Sunday, February 21, 2010


Eldee Da Don is a household name In the Nigerian music scene. He and his Trybesmen used to rule the airwaves until they went their separate ways. Eldee travelled abroad, upgraded himself and came back last year. The Big boy, going by the title of his latest album and a track in which he specifically mentioned Encomium, took time out to give an honest appraisal of the Nigerian society and music.

How has married life been?
Married life is good. It is really good.

How are you combining it with your music and other engagements?
My wife has been with me from the beginning, so she understands me perfectly and is fine. She had been with me for ten years before the marriage, so she knows everything about me and it wasn't hard when the relationship transcended to marriage.

What were the things that kept your relationship going for that long?
When you are dating someone who is your friend, it is different from just having some random girl from the road. We are simply made for each other, because it is difficult to find someone you agree with all the time and she is the one person I agree with all the time. We hardly ever fight and when we do, it is like a two-minute fight. I believe some people are actually made for each other because we met randomly at UNILAG and here we are today.

You spent so much studying Architecture without ever practicing it. Don't you feel those years were wasted?
I practice architecture in everything I do. The course improved my ability to do all that you see me do today. I don't necessarily design houses, but I create something everyday. Moreover, architecture features in virtually everything we do everyday.

Why did you go as far as a Master's degree in Architecture?
I think why anyone goes very far with education is to get properly enlightened so that anything that you do, you talk authoritatively about it.
It is the level of education that you acquire that positions you properly in the world. Getting a Master's degree was one of the things I figured I needed to do at that time.

And you still went overseas for more education?
The reason I left Nigeria was because I needed to grow. I needed the exposure. I needed to see where people do music at a very professional level. I needed to learn so I could bring back the knowledge to Nigeria. There are a lot of artistes in Nigeria right now who came with that level of exposure and you can always point them out.
That's on the music side. I also wanted to learn a lot of things about shooting music videos, music broadcasting, web development and design and all kinds of technical programmes and software. There's nowhere for one to learn those in Nigeria, even at this moment. Most of the people we call directors today are mere cameramen. Getting a good knowledge of how things are done was the only way I felt we could progress in Nigeria. That was why I left in the first place.

At the moment, how do you rate the Nigerian music industry?
The music industry has done very well, but we could do a lot better. In the time that it has been able to get to this level, I have to definitely give it a lot of props and give a lot of people who have been there in the long run credit. People like the Trybesmen, Plantashun Boiz, Paul Play Dairo, OJB Jezreel, Ruggedman, Sound Sultan and so many other people who have been doing this thing for so long and have continued to do it to this point when it has become profitable and is feeding hundreds of thousands of people.
Music has made the Nigerian entertainment scene more interesting and even the media has better and more interesting stories to tell. There's also a lot of appreciation coming the way of the musicians.

What particular areas do you think need improvement?
Some of the areas that could do with a lot of improvement are the publishing and rights. If a musician does not get money from his album, except from doing shows, then it is not a fair bargain. Songs are being played on radio without the radio stations paying any royalties. Songs are played in various public places without the musician who sweated night and day to produce that work getting anything from it. These people make so much money from the sweat of others and blatantly refuse to pay a dime for it. They use music to keep their patronage, but refuse to pay anything. People just grab our songs and use them for movies and adverts without paying anything. All these have to stop for the industry to grow.

What do you have to say about the proliferation of music studios in the country, at the moment?
That's what happens as a result of the fact that people have noticed the profitability in music and that's how the industry grows.

Being an experienced musician, what do you think are the standards that should govern such things and also in the establishment of record labels?
A record label is essentially a company that grows an artiste, puts the artiste out there, sells the artiste and gets a cut from whatever the artiste makes. It is like any industry. This then includes a lot of things on the part of the label. The label should have a good P.R machinery and enough clout to be able to open doors for the artiste.
In the Nigerian situation, the record label cannot function ideally. The only way to make money in this music business in Nigeria now, apart from endorsements, is from shows. Therefore, if you are a record label and your artiste is only making money from shows, what percentage of that money would make sense to you and how many shows does your artiste need to do to make good money? This is why record labels don't last.
If they invest as much money as they should on an artiste, how do they make their money back? Most of what we have at the moment are management companies and people who run around for artistes.

Who are the artistes on Trybe Records at the moment?
Myself and Oladele. We trimmed ourselves to just two so that we can concentrate on what we are doing and move forward. A lot of people have passed through my studio. Artistes like Sasha, 2Shortz, Sid and so many others and if I had operated as a business man, they wouldn't have come here.

Why do you always go abroad to shoot your videos?
It goes back to what I was saying about adding value to what you are doing. People complain about us going outside the country to shoot our videos, but what they have refused to understand is that nobody in Nigeria can shoot it that well with ease. What we usually have in Nigeria is one guy that has taken money out of his pocket to go learn the art and when he comes back to Nigeria, he is working by himself. He doesn't have professionals working with him. He is the cameraman, lighting man, gaffer, line producer, director and producer at the same time. When you have one person doing the work of about ten people, what you have is something of substandard quality, because they never get it right. Sometimes people have tried, but I still haven't seen people who can do it at that professional level.
We don't have schools that teach these things in Nigeria and if we do, they are so old and archaic that it is as if they don't exist. If there is any such school in Nigeria, then that school is a failure because they are not producing anything. I have been in an environment where real professionals work.
When I shot my video, I had a 14-man crew and every section of the shoot had a professional assigned to it. When only one person does these things, there's chaos. When you go abroad to do this, people are angry, but the fact is that the same amount of money they charge you abroad is what local directors would charge you at home. But when you are shooting your video abroad, you would at least have rest of mind. When you work with professionals abroad, you won't want to come home to work with quacks. Until we have professionals here, I won't shoot any video in Nigeria.

In your estimation, what makes a good producer?
A good ear for musical sounds; he should also be able to create sounds. A sound producer is one that understands music and can manipulate sound.

What makes a good singer?
That's more difficult. Some people are born with beautiful voices, while some people learn to sing. A good singer is either somebody who has a natural voice and can control it or somebody who has the technical know how of how to make the voice sound great.

Let's talk more about your family. How many children are you planning to have?
I don't know yet. I don't think I need to plan for that, but I know I don't want an overpopulated house. Maybe three or four and I'm done.

What led to the decision to settle down with your wife (Dolapo) this soon?
It was never a decision. I still do all the things I used to do before. I have been dating the same person for more than ten years, so nothing really changed. The only thing that changed was that I don't have to drop her at home again. She is here with me. I met her when I was in my third year and since then we have been together.

Are Trybesmen ever going to come back again?
I don't know if it will work. We perform together sometimes and do a lot of other things together, but when it comes to recording an album, I don't know. It involves a lot of hard work and we all are busy with our different projects. Everybody is now independent, but I don't see how Trybesmen can work. Everybody is so busy and it would mean us leaving everything we are doing.

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