IN CONVERSATION WITH ADE BANTU 2
Your last Afropolitan Vibes featured Mike Okri! Without paying professional fees, how were you able to get older artistes on the show like him, Blackman Akeeb Kareem, Shina Peters, Salawa Abeni, Victoria Olaiya, Jimi Solanke, as well as to connect seamlessly with younger ones such as Temi Dollface, Kaline, BOJ and POE?
I have been stalking Mike Okri for close to three years, that’s how badly I wanted him on the show. I kept bugging him, sending email requests, messages on Facebook, and occasionally one or two odd text messages till he finally agreed to come. And thanks to KLM one of our few supporters, we were able to fly him in from New York. I am very grateful for that opportunity. It also applies to Blackman Akeeb Kareem, who we flew in from the United Kingdom. He had not given a command performance in Nigeria in over thirty years. It was very difficult to convince him because Nigeria doesn’t deal you a good card especially as an artiste. He wasn’t keen on coming back as he left the country very bitter. He had an incredible experience, I am happy to be part of his journey back home and his reconnection to the people. The same thing goes for Salawa Abeni. I also wanted to have Jimi Solanke and all the others. I am fan of all these great musicians who inspired and made me who I am today. I feel it is important to remind people of our cultural and musical heritage, as well as the legacy these musicians have left and are still building on, as many of them are still very active, if not, they would not have been on the stage. We need to remind ourselves about whom we are and that’s why we engage older artistes. The younger ones like Temi Dollface, Kaline, POE and BOJ are the future and we want people to pay close attention to them. They may not be the Wizkids of their generation but they are the movers and shakers behind the scene. They are the creative minds and incredible talents who need to be exposed. People need to understand that there is an underground scene, an alternative music scene because popular music always feeds off alternative music.
The crowd for Afropolitan Vibes is growing rapidly. Are you thinking about shifting venue to accommodate them or having another show on the other side of Lagos?
I agree that Afropolitan Vibes is growing. For now we are sticking to Freedom Park. We are going to have a festival; our first edition of the Afropolitan Vibes (AV) Festival is from December 16 to 17 at Freedom Park, with all kinds of workshops and deejays— a two-day grand performance from the very best. We are very excited, coming up with new ideas and formulae to engage our audience.
You became an MTN Project Fame West African judge in 2012. What do you think has been the impact of this initiative to the Nigerian musical scene?
It has been fun on MTN Project Fame, watching young artistes grow, seeing the winners and competitors bloom on the Nigerian music scene. The show has been very helpful and it gives kids an idea of what to expect when they go out there, and how much they have to dedicate themselves to their music and craft. As a singer, one has to be extremely versatile. MTN Project Fame helps to serve as a reminder and gives ideas of expectations.
Recently you starred in a movie, 8 Bars and a Clef. Are you going to explore acting further with more roles in Nollywood?
Working on 8 Bars and a Clef was fun. Wale Ojo recommended me; I auditioned and got the role. Playing a villain in a highly dysfunctional family was a very interesting role and isn’t one you get to play easily. I enjoyed it very much and who knows if I’m going to explore more roles in Nollywood? I am more of an art house person and for me I feel a lot of Nollywood is just telenovela being elevated to the status of film. If I meet one or two daring directors, scriptwriters and producers and I feel a connection, why not? But for now I am a musician focusing on what I do best— music, producing, curating quality shows and just having fun with my craft. There is no limitation for me; I do whatever inspires me in any medium I feel a connection with. Definitely, there is a lot more coming from my end that people won’t necessarily connect Adé Bantu to. I am also involved as a producer on the Elder’s Corner documentary film project about the history of Nigeria told through the lives and works of our music icons. I am extremely proud to be part of this project, which we have been working on for six years. My foray into cinema has been long overdue, let’s see how it goes.
How different are the musical industries in Germany and Nigeria, and how would you like to advice emerging musicians and producers in Nigeria on improving their craft?
The difference between the two industries is like night and day. In Germany, there is a very structured industry whereas in Nigeria, everyone is winging it and calling it an “industry”. However, I see it more as a scene because it doesn’t have proper structures. Having a structure in place is key. It is important that people understand music publishing, management, merchandizing, live music performances and digital distribution. Proper training is also required, as without it, much progress won’t be made. A couple of Nigerian artistes are now signed to major labels but they need to understand the implications and what is expected of them. I hope they can deliver, we have seen a lot of promise but are they prepared for the marathon because that is what it is?
What is your favourite holiday destination and how do you relax?
I have several favourite holiday destinations. I love Zanzibar, South Africa and criss-crossing Europe in trains. I am a big fan of trains; I love sitting in them and watching the landscape whiz past.
You are almost never seen without a hat. What is the inspiration behind your sense of style?
I fell in love with hats after I cut my hair. A friend lent me his hat and I literally just fell in love. There is this great store in Germany where I buy my hats and I love dressing up with them, they make me feel comfortable. I don’t think I was ever conscious about hats, I just started wearing them. I felt it was time to get rid of my 23-year-old locks, so I cut them and moved on. I am not someone that lives on past glory. I am not afraid but even if I am, I face the fear head on. It might take me a minute and I may be hesitant, but when I decide it’s time to move on, I do so without looking back. I am tall and slim and like the long, lean look with clean lines. Long sleeved shirts, t-shirts and kaftans are my preferred looks.
What are we to look forward to in your forthcoming album?
I am excited about the new album because I think it represents where we are now. We are very confident as we’ve been doing music for quite sometime now and I don’t feel I have to prove anything to anyone other than to my team and myself. Working with a 13-piece ensemble, writing and composing music has been an incredible journey; it’s a lot of fun. It’s going to show another part of BANTU that people are not familiar with, and that’s the beauty of it. We are constantly evolving. This album does not sound like our last or like any of our previous works, and that’s the joy. We are presently mixing; we have done all the recordings and should be done with the studio work in the next four weeks. I am excited and looking forward to touring with this new material, and presenting these songs to the world.
March 25, 2021