My encounter with Nelson Mandela –Alex O, veteran musician –

My encounter with Nelson Mandela –Alex O, veteran musician – The Sun Nigeria

By Christine Onwuachumba

Lovers of good music will have the pleasure to once again enjoy their favourite ’90s rocker, Alex O’s new music, as he seeks to collaborate with Europe-based Nigerian artiste, Prince Amaho.

In this interview, the veteran musician talks about his homecoming project while insisting that he has never left the music scene.

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Many people believe your time as Alex O, the musician is gone for good. But you are back with Prince Amaho in a homecoming project. Can you explain this?

Well, the talent has always been there and has not gone away. While I was outside Nigeria, I never left music. The only thing I was not doing was releasing new songs, even though I was writing and recording new materials. I was always doing live shows and a lot of studio work. I have been able to write and record over 200 songs. I think now is the time to start putting them out. I sing a lot better now; I am a better producer now too, and I understand the industry much better now than when I was a lot younger. There is a lot of greater music to come.

Okay, could you tell us more about the homecoming project, highlighting how you came to be part of it?

The homecoming project came up after years of brainstorming and looking at the possibilities of working together with Prince Amaho, who is very popular in Europe but not very much known in Nigeria and Africa. We think it’s the right time for him to come home, bring in some of his musical experiences and see how we can contribute positively towards the industry in Nigeria and Africa. We have always wanted to work together. We are setting up a branch of German Powersonic music label in Nigeria, and there is a song collaboration whereby we’ll release the 2nd single of Baron D, who is already an artiste on the label. We are also working on a musical tour of major cities in Nigeria and Africa, which will come up later in the year. Prince and his manager, Rabih Rabea, The Soul Bros and the entire team will be flying in from Germany for the project. It will be an exciting time for all of us coming together. I am excited and can’t wait.

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A few years ago, you promised to do the remix of your classic songs. What is the state of that project?

The remix of my old songs are still in the works. It will be completed and ready for release after this homecoming project.

Music is more lucrative these days than in your days, and the music landscape has changed too. How would you have adapted your music if you were still active today?

Once a musician, always a musician. Adapting to changes is key to longevity in any chosen career or profession. One has to look, study and figure out what the buying public wants at any given time and place, and then adapt. Nigerians want to party and dance at this time, so producing anything different might not work out well. Don’t forget that we started what gave rise to the music that is being produced in Nigeria today. We laid the original foundation for the musical fusions, pidgin rap styles, mixing local languages with Pidgin and English into song styles. As long as the music produced is good, any musician can make new hit songs at any time, whether young or old.

You still have your fan base that’s interested in knowing what you are doing presently. So, could you tell them what has been keeping you busy, especially in the last three years, and what you have in stock for them?

I thank God Almighty for my fan base. They have been so supportive to my music career, and I am grateful to them. Beside my career as a singer/writer, I produce music for other artistes both home and abroad. I also produce soundtracks for film; including TV commercials, jingles and anything sound production. I am equally into film and animation production. This, I studied while I was outside the country before returning home. I now run an audio-visual company and studio in Lagos. I have been busy in the studio with all these activities. For my fans, I still sing and perform, and it will be of their interest to know that my new songs are coming out soon, including the collaboration song project with Prince Amaho. It will blow their minds. I can’t wait.

What is your best memory as a performing musician of the ’90s?

All our performances those days were memorable. The band and I were a group of very young boys and girls, who had great passion and love for what we were doing. We enjoyed every bit of it. We toured several cities including Lagos, Port Harcourt, Owerri, Warri, Benin, Calabar, Uyo, Onitsha, Enugu, Aba, Umuahia, Jos, Abuja, Kano, Markurdi, Gboko and Asaba. We performed in these cities and more, many times every year. It was great and beautiful, and memorable too.

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With the way music has changed radically in Nigeria in the last two decades, what is your advice to teenagers who might want to take music as a profession?

The music business, just like other businesses, is a challenging one. They should just work hard, continue to improve on and upgrade their skills, to increase their chances of being more successful. And also, making a major breakthrough and reaching the top is one thing, being able to remain at the top is even more challenging. So, it is important to be grounded with a lot of experience and skills while on your way up. Lastly, they should commit all they are doing into the hands of Almighty God for his blessings and favours, in order to succeed.

Nigerians regarded you as one of the successful musicians of his generation. What made you decide to further your study, and what informed your choice of film and animation production?

In life, you need to continue to learn, upgrade yourself in terms of skills, knowledge and experience. That’s the only way to continue to stay relevant in our ever-changing society. I have always been fascinated about how movies are made, the visual effects, the film tricks and intrigues. So, when I saw the opportunity to go into it, I jumped at it. It is paying off now. I feel lucky and happy to have gone that route considering the fact that it is what many people are now doing. And as new technologies come up in that field, there is one crucial thing to do… continuous upgrading, which I am very passionate about.

You are widely travelled, so can you recall some of your most memorable experiences, good or bad as a Nigerian/ African in a white man’s country?

Yes, having been to many countries, experiencing different people and cultures, one is bound to run into things and situations, good, bad or ugly; plus the obvious, which is one form of racism or the other. Also, it can be challenging to get hold of things when you find yourself in another country. Different environment, different culture. But great music performances place an artiste above some of these challenges. People take their minds off the things that make us different from one another, which in most cases is the beginning of the negative experiences one encounters. I must say that great music performances did that for me. For that, I am grateful.

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Kindly share with us your biggest life lesson and how it changed your worldview.

One of the most memorable life-changing moments I experienced was when I encountered the late President Nelson Mandela. I learned from him a lot about the power of forgiveness, being slow to anger, patience and perseverance. I thank God for that experience. It has made me a better person.

If you have the benefit of turning back the hand of time and correct some mistakes you made as a pop star, what will you do?

I agree that some things could have been done or handled better, but I see whatever they were as lessons and blessings to learn from, and become a better person. I love the genre of music I was playing then, and still love it till today. Also, the fact that I succeeded means that not all the decisions I took were wrong. I am grateful to God for making it work out for me, even though it was at a difficult time in our country. I am grateful to God.

As we await the release of your new songs this year, give us a hint of what to expect.

The new songs have to be dance songs. People are not much into slow jams these days. Nigerians want to party and dance. That has to be taken into consideration during the song writing and production process. I sing a lot better now than the past years. The music is more mature and exciting now, better than before. We are working with experienced producers and sound engineers within and outside Nigeria. So, expect the best of materials in the package to come.

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