The Gbedu Box: First Edition (Part Two)
We present the second part of the first edition, which concludes Kunle Tejuosho’s interview and features the influential work of Funsho Ogundipe.
You mentioned collecting music and books. Is there a correlation with jazz? Do you have tailored events around a particular genre of books?
I will start from the music, and then I’ll move to the books. We are not really an event space. We’re essentially a bookstore. It’s not a place where we can have people around dropping beer glasses everywhere, splashing wine all over the books. We are very careful of the kind of things we have, and it’s not very frequent. So if there is a good artiste or act to showcase, I always want to have them come in. With the books, we don’t regularly have readings, because we’re also running a business. So I can’t really have a joint where people would want to have a reading without wanting to buy books. There is no point. However, if I was going to do that then I’d just charge, but I don’t want to do even that. I’d rather not do it until we have something that’s worthwhile. Then we can have a sizable audience, and a percentage of the audience will eventually buy from us. It’s like organising a music show and not charging a gate fee. How would I be able to pay the musicians? Then I would be carrying everything on my head.
Jazzhole is regarded as a proprietor and collector of music. What artistes have benefitted from this archive and what are the setbacks in maintaining one?
You know, when I started, I used to get a lot of Lagbaja. Maybe in the nineties we saw musicians. I don’t see the young ones now. That’s mainly because they get their music from the internet. The majority of our buyers, the people that come here, are not necessarily musicians. They might be artists, lawyers, but they’re not necessarily musicians. I must say I’m not too impressed when it comes to musicians coming in. I think it’s because they’re not interested in what we carry. There’s also an arrogance—the young ones tend to feel sometimes that they know it. But some do not even know that we exist. I would like to see more musicians, younger ones particularly, coming to try to feel out music and check out music and ask questions; because we at our age are still asking questions, and we’re still learning.
I met a lot of Nigerian daddies when we started back in the 90s. A lot of these artistes that we’re buying we had actually met; I could see them at concerts. So there was always a story. It was fascinating and always fun for us. You would see a man park at Obalende and come to your shop and just chill with cigars on music, buying discs and telling you stories. We learnt so much.
The greatest work of having an archive is maintaining it. How have you been able to maintain your archive?
It might be my weakest point. It’s a good question, because I buy in a very stupid fashion. What does that mean? It’s like an addiction. I buy out albums, and I don’t really take time to choose. People come and I just buy, maybe ten to twenty of the same thing. I don’t really care. I know this is going to sound very strange, but to keep my energy level going, I don’t know what I have. The moment I know things and what I have, it begins to become a brawl for me. There’s going to be a point when, as I slow down a bit and age, I will sit down to scientifically begin to organise what I have. But right now, it’s organised, but not in a perfect way. Everything is in good order; it’s just that sometimes you need support, especially when you’re doing anything yourself.
Can you pick an album from your collection, in terms of narrative and style and meaning and origin? What is one particular track today that you’re going to give Omenka and talk about?
There’s this particular musician, Funsho Ogundipe, he leads a band called Ayetoro—a very interesting man because he is playing Afrobeat. But what I like about him is that he is trying to extend Afrobeat. Afrobeat has already proved a point through Fela, but he is trying and finding ways to push it. What I like about him is how he manages different types of musicians. He is able to get them to play things that he wants. He directs them in a way that enforces his vibe. And so his brand of Afrobeat is very intelligent. I am not dismissing those that are doing Afrobeat now, but it’s technical, and he has the right fundamentals for what he is doing.
I am not trying to insult anyone. It’s just that when you see someone that is out of the normal scope of Afrobeat, in his own world, trying to push it without any support but himself, you’ve got to give to people like that. So he has his own albums. He’s one of the rare people that don’thave a big label. He does it himself with his own money. He releases these records and pushes them out to Europe. People don’t know, but if you go on the internet you will see him and his band. So we need to talk about people like this. He does his covers—he gets an artwork; he has all the text. He has everything done locally. So he is ironically saying, “Fuck you oyinbos. I can do it myself!” He is not looking for their distribution. He drops it where he wants to drop it, and he does his own thing. So that’s one album I like, and I’ve known him for quite some time. He is a lawyer by profession. He went to Ife. He is a lawyer/banker, but I don’t think he ever practised seriously. But maybe he did for a while then branched into music, which was his calling. He should be in his 50s now.
Do you have a favourite from his album?
Well, there is one track called “Afrobeat no. 9.” The track encapsulates all that I have said. Funsho is reading, studying, and putting this genre of music into practice. He is a very jazz man—a very serious man. I find it very interesting the way he curates his own sound via the musicians he picks. Everyone is picked for a specific reason to arrive at that “sound.”
He has a big bandish-type sound, as he is a band leader. He plays the keyboard. He obviously has an idea of where he wants to take his sound. It might not be there yet, but he is working on the elements, and you can see each time he comes up with a release, there is a boost to another level. He has played here a couple of times. I always encourage people like this.
What legacy do you hope Jazzhole continues to have?
You know, when you have a hobby that you’ve turned into a business—I don’t know about legacy—I’m just doing my own thing. Legacy comes if people wake up to appreciate your presence. I would be pretentious if I was looking at a legacy and thinking about what I have to give back. First of all, it has to be me—so I’m enjoying myself and trying to make a living out of it for as long as it works out.
I don’t know if I’m reaching the younger ones. Should I be reaching out or should they reach out to us instead? That’s the irony. So we do our part, but I can only do it so far. You look for conscious spaces in order to nurture your art; you look for books in order for you to be a better writer; you look for music in order for you to be a better listener or a better musician. So if you don’t go to these kinds of places, you’ll read and see and understand the shallowest music.
I think right now, even if we’re making a lot of noise about Nigerian music, it’s essentially entertainment. I don’t know if we’re talking about the art of music. I think it’s essentially creating entertainers.
You know, they say jazz is the highest Black art form, and it’s tied to the mind. When we were young in Nigeria, we used to listen to a lot of reggae, heavy reggae. The rhythm we liked was rootsy and had a lot of mind consciousness; Black consciousness. And so as a Nigerian child, you would tap into it. It broke all the boundaries of ethnicity, because they were talking about Blackness and freedom, not Black and white, if you were Yoruba, Hausa or North or South. It’s more than that, so it’s liberating, and I am a product of that generation.
So I’m looking for good writing; I’m not looking at where it’s from. I’m looking for good music, and I don’t care where it’s from. Then people say, “Do you understand the language?” Do I have to understand the language to understand the music? It’s music. It’s universal; forget about the language.
April 02, 2021