If it goes according to plan, Darey Art Alade and his Soul Muzik Productions team look set to pull a surprise in Nigerian music and concert scene. One, Kim Kardashian, (yes, Kanye West’s Kim) has been announced as co-host for his ‘Love… Like a Movie’ concert billed for February 17 at the Convention Centre of Eko Hotel and Suites Victoria Island, Lagos Nigeria. Two, in the spirit of Valentine, he wants to conjure the beautiful magic of that love feeling, which music and creative performances can make possible on that day.
Maybe that is why some fans call him Africa’s king of R & B. Because if his antecedents are anything to go by – from being a multiple award-winning artiste, his music creativity to the timelessness of his soulful lyrics, then Nigeria might just get ready for one of the greatest music concerts it has witnessed yet.
For almost two decades, Darey, who has a degree in Creative Arts from the University of Lagos, has been honing his musical skills as a musician, songwriter, producer, performing/recording artiste and voice-over artist. Not only that, he has traversed the world of radio and television as a celebrated show host. He is also an entertainment consultant, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
In this exclusive interview with award-winning journalist Arukaino Umukoro for this website, Darey, who has shared the stage with renowned international superstars such as Beyonce, Lionel Richie, John Legend and R Kelly, talks about his life, love and music, in a down-to-earth way you have never heard or read about him. Enjoy.
Being the tag of your upcoming Valentine’s Day celebration concert, can someone really love like a movie?
DAREY: I believe so. I think love itself is like a movie, you know. It comes with all the drama, intrigue, suspense, theme music and everything; like when two lovers are about to kiss, you know and then they start playing the orchestra or love songs… I think love is really the soundtrack of our lives; you’ve never lived until you have loved.
What should people coming for the concert expect?
DAREY: Be prepared to be entertained. It would be magical and sensational. It’s a concert like never seen before in Nigeria. There are so many firsts with this concert and you would find out why when you come. If you miss it, because you felt, oh it’s another Nigerian concert, well, I feel sorry and apologise in advance, because when you watch it on television, from the buzz or read it right here on www.samumukoro.com, you’d be able to see what you missed.
What was your first love experience like?
DAREY: Ah, it was interesting. But now, I know the meaning of true love. And I want to tell that story that day of love. Love is not straight forward, with all the ups and downs, the twists and turns, we’re going to take the audience on a roller coaster of emotional ride.
What’s your best Valentine gift you’ve received so far?
DAREY: That’s a tough one (laughs). There is a lot I have received. I think really, it’s just the reaffirmation, when someone gives you their heart and all and they trust you with that. I think that’s the best Valentine gift ever.
What are the highs and lows of being a married celebrity?
DAREY: It’s not easy. It’s really like living, like surviving in Nigeria. You have good days and bad days. But even the bad days, when you get over them, they contribute to a more successful and fruitful union. Just like success, if you don’t go through the trials and tribulations, you never appreciate what you achieve at the end of the day.
You have a couple of new singles and what are they about?
DAREY: Yes. They would come out very soon. It’s a new sound from me, something different. It’s not what you would normally expect from Darey. But it still has Darey inside there. It’s edgy and also very funky.
When you write love ballads, do you have a picture in mind, maybe thinking of your wife?
DAREY: Not particularly someone, but usually scenarios or situations. When you try to write great love songs, you put yourself in other people’s shoes and experiences. So a lot of those things come from first, personal experience and maybe stories from friends or you read in books and things like that. You know, general experience.
What was the first song you ever wrote?
DAREY: I think that was ‘Escalade’ (2006). It still sounds good (laughs)
So, in terms of song writing, lyrical composition and arrangement, do you think Nigeria music has come of age?
DAREY: Oh yes, most definitely. There are several artistes that are respect their song writing skills, including the likes of Tuface, Cobhams, Asa, Bez, they are great song writers and it shows where we are now in comparison to where we used to be. And of course, we had great song writers even from back in the day. People like Majek Fashek, Orits Wiliki, Chris Okotie, Felix Liberty, Sunny Ade… So we have a plethora of song writers that we should be celebrating.
What is the worst gig you’ve ever done?
DAREY: Well, there is always a worst for everybody. But you don’t want to remember. I don’t even remember. That was probably long time ago, singing cover songs, night club settings and you forget some of the lines. It happens to everybody. The other day I was hosting a show with Diana Ross performing, even at her age, with all her discography and all, she was reading her lyrics from a screen that wasn’t obvious to the audience. So we have those moments and there are ways get around it. So it is exciting overall (laughs).
Your videos are quite creative in terms of concepts. Whose ideas are these?
DAREY: This is from Soul Muzik and of course our director Mark, who has shot many of our videos. But we also work with different music video directors, DJ T, Clarence Peters, Oliver Logena and Mark from South Africa. It’s in a bid to think outside the box. There’s really nothing new. But the truth is, we always try to just do something different.
Who did you listen to when you were much younger?
DAREY: I listened to everyone, from Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Fela, Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Chez Baker, George Benson, to the likes of Jay Z, John Legend, Beyonce, Linkin Park, Chris Daughtry, Vanessa Carlton, Mariah Carey… so many different people.(I listen to) all kinds of music. I don’t discriminate.
You seem to have achieved a lot in so short a time. What are you ambitions now?
DAREY: More music, more music videos. I aim to push the envelope continuously, ground break and chart a new path for especially the up and coming, inspire them and also give them a chance, begin to create more job opportunities. I mean, this is what the government is trying to do and we must all come together and help our troubled youth.
Your father, the late Art Alade, is a music legend. I know you used to go to concerts with him when you were much younger. How much would you say his influence shaped you, your music, career and personality and the success you are today?
DAREY: Music runs in my family, not just my dad. My mum as well was a singer and broadcaster. My great grandmother, so many uncles and aunts, are professionals in music. For example, I have a late uncle, Captain Wole Bucknor, who was a director of music in the Nigerian Navy. The Bucknors are a family with quite a few musicians, organists, choir masters. So I come from that lineage. It’s something to be proud of. And even though it’s in your blood, it is not automatic. I still have to learn my music, rehearse and be as great as I can be over the years.
There is this line from one of your song, ‘you’re like a book that fell from the shelf’
DAREY: Yeah (laughs)
That line was just creative, not like the regular Nigerian music lingua…
DAREY: But we read, don’t we? Exactly. So, it’s universal. It’s language. We always have to use metaphors, try to personify inanimate object, give them life and make them synonymous with the subject matter in the song. So anybody around the world, that’s the objective of writing the song. It’s not because we are Nigerians, but because we are also citizens of the world. So you want to write a song that can travel the world and stand the test of any other kind of song out there without being limited to world music, saying oh, we don’t understand what he is saying. If I have said that phrase in Yoruba, yes it would have projected our culture; but people (elsewhere) wouldn’t understand what it means. So you would have to go further by explaining what you are trying to say, when you could just say it in English, which everyone understands.
Some critics of the Nigerian music industry believe there are too many stereotypes and mediocrity; everybody seems to sound alike…?
DAREY: We would always have that. Even in the US and Europe, the copycat effect is there. We can only sieve the wheat from the chaff and celebrate the people who put effort into writing and performing their songs, giving the art and the audience true value for their money, as well as their time.
So do you think Nigerian music has come of age?
DAREY: We are getting there. There is more work to do. We haven’t arrived there yet. We shouldn’t feel like we have arrived, but we’ve made so much more progress than where we were, say five, seven years ago.
Although you’ve also been creative with some of your other songs, some of your most loyal fans believe that R & B/Ballads are your strongest points and that maybe you have sold out to commercial or pop music culture. How true is this?
DAREY: The truth is, they need to support us. It’s also a competitive market where you have to make music that cuts across. So for every couple of R & B/soulful song that I do and also music, I can’t predict what would inspire me. I could decide to do an apala song, try to make it R & B or create something fresh. The issue is, support the artiste and creativity. You may not like the song at the moment, you may grow to like it, and you may not like it at all. But always remember that the artiste would aim to come again would something else. So, it’s really a life-long partnership between the fans and me. So they shouldn’t worry about now or the songs they don’t like. There would always be more that they like.
Looking back to 2004 Project Fame, where many across the continent believed you should have won. On hindsight, what’s your view now?
DAREY: I have no qualms or issues about how it happened or the way it went down. I’m really grateful for the opportunity till today because if I had won, maybe all kinds of things would have happened. Maybe I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I’m really thankful to God and I really thank them and I’m sorry if I let them down by any wrong doing or whatever. But I have no regrets.
You talk so much about your wife’s influence on your career and how much she brings to the table. How much has she done to inspire you?
DAREY: She has being invaluable. I don’t know how I would have done or achieved everything I have achieved without her help, support, prayers and hardwork. She is extremely intelligent. We work together on all projects and everything. Sometimes I make some music and she is the first person that hears it and says, ‘I don’t like this song’ or says, ‘you know, what, I don’t even care, don’t even touch it. This song is perfect’. For me, I may feel like, oh I still have to touch it. We feed off each other like that. It’s just a great relationship.
In the spirit of Valentine, what would you like to tell her, publicly?
DAREY: She would find out on February 17, which is also our 6th year wedding anniversary.
Entertainment played a vital role in the Occupy Nigeria rallies. How much do you think the impact stayed and how can entertainment celebrities like you and others can help shape or reshape Nigeria’s socio-political and economic landscape?
DAREY: I think we all play our roles. Some of us play music for relaxation. Living in Nigeria is tense. If you go by some of the surveys that say we are the happiest people despite our economic downturns and minimum wage, with the average person living on less than a dollar a day; you know. It’s a country of paradoxes and if you look at the variety that we create, some people make music that make people happy, some make people think, get emotional, some music is or inspires activism. So we have do give kudos to all of us, irrespective of whatever role we are playing, because it all adds up to the mentality and state of mind of the Nigerian people. People love and enjoy our music so much. So I think it is to continue and intensify.
Besides piracy, what are the other major challenges facing the Nigerian music industry?
DAREY: Funding, distribution are also major. We need to encourage and imbibe the culture of paying for music. A lot of people even online want to just download from links. All they want to pay for is their Blackberry subscription and then get everything else for free. If all things in life were for free, then we wouldn’t really be worth anything. Would we?
You’ve won many awards, both nationally and continentally. Are the Grammys in your sight?
DAREY: That’s not in my control. What I can control is continue to make good music. Hopefully and maybe at some point in time, there would be people around the world, as more light is shone through Nigerian music and entertainment, we would be counted among the select few who have done their own beat in making Nigerian music accepted worldwide.
A lot of R & B Soul and Rock artistes, the likes of Ese Peters and Bez, are emerging. Still Afro-pop is the lingua among many Nigerians. Do you think the R&B/Ballad/Rock market is being starved of popularity in the Nigerian market?
DAREY:I think it is growing because people are getting tired of listening to the same type of music. It’s the same thing I said before regarding variety. I say this all the time; we can’t listen to Afro-pop and ‘ginger’ songs or swagger songs when we want to sleep. There is a mood and tone for everything. With Rock/Soft Rock/Naija Soft Rock/R&B and the evolution, it shows that people are beginning to appreciate the different types of music, just as someone’s favourite artiste is Jay Z, someone else’s favourite would be John Legend. It doesn’t mean one artiste is better that the other, but that each artiste have his own following, which will continue to grow.
You’ve performed with the likes of Beyonce, R Kelly, and Lionel Richie. What are some of your most significant moments sharing the stage with these great acts?
DAREY: I think it’s just to be counted as worthy to share the stage with these people. It means you’re doing something right and I’ve learnt a few things from them. For example, when I met Lionel Richie, I asked him what his secret of looking so young and great was even at the age of fifty plus, like he was 20 years ago? And he said, ‘you know what, I perform almost every night in different countries all around the world and I drink a lot of water. For me, I learnt that to be great at your craft, you have to keep rehearsing and keep working on it and also think about your health. It’s important that you also think about your lifestyle, what you do time and whatnots. That’s just a few things that once you rub shoulders with someone great, you have to be wary about what you ask. It’s not just about opening the stage. It’s what you get from that.
What’s your candid advice to the artiste who want to simply make it big overnight?
DAREY: It’s never going to happen, even the artiste that it seemed like it was overnight; somebody like Wizkid, for example, when he came out and blew up; he seemed like an overnight success. Also someone like Davido as well. But people don’t realise there was a journey before that hit song came out, the sleepless nights in the studio, learning and getting tutelage from so many different artistes or people they looked up to. You only hear that first thing and the song that gets popular. And people are like, oh that’s the big star around. But everybody has a story behind that first hit.