How I Was Taken To Burial Ground And Stripped Of Everything –Edmund Spice

…was under siege for two years in the hands of fraudsters

Except for his well-shaped grey beard, trade-mark haircut and weight gain, top musician, Edmund Spice Amenawon Okoduwa popularly known as Edmund Spice looks every inch the way he was 26 years ago when he serenaded the music industry with his run-away hit single, ‘Baby Can I hold You?’ a funky version of America’s Tracy Chapman’s song.

With the likes of Blackky, Esse Agesse, Daniel Wilson, Alex O, Alex Zitto among many others who ruled the airwaves in the 90s, Spice won the hearts of many especially the ladies with his dance skills and of course, his unique voice which stood him out from among his contemporaries.
However, happily married Spice with three wonderful children faded out of the music industry and for 16 years, he sojourned in Europe.
The Esan born indigene of Edo State recently breezed into town and engaged him in an interesting chat.

You left the country and disappeared for 16 years, why?
You remember when that album was done? How many artistes left then? A lot! Alex Zitto left, Alex O left, Mike Okri left, even the late Ras kimono himself left.
We were struggling pursuing what we enjoy doing but we were not getting g what we were working for. All of us musicians. And the time came that I needed to leave. After June 12, the problem became so bad that even the record companies were like if they had their way to pack, they would leave. Some of them closed down. So, why won’t I leave? I decided to find my way too.

You left because of June 12 or the situation of the country then?
I didn’t leave because of June 12 but Jun e 12 costs a lot. June 12 affected a lot. Don’t forget that Polygram was taken over and suddenly things started happening that we didn’t understand but I still kept on with them till about 1998. I’m still with Premier Music. 

But you have not released any album?
I did. I released an album titled, ‘Cherenre’ but because of the situation around then, it was not well publicised. With the problem Premier Music was going through, they couldn’t boost it. They didn’t pump in what they needed to pump in to boost it the way it is supposed to be but it was released.

Between then and now, have you done any song?
I have done songs but they are not on record but I will be in the studio next week.

What you are telling your fans is that you are back?
Musicians do not quit music. No musician quit music. If that is not it Victor Olaiya shouldn’t be playing music. Ben E. King played music till he died. Footballers don’t play football till they die. Musicians sing till they die.

During your peak and now, what is your impression about the Nigerian music industry?
What these boys are doing right now is great. They are doing very well. Apart from the sound that is sometime monotonous, but that is African beat for you. Don’t forget that that is what I tried to experiment on when I did that native song, ‘Iyeniye.’ I was experimenting on it. I was experimenting whether to continue with that kind of rhythm but Premiere Music was dictating for me how they want me to play what they want me to play. That was how it was, they were dictating for us. By the time you go there to tell them what you want, they call you to tell you that is not what they want and who are you to object to it as at that time? Even though we are the ones creating the work but we were still beggarly. That was the situation then.

Are you saying you weren’t rich then?
How many musicians are in money today? We didn’t play music for money. We played because of the passion. It was solely for the passion, the zeal was high. Sometimes, people don’t know how I get the shows I had. Sometimes I stay under the staircase just because of the joy for me to go sing in some clubs that invited me in Lagos and in other places. I was an in-house artiste of Night Shift Coliseum for several years. Sometimes I will be rehearsing at about 9pm for a show billed for 12 midnight. That was hard work. I was doing my job joyfully. We were getting peanuts but we were happy even though we were also aspiring to get some comfort out of it.

Heard you were a choir master at a church sometime ago before you left in Synagogue?
No, it wasn’t so. I never went there. I sort of found myself in a situation. People didn’t know what was happening to me. On my own I made money from music. Premiere music gave me some money, I was having some shows, I was getting little money here and there but I was under siege that people did not know of. I was duped heavily. I was taken to a burial ground in Benin city where they took everything from me. Unknowingly, I was not conscious of what I was into. My then manager who is late now led me into that. May his soul rest in peace!  I was not using all the monies that I was getting. I was under siege for two good years in the hands of 419ers. And people were wondering what I was using my money to do. I was warned that the day I say what I was into, I would die that day. But when it became too much on me because I knew my hands were clean, I knew this is  not the Edmund Spice I wanted, it became clear to me that I couldn’t stand it anymore and I told my manager that I was going to tell the world what is happening to me. He told me to hold on that things would be okay. That is what they promised. I didn’t know I had been introduced into something else. They told me that the sky is going to be the limit for me not musically though that I am going to be rich and all that. I was been blind folded I didn’t understood what was happening. That was what affected me at the real foundation of my career. It got to a stage that things were getting increasingly tough, then I was living at Bode Thomas in Surulere. At a point, I couldn’t maintain the lifestyle of a celebrity, I had to relocate to Egbeda where I met a friend who introduced me to the church and I started going to that church and became their choir master, that was how it happened.

When did you then relocate?
I got into that church in 1996. When I returned from Edo Delta beauty pageant show that took me to Benin, Asaba, Warri, then back to Benin. That show lasted for six months. That show provided me some money. I then went to live in Ikotun. In year 2000, I told myself that I had to leave and I left.

How has it been since you left?
I’m based in the United Kingdom now. I was in Italy for a long time.  I’m a musician. I perform. I do only music.

Why didn’t you release an album abroad?
It is not so easy but I must say that it has been a wonderful experience jamming with other artistes.

What should your fans expect; are we expecting to hear that unique voice again?
That voice was 26 years ago. That voice has mature. It’s like Sunny Ade years back and now. It is not the same. I listen to some Ras kimono songs this afternoon, it cannot be the same when he sang ‘a-rumba-style.’ There must be a little bit of maturity in it. Maybe there will be one love song. This mainly has to do with the condition we have right now, the country is in a mess and the only way we can talk about it is through the voice that God has blessed me with. As you become mature everyday you tend to look at life differently. Then we were very young talking about love. This time we are seeing what is happening around us. The country is collapsing, diminishing everyday in our very eyes. Do we allow it to go down like that? No! Fela used the best weapon that he had, his voice. What are we doing with ours? It is going to be a single. Let’s see what happens.

How did you cope with women?
I am from a polygamous home. I was very conscious about that. I was very conscious that I would not mess myself around. I did my best and I have coped well.

What motivates and inspires you?
People! Everything about me is people.

How are Nigerian songs received abroad?
I was telling Orits Wiliki and Ras Kimono’s wife that who could imagine that this time around our music are played at MTV Base? Italians are the most difficult people to deal with in this world but I was at a place one day and heard the songs of P-Square, I was proud of that. I have tuned radio in Italy listening to Femi Kuti, that makes me proud.  I’m not talking about London, Italy! These boys have done well. I must thank Tuface Idibia because when we were all singing using grammar that our grandmothers, mothers could not listen to until Tuface came with this pidgin idea. Many years ago, Victor Uwaifo told me to play music the layman on the streets will listen to. I didn’t understand what he was telling me. Same many years ago, Sunny Okosun told me to go to school after I have waited a whole day to see him. I didn’t understand what these men were telling me. I didn’t know they were giving me the message that will guide me. Tuface did well by introducing this pidgin idea that a lot of musicians are singing now. Don’t forget that in those days the highlife that we used to listen to, even Ghana highlife, were singing in pidgin. So what changed it? We wanted to imitate the western world. And we were playing songs our mothers could not understand but when this idea came up, look at everybody now. It is good for us. Even outside Nigeria, people love to speak pidgin English. Italians play our songs, they listen to it, at parties, they dance to it. Go to Germany look at women jumping to Flavour’s songs. In the UK, it is everywhere. These guys have done well.

What advice would you give an up and coming artiste?
Be yourself. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t ever try to be any other person, be yourself. Be you or else you would miss it. There would be ups and downs but when you listen, you make yourself vulnerable.

Is any of your children taking after you?
I’m watching. I’m seeing some traits and it gladdens my heart.

No comments

Powered by Blogger.