In Conversation with Jeremiah Gyang
by Ladun Ogidan
Jeremiah Gyang, popularly known as “the wunderkid” is a singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer who first came to the limelight with his debut album ‘Na Ba Ka’ released in 2004. Gyang often sings in English and Hausa, his local dialect.
In this interview with Omenka, he walks us through his creative process and advises younger emerging artistes on how to navigate the road to success.
You are a singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, and record producer. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I wrote my first song in 1988 and began producing professionally in 1992. I have a record music collection app with songs dating from 1997 to 2020.
Kindly talk us through your process. When writing a song, do you usually create the melody or pen the lyrics first? Do you also find it easier to write alone or collaborate with other people?
Songs come to me like a woman in labour. It doesn’t matter what situation I find myself in, if I get the inspiration, I must deliver it.
How much censorship do you personally moderate if there’s something you want to communicate, but unsure of how well it will be received by the Nigerian audience?
I generally do not think about reception. I deliver my message as it comes. I am a man of strong convictions, I don’t factor the listener into my process. The only time I consider the listener is with regard to the music, not my message. To me, my message is divine; the audience is not factored into that part of the conversation.
What inspired ‘African Child’?
‘African Child’ was written in 1997. I guess at the time, I foresaw what was going to happen in Nigeria. I began talking about it because it was already happening to my neighbours and I knew I wasn’t better than any of them.
Following the severe impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the creative industry, have your immediate to long-term recording and touring plans changed and what strategies have you adopted to keep yourself visible and relevant?
I’ve never really delved into that space of being part of the industry. If the industry is a general farm where people go to sow their seeds and market for others to see the fruit to buy them, then I am the type of person that has always planted my tree in my compound. The COVID-19 pandemic has little impact on me. The lockdowns are only when it becomes frustrating. And that is because a lot of people can’t afford to pay for my services with regard to musical tours and other expenses. Most of the time, it’s charity work for me. I have managed to remain relevant in my small circle.
How would you advise an up and coming artiste who is trying to get signed, and can you share a bit about your experience evolving from an independent artiste to one that is represented?
Firstly, don’t try to get signed; don’t waste time doing that. Build yourself, your confidence, and your product. Your product is your representation. If the fruit on your tree is good, people will find your compound one way or the other. Build what you have for yourself and your legacy; your legacy is your child. It’s not the sons you leave behind, but the songs. Whatever you’re building, build it for your family. Don’t pour water down a well, rather go to the well to fetch water. When you’re building your music career do not think about pre-eminence—it is distracting. When you’re thinking about the quality of your product, then your product will yield you pre-eminence. It will give you relevance and the representation you’re looking for.
In what ways can consumers and policymakers support your journey?
I don’t think I need policymakers as much as consumers. If the policy-making agrees with ‘live and let live’, then I’m fine as I would just need space to create my content. For the consumers, firstly, the best support I can get is if they share my posts across all my social media platforms—that’s the least they can do. Secondly, by purchasing the products I sell on my online platform. It’s a journey we need to make together and my market is small. I like the small market because it gives me time to know my consumers.
Following the negative impact of the Coronavirus, what lessons do you think would be learned in the long term regarding the music and entertainment business?
Learn not to build the general market but to build your compound, your family and yourself. You’re working for the system, now look at what the system is doing to you. The system has evolved; it has become great enough to consume you, and the possibility of your progeny. Focus more on building you. And that’s where I’ve always been ever since the ‘so-called hiatus’ from Lagos—I’ve never been in a hiatus; I’ve always been working. My space is not popular or in the mainstream of society, but, I have my stream where the people that truly love me have found me and stayed friends. I’ve fed them, and they’ve fed me. That’s the way I would describe contentment in my work and my life. Thank you for the interview. God bless you!
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