New Breed Artistes Can’t Stand Test Of Time—Edo PMAN Boss

Comrade Willy Eghe Nova is the chairman of Edo State Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN). In this Interview with Ojieva Ehiosun in Benin, he speaks on a number of issues facing the Nigerian entertainment industry and the way out.

How did you rise to this position as Edo State chairman of PMAN?
I came in after spending so many years as a state secretary of PMAN, Edo State. I served under five (5) state chairmen like Arthur Segun Alile,  Prince Igbinegie aka Akabaman, Osayomore Joseph, Richard Ukomina aka Ukodo and Maleke Monye.  I have also served this association in different categories. So it is based on this that my people, the good PMAN people of Edo State deemed me fit to now take the mantle of leadership. On the 26th of April 2017, I was elected into office as Edo State chairman of PMAN. That is how I came on board.

You are one year old in office, what are the challenges so far?   
Of course there have been a lot of challenges in the association nationwide. We have the challenges of musicians not really knowing what PMAN stands for as a union. A lot of them believe in pursuing their individual goals without due recognition of the umbrella body that should protect their interest. Most of them come to PMAN only when they run into one problem or the other, they never know it is important and necessary for them to belong to PMAN. So one of the challenges we face is bringing them under the umbrella of PMAN, making them to register as members of PMAN. And the first step I took was to call a general meeting and when I saw that some of them do have lukewarm attitude a kind of apathy towards trade union issues, they would not attend meetings, I had to move from one local government area to the other, I went round the 18 local government councils in Edo State to sensitize our people, to meet with the leadership of the musicians in each of the zones. I thank God that our effort is paying off.

Recently, I wanted to know whether our going round has any impact so we organized the first Edo PMAN Annual Creative Experience on the 15th of April, this year and honestly it was a huge success. I was surprised at the turn out of the musicians there and those who actually never believed it was going to succeed like that. After the show, all of them started coming in. Since that day, we started seeing increasing number of musicians coming to the office. Instead of us going to meet them to talk to about registration, they now come on their own. And that has always been my dream to make PMAN attractive to the musicians so that they can be part of the union to protect our own right.  They should also know the implications of giving away their music. Sometimes they sell them off to marketers for life and later when they hear the music is booming they start to regret. You will be amazed to see some musicians whose songs are doing very well but when you see them some of them cannot even pay their rents let alone take good care of themselves. This is as a result of going into bad contract that has enslaved them.

What can you say about the issue of piracy in Nigeria?
The issue of piracy has always been a very big challenge because as you are aware, the pirates are really making things difficult for copyright owners. The copyright law as it is, is not strong enough to scare people away from piracy. Somebody who pirates a black copy, the fine is just N1,000 (one thousand Naira) they feel they can just get away with that. We are really appealing to government and we hope that they will visit the copyright law through the National Assembly because it is a national issue and not a state matter. Yes, musicians have been asking what I have been doing to deal with the menace but they are not aware that I don’t have the power at the state level, it is the national body that has the power to do that. Also, we have been having issues with the collection of their royalties by the copyright society. They come to the office to complain that they are not getting enough from MCSN and others.

Another vital issue here is a permanent secretariat for PMAN in Edo State and that was what actually informed our decision to organize a fund raising for ‘Musicians House.’ You will discover that other big associations have their own permanent secretariat which they call their own. Like the NUJ, Doctor’s House, NBA House, etc., but the musicians don’t have any place, so they keep moving from one rented apartment to the other. Where we are now was given to us by the government but now it is no longer under the control of the government, it is now under the control of the monarch. It is by His mercies that we are still here. This is why I feel that in my own time, we should try and secure a land and then build our own musicians house so that posterity the future generations of musicians coming will not be on the streets just the way the past ones have been doing. The first thing I want to achieve is to ensure we have a musician’s house and I’m happy that people are beginning to see the need for that. And I want to say that lovers of music are already helping us to ensure that this dream is realized.

How would you rate the current Nigeria musicians?
Talking about rating of current Nigerian musicians, they are not doing badly, because they are playing the music of their own generation. You know every generation has his own kind of music, we have the ‘cha cha music,’ there was a time we had Soul music, the High life music Rasta music and different kinds of music but among all, the one that has been able to stand the test of time is the High life music because of the fact that the instruments are basically percussions because people dance to it anytime you hear it play. Again, the old school musicians are people that really studied the rudiments of music; most of them can play at least one instrument of music or the other. Nobody can just mess them up whenever they go on stage but today when you cannot play any instrument your own is just to sing, in such a situation, the instrumentalists can gang up against you and put you under pressure to do what they want you to do all because you cannot play instrument. But someone who knows the game and is an instrumentalist can manage the situation. You as a band leader ought to be a master of the instruments so that others will respect you because when they know that without them you cannot do anything they just look down on you and that is the problem most of our artistes are facing.

But I would say that they are doing well. They are even making more money now than before. What we hear of now is million million. In those days, people were in music not necessarily to make money but for the passion. Singers of those days correct the ills in the society through their music like Sunny Okosun of blessed memory, Fela, Victor Uwaifo, name them; they were not just singing because of money, they pass messages to people.
Today, it is all about immoral songs, dressing nakedly and doing all kinds of things in the name of music. I give it to old school musicians in terms of contents, lyrics and message.

Can new breed of Nigerian musicians stand the test of time in the area of selling outside Nigeria?  
Not much, the kind of music we hear here cannot stand the test of time. You see you listen to ‘Joromi’ by our own Prof. Sir Victor Uwaifo, until today is an evergreen song. Without the songs, you can still dance to the instrumental arrangement. If you listen to Fela’s music, sometimes for the first three five minutes he has not even say a word but you see people dancing to the instruments. These days, there is nothing like that, they just do what they like, they even insult their mother, insult their father and all that. I’m not sure the kind of music we are hearing here now would stand the test of time unless we work harder.

How do you intend to empower Libya returnees?
People must understand that the entertainment industry can provide a lot of employment for people. If we are able to get our own Musicians’ House,’ a lot of things would be done there. We are going to teach our youth’s different skills. Most of them have talents that they have not discovered.  The musical industry can give jobs to so many of these Libya returnees, some of them can sing, some can play instruments, some can go into makeup, some can be stage managers etc. So it is not just enough to tell them to come back, if they come back and nothing for them to do, they will definitely go into crime. I plead with the government to partner with Edo PMAN to find the way forward for our youths.             

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