CHRISTY LAST YEAR
ANOTHER SAD NEWS has just hit the Nigerian entertainment industry. The Lady of Songs, Christy Essien-Igbokwe passed away this morning, Thursday, June 30, 2011. She was 50 years old. Information on this is still sketchy. I will update you guys on it as I get more information, but below is my last year's interview with her. I also took this picture of her here in front of her Ikeja home myself.
The lady of songs, Chief Christy Essien Igbokwe, MON, has been silent for 16 years. But we have not forgotten her because she left us enough materials to remember and rollick with. Her songs are evergreen and she laments the lack of songs like that in the contemporary music scene. Her last album, Mysteries of Life, was in 1994 and in-between that time and now, so many factors, including a four-year stint as the president of her beloved PMAN (Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria), have combined to delay the coming of her 11th album. The latest impediment is the imminent release of her son, Kaka's debut album.
We talked about so many other things, including the fact that she still has no grandchild despite 31 years of happy married life to Chief Edwin Igbokwe, who was in the adjoining living room, working on his laptop during this interview…
What has been happening to you all this while?
I am working on my 11th album. I am taking my time to do that because we want to conclude work on my son, Kaka's debut album. As soon as we are through with that, I will go back to work on my own album.
When was your last album?
My last album was in 1994.
Why did you stay away that long?
It wasn't an intentional layoff, but things like my four years at the helm of PMAN and the operation I had contributed. But I believe God's time is the best. No matter how long you are away, if God is not finished with you, He will always come back for you. He never even left me in the first place.Then, there was the issue of piracy. I had already started work on a new album as far back as that 1994, but piracy discouraged me. When you spend so much money to produce a work, they come and pirate it for you without letting you even recoup the money you spent on producing the album.Most of the record companies then were not being honest with the artists. They just cheat them out of their royalties. It got to a point where I told my record company, Ivory Music, to take the royalties from my record to take care of the people I was training.But the thing is that it's your gift and you can't just abandon it. You'll know no peace. Music is a spirit and artists are possessed people. When music possesses you and you refuse to play, you'll never be at peace, no matter the type of business you put your hands on, you must go back to it.
How do you view the position and contribution of PMAN to the current developments in the Nigerian music scene?
The problem with PMAN is that we are not focused on realizing our goals. We know we want to realize, but we are not focused on realizing them. We know we want to be a strong body to be reckoned with, but for people to have faith in their union, they need them whenever the need arises. But when you leave what you should be focusing on and only satisfying your personal needs, then you will never achieve it. God used me to form PMAN and they wanted me to be the first president but I don't believe that if you have an idea, you should be the one to control it.Back people up. It still remains your idea, no matter what happens. But when things started going wrong, they came to me again. When I got in there, I met a lot of lies, selfishness and backbiting by people who just wanted to embezzle money. For your members to have confidence in you, you must first show confidence in them. I was paying rent for some of them. PMAN was making so much and we had to help the members. I heard that any job the president brings, he or she gets 10 percent. What I did was to make my own 10 percent official. They were surprised, but I wanted to lead by example. I never used any of PMAN's money when I was their president and when I stepped down, I gave an account of my stewardship to them.
Apart from Kaka, are there other of your children that are musically-inclined?
There are, but none like him. The family loves music so much, but one person is always outstanding. They all do their own various forms of music. We have a small studio in the house and they all make use of it. My third son writes music for people.
Who are the people you have noticed in the contemporary Nigerian music scene; people you feel are genuine musicians and are on the right path with their music?2Face makes an impression on me. From his rhythm, you can easily tell that he is the one. A musician shouldn't be predictable. He is a hard working young man. There are other people, but it's just that their names confuse me. They will tell you 9ice, D'Banj or some other thing. The reason I noticed 2Face is his voice. I have interest in his voice and when you have interest in somebody, no matter what he or she answers, you will always know him. Then, there's the other one, Faze. I like his voice too. Then, I like Yinka Davies and Stella Damasus. I know Stella is more of an actress, but I like her voice. She can sing.
Looking at the industry, what are the things you think they are doing right and those areas you think should be improved upon?
Do I even get to see them, not to talk of knowing what they are doing right or wrong? If you take much interest in them, they will think you are looking for attention. They will read all kinds of negative meanings into it. Most of them would see you at events and not even show any sign of recognition. Music has its own seasons and this is another season for musicians to make money. People are dancing to anything now and that's what is making them relevant. Otherwise what meaningful songs have they sang that is making them puff up? What evergreen songs have they sang? What happens is that people are dancing to noise in order to forget their sorrows and this season will also come to pass. There is so much problem in the world today and people can afford to dance to anything and very soon, they would realize themselves and leave for other sounds. We were the ones that laid the foundation for what they are enjoying today. We worked so hard because we believed in the future; we knew that people like them will come and we didn't want them to come and suffer the way we suffered. We wanted them to come and enjoy the fruits of our labour because we, the older ones, enjoyed nothing. Only few of them would come to greet you. Others would just look at you and pass. When I was growing up, I didn't do that. Whenever I heard that Okosun or Fela was in town, I will go to wherever they were playing to greet them. If you are humble, you will continue to be relevant.
How do you spot a good song?
It is not difficult. When you hear a good song, it would capture your spiritual and physical attention. You would want to hear all of it. Not all the songs that have good rhythms have good lyrics. Some good songs might not have good melody, but the lyrics would be good. But they all go together. It's either you love a song because of its lyrics or the voicing or the percussion. Something must touch you about a song and sometimes it is everything about the song.
What makes a good musician?
A good musician is someone who is disciplined, humble, hard working, positive in thinking, has endurance, composed and must be able to work with people. You must also allow the spirit of music to control you.
What do you think makes a song to sell?
Sometimes it has to do with luck, sometimes with the song and sometimes with the person. Some people are just likeable and people want to listen to them; not that their songs are fantastic. Then, some of the songs that are selling are due to constant airplay. The radios bombard you so much with the song that you cannot help but submit and like it, since you cannot avoid it.
But there are still some very bad songs. How do you feel when you hear such songs?
You can't say any music is bad. It's a wrong way of judging music. No music is bad. What happens is that you may not appreciate it. A song you don't like might be loved by another person, so how do you explain that?
Why is it that most of the older musicians didn't really make much money and some of them are still living in poverty today?
In the past, people never took music seriously. They used to see musicians as never-do-wells. They used to see them as drunkards and in all honesty, musicians used to drink a lot in those days. That made people look down on the art. Only a few people took their music seriously. The musicians are still getting drunk these days, but they take good care of themselves and most times, the public never gets to know.I have a different style. I always fast before going on stage. If I eat before going on stage, I will mess up. The time I performed at the MTN Musicfest last year, I suffered. Most of the artists backstage were smoking indian hemp and I was inhaling it. By the time I was going on stage, I was staggering. I have never had a show like that in my life. I didn't even know what I was singing on stage.
As a showbiz person, how have you managed to maintain your marriage and remain scandal-free all this years?In everything you do, remember that there's a supreme being who we all are accountable to at the end. Always believe in what you do and do things because you believe in them and not because others are doing them; know what that thing has to offer and what you should offer to that thing.I didn't get married because I just wanted to get married and other people were getting married.What is marriage? Marriage is an institution by God, and if God could put that in place, it means that He wants us to reverence it. Breaking a marriage negatively affects the development of a child. One person alone cannot bring up a child. The man or woman has something to contribute. I think parents that abandon their children are cruel. A large number of children from broken homes never end up very well. That doesn't mean that when one wants to succeed, the marital status of his parents would affect him or that those whose parents’ marriages are intact are the best. But people with their parents together learn better home management skills and they learn from both parents. But marriage breakups destabilize the child.