updated: 14 Feb 2009 03:41 PM
created: 14 Feb 2009 03:39 PM
created: 14 Feb 2009 02:47 PM
created: 30 Nov 2007 06:37 AM
created: 14 Nov 2007 01:31 PM
My Stardom Killed My Mom
This Day (Lagos)
10 November 2007
Posted to the web 12 November 2007
How long has the train been gone? Ask Afro-Juju musician, Sir Shina Isaac Peters.
He is used to following the rail track. Railways mean a lot to him. You can say that his good fortune come in train loads. Forty years ago, Shina walked out on his parents after a heated argument. The two parties were not willing to give an inch. Having bought everything he needed to go into boarding house of Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, his parents were heart broken when he turned his back on what they regarded as an illustrious path, in preference of a dream.
The night he was to go to BBHS, he had a dream. "I heard my name clearly in the dream and someone I couldn't see told me to stretch out my hands and I did. Something was deposited in my hand. In my right hand, 'music' was written there. There was nothing in my left hand. It was one of those one-room where parents slept on the bed and we the children slept on the floor. I woke up and told my parents. They listened and told me to go back to sleep. I went to sleep and the same thing happened again. When I woke up in the morning, I told them I was not going to school anymore".
That was an unusual decision for a 10-year old boy. It was a continuation of his remarkable entry into the world; for Shina didn't follow a nine-month course to be born. He was born at a Cherubim and Seraphim church at Tabon-Tabon area of Agege in Lagos. The church still stands there to date. His mother carried him around in her womb for three years before he was born. In the course of the pregnancy and following his birth, many prophetic utterances came forth concerning him. Incidentally, his mother had forgotten many of these predictions at one of the most crucial moments.
With tears in his eyes and without the faintest idea about where he was going to, he left home. His home at Oshodi was close to the railway. It was the only 'sophisticated' means of transportation that he knew. The rail had closed for the day; so he started walking along the railway track. He stopped at the first, lively spot along the track. The place was called Temiogbe Hotel at Olorunsogo area of Mushin. The story of his life changed the moment he stepped into that hotel, it was a transformation aided by one Christiana, a commercial sex worker in the hotel to whom Shina feels indebted. "If I can find her, I will regard her as my second mother", he told NSEOBONG OKON-EKONG. The interview progressed after Shina had entered a passionate plea to protect his private life.
He is probably the biggest home-based Nigerian musician who has sold the most number of records. 'Ace' the record album which he released in 1989 was a master stroke on the Nigerian music clime. It was a refreshing offering when it hit the airwaves in 1989. It changed the way Nigerian music was perceived; even by the most critical Nigerians. 'Ace' went on to establish a record and a pattern for sales which he sustained for the next four years. The album won all the major awards in the Nigerian music industry. More importantly, it won double platinum for sales. In Nigeria, an album that has sold up to 250,000 is awarded a platinum shield. A double platinum means the album sold over 500,000 copies.
As life-changing as the 'Ace' was, it was executed under intense pressure and frustration. When you hear Shina shout, 'hey'! and 'haba'!! on the album, it was not planned. It was an utterance of anguish and pain. Following his separation from Segun Adewale his partner of many years, Shina had previously released three unsung and unsuccessful albums. The suffering had become too much for him, he could hardly feed himself and keep his band together. He was at crossroads. He had told himself that he would never return home until he makes good success of his life. Was he going to eat his words and return home like the Biblical prodigal son? He decided that if his fourth album didn't hit the top mark, he would quit music. To satisfy himself that he had fulfilled all righteousness, he went on a conscious research mission that helped to fashion that quasi music genre called Afro-juju.
"I said to myself what do these younger people and students listen to? Disco; so I went to Phase 2 Night Club, which was top of its class at that time, I wanted my music to cut across age and tribe. I wanted to produce the kind of music that could bridge the gap and unify the country. At Phase 2, I picked elements of disco music made that type of music irresistible to younger people. Next, I went to see a show by Chief Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. I didn't understand what he was singing in 'Fuji Reggae' but since it drew a lot of audience, I went to learn from him. I discovered that Barrister's Fuji was held together with heavy percussion. I took that. I added African jazz, highlife and blended it with Fela's Afrobeat; then I used my own common sense to execute everything on a very fast tempo. That is how Afro-juju was born. The hand of God was on 'Ace', the record was banned, yet it still made waves and sold very well".
Before, he went into the studio to record the album, Shina had regular gigs at Stadium Hotel where he tested his new dish on a teeming number of dedicated fans. "Once I was satisfied with the reaction of my fans at the live gigs, I was confident to go into the studio. This is what I always tell upcoming artistes, it is better to perfect your sound and act at live shows before recording".
Music actually runs in his family. His mother won many shields in singing competitions within the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. There are three boys in the family. All three are musicians. The other two boys-Yomi and Gbenga-live and play music in the United States of America
Shina's budding career was also supported by a group of young well-heeled friends who wanted to patronize Nigerians music, but wanted a break from the type favoured by their parents. How did this happen? "Oba Adedapo Tejuoso, the Osile of Oke-Ona Egba had a party one day. Chief Ebenezer Obey was to perform for him. At such events, his children normally hire a DJ to play recorded music, but on this particular occasion, someone suggested that I should be invited to perform live for the younger audience at the party. I came at the invitation of Lanre Tejuoso and you know that he is friendly with the Okoyas, the Awolowos, the Runsewes and the Otedolas. That is how I began to entertain this group of yuppies. I have an anthem for each of them. Today, they are all highly placed and they are still my friends. At that time, Femi Otedola was so involved with me that he started a magazine in my name. It was called the Sir Shina Peters Magazine. His father owns Impact Press. It was easy for us to print the magazine there. These group of friends (I can't mention all of them) supported my career all the way".
"The era of 'Ace' was a mission. We were fed up with the same name that we had been hearing in the past. Previously, you can't become an editor unless you are 50-years plus. To become a bank manager, you must be 50-years plus. That is why one of the lines in the song says, 'Asiko awa youths re (Yoruba for, it's time for the youths). It is when 'Ace' came out that you began to see a 25-year old saying he is a bank manager. Now you have 30-year olds as an editors. 'Ace' was the kind of music you could play Arochukwu. Even in Hausas caught the 'Shinamania' craze. I carry my audience along because I compose in pidgin which is our general language. I am Amuludun of Egbaland. The title was conferred on me by Oba Tejuoso. There is a body known as Shina Peters stakeholders. It has people like Olorutoba Oke, Gbenga Okegbenro, Murphy, Amos Adamu, Prince Suraju and Niyi Adewunmi. We are having meetings on how to celebrate my 50th birthday"
Meeting with Shina at his Iju home reveals some interesting things about the musician. He chose to build his house there so he can be close to his parents whose house is a stone's throw away and also to be close to the downtrodden. "Every morning when I am around they bring all kinds of problems to me. I help them to the best of my ability. If my house was not here, I won't be able to do what I am doing for them. At the same time, I didn't allow success to get into my head. I was able to build this house and furnish it to world class standard, if I were not moving with the kind of friends that I have. You can't be moving with the likes of Femi Otedola and not be able to make something good out of your life.
Afro-juju opened the door of opportunities for over 30 artistes who now play that genre of music. The bond between these musicians is so strong. They all see Shina as the leader and they willingly submit to him. New frontiers of friendship and comradeship are being forged with these musicians. "I am talking about people like Dayo Kujore, Tunde Samson, Wale Thompson and Dele Taiwo. They come to my house, sometimes for three days and we hold seminars here. We discipline ourselves. There is time for break, lunch and time to swim. There is no rancour among us. We are working on a project right now. We are trying to get Nigerians to love their country and stop cursing or abusing her. The average American wakes up in the morning and says 'God bless America', whereas a Nigerian is likely to say many unprintable things against her country. That is not right and we think we should campaign against that through our music".
In truth, 'Ace' (from unofficial quarters) was said to have sold more than 5,000,000 copies. Riding on the crest of that success, he came out with 'Shinamania' in 1990. This album also reached the double platinum mark. His next album, 'Experience' in 1992 was no less successful. "These albums were recorded on CBS label which is now called Sony. Record companies were alive to their responsibilities in those days. Now we don't even have any record company worth its name in Nigeria. What we have now are marketing companies. In my time, you could ask for upfront royalty of up to between N3 million and N5 million from a record company. They will buy a car for the band leader and a bus for the band. Some musicians even went up to the extent of getting money to buy land or build a house from the record company. Now, is there a record company that can advance you money to do a demo"?
Is Shina a satisfied musician? "I may say yes and I may say no. I am very fulfilled in terms of success. I am not fulfilled because of the abuse upcoming artistes are being subjected to. They are not taken care of at all. As for me, there is nothing again to add. I am 50 years (he will actually clock that age in May, 2008). I am a Grand Pa. I am a peace loving person. I love my God and my God loves me. I may not be a millionaire, but am very comfortable. On the other hand, I am not a fulfilled man yet. The entertainment industry is a total disaster. The entertainment industry is dying and the Federal Government pretends as if entertainment is nothing to Nigeria. If they can carve out a body for football, why not entertainment? Afterall, football would not be as entertaining if not for the entertainment provided by football supporters and fans. I will be a fully fulfilled man the day the Federal Government steps into the field of entertainment and takes care of the welfare of musicians and other entertainers".
Shina's proposal to government sounds simple "the federal government should have a vote for entertainment, build a giant studio, give entertainers all the necessary support. Do you know how many football stadia we have in the country? How many theatres do we have in the country that artistes can go to perform? I am happy with the renewed vigour with which copyright and piracy issues are being tackled, but we haven't started seeing the fruits. If you live abroad and you do a single and the single is a hit, you will know how to manage your affairs for the rest of your live. Nigeria doesn't appreciate pioneering artistes who are gone. Where is Haruna Ishola, Tunde Nightingale? What have done to their memory? Despite the contfrontation between Fela and the government, why can't government honour his memory for all he has done? If something is not done, the industry would collapse. People like me may not suffer. We have contributed by using our voice to send the messages across and don't forget music is the universal language. You may say that we have a union-PMAN- I have advised them many times. A musician can be a ceremonial President. We have people who can market and brand PMAN and turn things around. Where is Rosabel? Where is Insight? Let them market and brand and bring in money to PMAN and they can have their percentage".
He painted a picture of a neglected lot of musicians. "We can't bring equipment into the country. The tariff is too much. To go abroad and do an album it is to expensive. They say 'if music be the food of love, play on'. Where is the love between the entertainment world and the government in Nigeria. That is why you see artistes praising politicians. He wants money. We are not even supposed to go near politics at all. But my brother to survive you see artistes praising this Senator, that governor. I don't blame them". Has Shina himself not sung the praise of politicians? His argument may not be convincing but he advances one all the same. You may be my friend and tomorrow you become a senator, if you are at my show, I will sing your praise because we have been friends (may be childhood friends). What I do not agree with is that a musician should go to the extent of using his talent to influence people to vote for a particular party. If things are working the way they are supposed to no artiste will risk his life to praise sing". Shina should know, his children in the universities in different parts of the country were beaten and stripped naked by angry school mates who disapproved participation in the Abacha one-million-man march. Shina himself was treated like a pariah in many Yoruba states for a long time.
Why do artistes stick their necks out despite the bad consequences that follow their participation in such campaigns? "They believe it is part of the national cake and the only way they can survive is to use their music to praise them. Of course, I have lots of them that I praise as per our relationship. They are my friends outside politics. It has nothing to do with the post".
Whatever he may be going through today, he doesn't forget his humble beginnings. "There was a quarrel at home and I walked out on my parents. I promised myselft that I was not going back to that home until I make it in life. They had prepared everyting for me to go to boarding school, Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, but the night before I had a dream in which a voice told me to stretch out my hand, I did, when I opened I saw 'music' written on my right hand. I was convinced that I would be a musician. My parents, particularly my mother, would hear nothing of it. I left home at Oshodi and started walking along the railway line. I didn't know where I was going. I walked until I got to Mushin. I saw this hotel. There was this band called Apollo Ajasco on the bandstand that particular night. I went to the man playing the guitar and I took it from him and began to play it skillfully. They were surprised and thought I was an ogbanje. The owner of the hotel quickly said I should sent away because it was child abuse. I was 10 years old. But one of the resident prostitutes hid me in her room. Later she told the hotel owner that I would not venture near the band, but that she was willing to keep me so I can run errand for her. That first night, I would never forget, the lady had a 'customer' and she put one of her wrappers on the floor for me to sleep. She slept on the bed with her 'customer'. I didn't mind. I was too happy to have a place to sleep, afterall in my father's house, I also slept on the floor. She was called Christiana. I never knew her surname. She was an Igbo lady. She went back to her town because of the Nigerian Civil War. Before she traveled something happened, she hid some money under her matteress. She thought it was under the pillow and when she couldn't find it, I was fingered as the thief and I was given the most terrible beating in my life and taken to Olosan Police Station. Incidentally, one of my father's friends served there and he insisted that I should go back home but I was adamant, saying I would only go back when I had made it. If I can find that woman, I would regard her as my second mother, the way I regard Prince Adekunle as as my second father.
With 15 albums in the kitty, Shina recalls how he came to play the lead role in Ola Balogun's film, 'Money Power'. The film was sponsored by the late Chief Olu Aboderin, who owned Punch Newspapers and Skylark Records. Shina was at a time on Skylark label. Why has he not done another film since? "What happened to me in the movie world is that I was made to run before crawling. Having started with celluloid, there is no way I can descend to home video. People have been coming to persuade me to act on home video, but if I must do it, the price must be right. We have not been able to hit the right price. I am working on a private home video project for my 50th birthday". The guitar is my favourite musical instrument.
Shina holds the post of Most Senior Apostle in Cherubim and Seraphim. He regards all white garment churches as one. His mother was one of the leaders of the church, but Shina regrets that it was his fame that led to his mother's death. How did this happen? "The day my mother read in the papers that two men were laying claim to me, she collapsed and never recovered from the shock. To her, it meant that she was called a prostitute. We took her to County Hospital, but she never spoke again till she died nine months later. That is the most agonizing experience I have ever had in my life. That is the price I have paid for stardom. My mother had to die the way she did. Even the journalist who wrote the story still comes to my house, I have forgiven him. Journalists are some of my best friends. I see them as instruments in the hands of God, but they have a choice to build or to destroy. I can't say how it happened both my father and my step father are named Peters and both come from Abeokuta.
Still an active artiste, Shina has fans and agents all over the world and his music is still very much in demand. Even the number of other artistes who play his brand of music recently increased with the inclusion of Yinka Ayefele. "As far as I am concerned, he plays Afro-juju gospel. I don't want people to antagonize him. Even if he reworks my songs, he is only paying tribute to me. They should leave him alone.Save to del.icio.us
No entries yet - be the first to post one!