Lagos is a very enchanting place. It is the heartbeat of Nigerian entertainment and most, or if not every artist in Nigeria, who wants to hit the mainstream has to be able to conquer the Lagos market and audience before they can succeed.
Most of the artists who are actually making it in Lagos are from other parts of the country. One of the newer artists who has been attracted to Lagos is Mtrill (Mayjah Teria Yarhere). He was based in Port Harcourt where he graduated from the University of Port Harcourt with a degree in Geology in 2005.
He came into Lagos early last year at the instance of his record label, Grafton Records, which is based in both the UK and Nigeria and Joice Ize-Iyamu's Rouge Management. So far, he has performed at very few shows because he is most of the time on tour in the UK. This time around, he has decided to pass up most of those international performances and concentrate on Lagos in order to gain a strong foothold here. He released a mixtape last year entitled, Ladies and Gentlemen. It would serve to whet the appetite of the Lagos audience while he prepares for a full album.
Mtrill won the award for the Best West African Act at the 2008 Channel O Awards. He was also the Best Newcomer at the African Music Awards which held in London in 2009. In this interview which was inside the premises of ENCOMIUM Magazine, he talks about his movement to Lagos and how he got into music…
How do you feel about coming to Lagos and trying to break into the Lagos market?
I feel music is music anywhere and everywhere. Obviously, the Lagos market is different from the Port Harcourt market, which I am used to, but everything is a challenge and I don't feel the Lagos market would be hard for me if my act is good. I have to do the kind of music that they will relate to in Lagos. Any true musician tries to do wherever he or she feels, but still keeping his or her original identity.
I was born in Lagos, but I started music professionally in Port Harcourt, that's why I identify with Port Harcourt. But my coming to Lagos is more like returning home. My parents live in Lagos and I've got family here. So, Lagos is not new to me. I am not overwhelmed by Lagos because this is where I grew up. It's just for me to settle down properly and rediscover the happening spots in Lagos, because I think I have forgotten those, because I did my university schooling in Port Harcourt.
What have you noticed about the Lagos music scene since you came?
It is a very vibrant industry and I like the amount of energy in Lagos. It's very infectious, because you can't relax for once. But because there are people out there pushing and for one to be on top, he has to always to give his best at all times.
How has it been since you got to Lagos?
It has been wonderful. A lot of people have been showing me love. I have been happy in Lagos. So many people have taken time to recognize me and what I am doing.
All the while you were in the university studying Geology, didn't you know it was music you really wanted to do?
Honestly, I didn't know. I knew that I had a flair for music and rapping, but it wasn't like I have always wanted to be a musician. What happened was that immediately I started, it just sucked me in. Music is very jealous, as soon as you start it. It never leaves you. It's been a wonderful feeling doing what I love and getting paid for it.
At what particular point in your life did you find out it was music you wanted to do?
In my final year. After my final exams, I took time out and recorded a couple of singles and pushed out my first single called “Bounce”.
What's the music scene like in Port Harcourt?
Vibrant. There are quite a number of musicians in Port Harcourt and so many like Timaya, Duncan Mighty and Frank D'Nero have all succeeded in making a success of music.
But these people, except Duncan Mighty, are all now in Lagos, what is pushing everyone to Lagos?
The militancy problem has affected every area of life in the Niger Delta. Companies have moved out of that area and that has affected entertainment. As musicians who make their living off music, most people had to leave. My own decision to leave was as a result of my record label and my management. They were the ones that asked me to move to Lagos.
What is your relationship with your record label and management?
Cordial. I believe an artist should have an entourage of people working for him. They are the ones to make most decisions for the artist and if they are good, the artist will be only be better off because of it. There should nothing less than four managers for an artist. The money an artist makes should not be for him alone. Other people should share in the success of the artist and he would also help society by employing people. One person cannot do everything alone and there should be structures in place to help an artist succeed.
There are talks about you working on a UK album, what makes that different from a Nigerian album?
The UK sound is a different one. That's one of the reasons my label takes me there often. So I can understand their sound and their way of thinking. They are giving me the opportunities to explore and see what I can do with my music over there. I want to be the first Nigerian artist to properly break into the UK market. Not just the Nigerian audience there. That's a challenge and in the very near future, I hope to achieve that.
What are your major plans for the Lagos market?
I plan to be in Lagos for long. I intend not to take up any show outside of Nigeria in the near future so that we can establish ourselves properly in Lagos. We want to concentrate on Lagos and make a headway. Lagos gives everybody an opportunity to express himself. Lagos is not biased. Once the Lagos audience accepts your music, things would be good for you.
Do you play any musical instruments?
Not really, though I am working on that. I am a rapper and it doesn't exactly require one to learn a musical instrument because it has to do with poetry. Poetry is a deep art form and working on it is full time. I am learning to play the rhythmic guitar because I love working with a live band.