Monday, April 24, 2017

I’m Under Pressue to Change My Style

Kefas at Eyana Kpaja

Kefas Sabo is a reggae artist that holds the promise of becoming the next big star in Plateau State and beyond. After watching his music video for his award-winning song Seventeen Questions, I vowed to meet with him.

Kefas told me that he was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, his native state. At age six, he moved to live with his aunt, who worked with a federal health institution, in Plateau State. Since he moved to Plateau State at a very tender age, all his education was in Plateau State, starting from primary to the polytechnic, where he obtained a Higher National Diploma in Mining Engineering. 

He discovered his music talent after joining his church’s band in Barkin Ladi town. In the band, known as Sammies band, he met talented members such as Iliya, James, and some other guys who love reggae. His talent became manifest when he was given a chance to lead the group. He discovered he flowed well, not only with the band, but with the congregation that resonated with his lead role, sometimes becoming emotional and crying. 

Kefas, who loves Jamaican Christopher Martin’s reggae crossover, talked about how his songs get revealed. The songs often come as a bouquet that involves the melody and the lyrics, while he walks along the road, or when he is alone in a quiet place. When that happens, he says, he records the melody using his phone. Later he develops the lyrics fully. 

Kefas is extremely proud of the way his music move people. When he ministered with his music for the first time, there were two women who sat on the front row. They laughed at the first line of his songs because it sounded frivolous: “I’m angry because there is no salt in my meal…” But then, in the course of the song, there was this line that said, “Someone is crying because he hasn’t got what to eat…” Kefas said that, after this line, he noticed the expression on the faces of the women changed; they started crying. At the end of the show, they approached him and told him he was anointed.
Kefas has enjoyed some of the rewards of his talent. While at the Eyana Kpaja Orientation Camp, during his youth service, he won Airtel’s Copa Has Got Talent contest, for which he received the sum of N200, 000.00. He also won the PRTVC/Sauti Lab Award for the Best Reggae Artist of The Year, 2012. Each time he walks along the road, children mime his songs and point at him.

Kefas’ songs are rendered in both Hausa and English. I asked him if he thinks that doesn’t affect the complexion of the music. He said that, for him, it boils down to ministering. When he sings in Hausa, he is targeting the large Hausa-speaking population of northern Nigeria, and when he sings in English, he is targeting the English-speaking population. He says that one of his songs titled, “Which Image are You,” has been used by an American pastor, each time he’s preparing to deliver a sermon in the US. 

As for challenges, Kefas says he is facing a challenge that is truly mountainous: a lot of people are telling him to change his music genre to Nigerian R&B. How he reacts to this challenge will confirm (or do otherwise) the saying that reggae can bring down Babylon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Music is Africa’s Dream Sound –Daps

Daps in his studio

All my life in Jos, I have never heard a jingle that as creative as it. It is that Hausa jingle, which started getting aired last year, 2016, on Peace FM 90.5. It urges the people of Plateau State to unite for its prosperity: ku zo mu daga Plato ta ci gaba.

I never suspected that the very jingle had been made by Daps, one of Jos town’s most talked-about and long-reigning music artists.  This is because his vocal idiosyncrasy did not manifest in the jingle. So, I was shocked when the Plateau Radio-Television Corporation’s, PRTVC’s, Director of Programmes, Sunday Ali Gyang, told me Daps made it. 

I met Daps at his studio in Kabong, at the Gada Biyu suburb of the city. I had heard his voice for over ten years, but had never set eyes on him. He wasn’t anywhere close to the picture that I had built in my head: short, with a crude look. 

Daps said the rhythm and the message in the jingle just came naturally. Given that the song actually exudes a Plateau ambience, I asked how he achieved that. His answer was simple: “it is a gift.” Then he adds, “I love ethnic sounds. My music is Africa’s dream sound.”  As to why the voice does not sound like the voice we are used to hearing, he revealed that; even though he wrote, founded the melody, and produced the song; his younger brother, Sha Gwom, and an obscure security guard who is responsible for that Central Plateau feel in the jingle, performed it.

This jingle is the latest of Dap’s jingles for PRTVC. Before it, he had two other jingles for the pioneer radio station, one of which has been aired for more than ten years.  But in my opinion, this recent one is the greatest. It is original, not just because it talks about the uniqueness of Plateau State, but because, listening to it deeply, you get the impression that the maker was, from the beginning, conscious of the need to approach the music from an astonishing angle and was able to achieve just that.

Done with the jingle issues, I then asked Daps about his international connections that saw him working with other artists from around the world. He talked about one Margaret Motsage from South Africa, James Vincent from Texas-USA, and the Spanish Project in North America, etc. Daps has also done international movie soundtracks and was nominated for one of the best African Soundtracks for the movie, Seventy Six, which was released this February. 

Daps is of the opinion that if upcoming artists really want to actualize their music dreams, they need mentors. It is the mentor that guides an artist towards designing his music style. According to him, “skill is good and comes naturally, but there is a limit to where it takes you, and there is a limit to where discipline can take you. The mentor brings discipline into the musician. The best musician is not he that is skilful. It is he that is disciplined.”

Friday, April 14, 2017

Mees Palace Boils

On June 8th, Mees Palace, Rayfield, Jos, will be hosting an international music show.  

When my path and that of Jos town’s biggest reggae star, Jah Device, intersected today, he gave me the scoop. “Jos is going to be hosting a big music show,” he said. Device, sporting his dreadlocks that have now grown some four feet tall, said it is going to feature artists from within and outside the borders of Nigeria.  From the UK, there will be Peter Huningale and Zige Dub. There is an artist who switches home between the UK and Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. Jos will have the chance to listen to his colourful music style as well.  Then, there will be Jeremiah Gyang and Apsis, representing the host city. In addition to these men, Device says there will be a medley of other artists whose name he couldn’t disclose. 

It is going to be a live-recording concert, with copies of EP (extended play) that he released on May 6th, the 2016 edition of Device’s birthday.