Former Super Eagles goalkeeper, Emmanuel Babayaro is now a musician. He officially released a couple of singles earlier in the year to announce his entry into the scene. A couple of weeks back at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, he held a launch for the now completed album, entitled, Best Of Both Worlds.
Present were his brother, Celestine, who played for Chelsea and Newcastle in the English Premier League. Chief Rochas Okorocha was the chairman and Cobhams Asuquo, Sound Sultan, 1924, Obie Rhymz, Klint Da Drunk and Coach Fanny Amun who took the Babayaro brothers to the national teams were all there to show their support.
Emmanuel backed by the group 1924 who are also signed on to Rectitude Records with him took the audience through most of the songs on the album. It was a really entertaining display and most of the audience who had never seen him on stage before were quite taken in by what they saw especially the performance with Cobhmas who also produced the track…
What were some of your fondest memories of your playing days?
I started my playing in the Islanders Academy where my godfather M.H Sabo Babayro ran with Agriculture and Co-operative Banking (NACB) in Kaduna before I got into the national Under 17 and Under 20 teams before to the Super Eagles.
These were very great moments for me because they made me who I am. They were very awesome moments for me because I had loads of privileges. It was during the military era and daughter of the head of state at that time. People recognized me everywhere I went and showed me much love.
One of the most touching of them was when a woman with a little baby saw me at the Lagos airport and brought the baby to me and asked me to lay my hands on him and bless him. I was amazed and even told her that it should be the job of a priest and she insisted and when I finally obliged, she was so happy that I felt embarrassed. I had to go into the restroom because I was shedding tears. That was one of my most memorable moments.
And since you retired from football, what have you been up to?
When I was done with football, I had to go into the next thing that made me very happy which has always been there – acting and singing. I went to acting first because my youngest brother Kennedy wanted to do music and I decided to support encourage him at it. I did the movie, Growing Up, Taking Chances, You Are My Sunshine and most recently Fantastic Fanatics. I was the actor and producer in most of them.
People don’t really know that music and acting have always been there since. At age, 12 and 13, I and Celestine were entertaining people in weddings and parties. Football has brought me fame and fortune and after it, I am now living my other life which probably is my real life – music and acting and I am very grateful to God for it.
Are you still acting?
Yes. I am about shooting a movie now. I only put it on hold because of my album launch and the runnings around.
Do you think you will be able to get to the same international level you got with football with your music?
I actually think I will achieve more success with music and acting than I did with football. In football, I wasn’t so much of a professional. It was more a talent thing. I never gave 100 percent to football because I hated the hard work.
I remember during the launch when coach Fanny Amun was talking about me and my brother, he talked more about Celestine than me and when I went to thank him, he laughed at me and told me he had to talk more about my brother because I was always on the reserve bench. That was because I never gave football my all.
But right now I am doing something that I really love and I am very passionate about. This is who I am and music is something that comes to me easily. When I did my first movie, Growing Up. I did creditably well and my close friends really congratulated me on my performance. I have always been a lyricist and music is my passion. I am going to excel in it and I am not going to be a reserve on this one.
On the Nigerian music scene, we have a lot already, what new and spectacular dimensions are you adding to it?
First and foremost I am coming from a free minded point of view. I am not competing with anybody. The Nigerian market is very huge and the world is very large so there’s a market for everyone. I am not looking to copy any artist, I am just doing my thing. The most unique thing about me is that I am me. From the first to the last track on my album are all mine and original. I didn’t copy anybody but the only similar thing to others is the intelligence and IQ behind it. Songs are all written by me.
Coming in at this point, what are your expectations in the next few years?
We are talking about the present. The idea is to be on top of the world, to achieve international recognition and respect. The album is just out and I look forward to constrictive criticism and feedback from the public. However, I am really confident with what I have put out.
Who are some of your role models that have influenced your music?
I don’t really have any role models because every human has a flaw. I cannot copy anybody out and out as my role model because I could get caught up in hero worshipping and imbibe some of the flaws of my role model. I simply take something from everybody I come across and in that particular sense, that person is my role model. I cannot take up any particular musician as my role model rather I respect them a lot because they are talented people.
A lot of people inspire me because of the amount of talent they have. Look at the late Michael Jackson, 2Face, Ludacris and even my folks in 1924, a group under Rectitude Records. Then Obie Rhymz, another talented guy on the label and so many other artists both home and abroad.
Tell us about the contents of the album?
The title Best of Both Worlds means me. I have conquered the world of sports- football and now I am on to the entertainment – acting ad music.
The first track, Best of Both Worlds means me. I am the fly guy – I have most of the things a man could wish for. I have fame, money and anything you wish for. It is just a feel good song about me enjoying myself. Role Model on the second track is me talking to the younger ones and advising them on how to make a success out of their lifestyle. Then there is Where You Dey? Where I was wondering about the whereabouts of an old flame who is now a show host on TV and what was going to tell her if she ever invited me on her show. One Day talks about what an ideal country would be like on day. Naija Area was originally a rap tack which my label boss, Ceasefire an ID Cabasa, the producer made me sing as a song.
It is a song about Nigeria, what we are going through, who we truly are and how the outside world thinks about us. Then Rags was written by Obie Rhymz and when he freestyled it for me I fell in love with it and did the rap verse. Onobule is me rehearsing how best to serenade a babe. My Party was an instant thing which I did in Frenzy’s studio. It was just me freestyling on a beat I really liked and asking everybody to come party with me. Then there’s Agro and Jigi Bam Bam which were the ideas of my label boss who wanted me to do a club song.
Coming down from music and everything, tell us about yourself, where you are from and the link from the east to the north?
My name is Emmanuel Hyacinth Iwuoha. I am from Amaigbo in Imo State. I was born in Lagos and brought up in Kadune. Babayaro is the name of my godfather who trained I and my brother, Celestine in football. We took the name as a trademark. It was just a feel good thing. It was never really a very serious matter. We took the name and it stuck. The other members of the family don’t answer Babayaro and didn’t play football. We were just kids.
Looking at the decision in hindsight, are you comfortable with it or do you regret it?
I have never really bothered about it. My parents were alive when we started bearing the name and they never complained about it. I never really thought about it. It’s just a name and it doesn’t affect who I am. It never stopped my parents from being my parents.
That means you have two homes where you are well accepted?
I have only one home and that is Nigeria. I am not into the north-west-south.east thing. Nigeria is just one and my parents never brought me up in those lines. I am happy to also be that way. I do not subscribe to segregation and I believe in only one Nigeria. I have brothers who are Yoruba Igbos and northerners.
How many are you in the family?
We used to be eight, six boys and two girls but our last born left us and we are now seven.
What about your immediate nuclear family?
I have a daughter and I have a very beautiful woman. My daughter is Angelita (little angel) and she is my life. I love her so much. She is just six months old. She is an angel sent to me by God.
What are your final words?
I believe a lot in God and I believe that I am going to excel in music just like I did in football. I just want people to pick up a copy of my album, Best of Both Worlds, listen and pass their judgment.