to this state.
Q: What’s your typical day like?
A: Very busy. In a month, I could work for three weeks on videos and for the remaining week, I will be with my artistes in the recording studio or I am just watching videos. You know while watching these things, you can-never stop thinking. A lot of times, the work is here. I don’t stop working.
Q: What about your musical career; you do sing too?
A: A couple of years ago, I used to produce suspect. We used to be in a group called Praise Brothers. They are an acapella group but I never used to sing, I used to rap. I used to the intros and outros for the group, that was how I met I.D Cabassa. I have known Cabassa for about ten years now. After a while, I put all those aside; I put production aside beside when I was in film school, I majored in sound engineering. So that was my singing career but I still do some stuff these days.
Q: You worked with the guys on project fame, what was it like working with new acts that have never actually sung professionally before?
A: It was good. They were nice and it was wonderful working with them. They are a very talented lot and I enjoyed working with them.
Q: What is your philosophy of life?
A: I don’t really have a permanent philosophy because man is very dynamic. Man is always evolving and changing. My philosophy changes with the times. Three weeks ago, my philosophy was different and it will change again in the next three weeks.