Kofi the comedian said that I couldn’t be calling myself Olu Sax anymore and, because of the way I performed, he tagged me OluJazz, ‘D Saxtalkative
Henry Akubuiro and Simeon Mpamugoh
OLUJAZZ is a power-toned saxophone personality, a hard working multi-genre musician who likes perfection. He has performed alongside great musicians like Gerald Albright, Richard Bona, Kenny G, Hugh Masekela, Omawumi, and Tiwa Savage at various events. The musician, who earns the sobriquet OluJazz D’Saxtalkative because of his deftness on the sax, believes that learning to play music is not only therapeutic but also an exciting opportunity to develop a new skill that will last a lifetime, and learning how to play correctly can open up new opportunities. In this interview at The Sun corporate head office, the saxophonist and the Kogi-born international musician, who also plays gospel music, spoke about his forthcoming show at Shell Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan Lagos.
When did your romance with Jazz begin?
It started from my childhood. I started playing trumpet from the 1990s. I play trumpets, drums, clarinet, flutes and other instruments. I started playing the saxophone in 2003. I had already understood from childhood that I was going to be a saxophonist. But there was no saxophone around then. Those in music shops were very expensive, and I could not afford any. Gracefully to me, I was able to meet people who assisted me. I went to Peter King School of Music in Badagry, Lagos, where I learnt how to play the saxophone. From there, I took it upon myself to practice three hours every day for about six years.
Eventually, I had to travel to Los Angeles, California, in the United States of America, where I studied more about saxophone. I spent two years in the States. I just came back for the massive concert I’m promoting for August 26, at the Shell Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. It is an event that is featuring more than ten A-list musicians from local and international fronts. We have a world class guitar player, Nigeria born US-based Jazz rhetoric Agboola Shadare. He is the story that invades the US. We also have one of the best producers to come from Nigeria, a jazz pianist and maestro, Wole Oni, who produced for Midnight Crew, TY Bello, and Nigerian-based Lara George. Oni also produced for me, and has been of tremendous support in my career. Others include Evelyn J, a powerful producer, who has also produced for Extreme and Rock Nations.
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We also have one of the best gospel musicians on our bill, who has been of support to my career, in the person of Tim Godfrey; Isaac Gerald, the Luther Vandross of Nigeria, among others. Also coming are Tim Godfrey from the gospel music scene and Ranti, an opera singer from MUSON Centre. Equally on the bill are Isaac Jazz, a soulful RnB singer, Lawrence and’ De’ Covenant, a powerful singer and good musician who will whoa the whole audience, and myself; OluJazz, ‘D’ Saxtalkative. It is a star-studded show and entitled “Olu Jazz Live in Concert”. It is a musical concert, one of its kind in Nigeria: massive and restricted event. We are expecting 10-12 major acts.
How did you earn the sobriquet OluJazz ‘D Saxtalkative?
It was a name thrown at me by Kofi, the comedian. He noticed the way I played the Saxophone, and said that I talked too much on the Sax. He likened it to the way a saxophonist would speak in tongue. He said that I couldn’t be calling myself Olu Sax anymore and, because of the way I performed, which, he observed, was deep, he tagged me OluJazz, ‘D Saxtalkative.
Why did you opt for Jazz instead of urban music?
The truth is that I can reform any song in the world in Jazz form. I can remix any song at all in Jazz pattern. I actually breathe out Jazz music from my loins.
And that is why I’m a.k.a OluJazz ‘D’ Sax, because I can remake any songs into Jazz. I play in all kinds of events that are well classified, such as AGMs, weddings, international jazz festivals and others that do not go against the will of God. Every social gathering that is “pure” attracts my performance.
Jazz music is seen as elitist, how do you localise it to ensure wider appeal? I disagree with you that Jazz is elitist. Before, Jazz music was actually gotten on log line, people who travelled a lot were those who had the opportunity to watch the likes of Kenny G, Gerald Albright, Jack Williams, Michael Bolton, Bob James, among others. But, thank God for the media today, everybody can listen to any kind of music he wants, which was not the case before when the media was not democratised. No internet. Today, we have the internet.
So, Jazz music is not only for the elite. Every father and mother wants his/her children to play saxophone or any musical instrument. So, Jazz has received a global appeal.
What are some of the world Jazz festivals you have played?
I’ve played in Santiago Jazz Festival, Chile and California, which happens every year. I played in 2017, but, because of the massive concert I’m organising, I couldn’t play this year. I’ve also travelled far and wide. I’ve travelled on musical tour to countries like France, Germany, Ethiopia, Asia, America, Canada, Brazil, and Puerto Rico for Jazz music performances.
How was the reaction of the international audience to African Jazz music?
Oh, my God! They really loved it. You know why? Africa has a different culture, and the language they speak is actually taken from Africa to America by the black slaves. If you listen to Highlife music, it is the same thing as Jazz except the different variations; it is the same root. They play 2-5-1, and everyone
else plays the same thing. In Highlife, we play 2-5-1. In Igbo music, it is either you play 2-5-1 or 4-5-1, which is still a variation of 2-5-1 (r-f-d). Every European music actually comes from Africa, and because I’m a Nigerian and I speak all the languages, it makes me deeper in terms of African Jazz, which English Jazz musicians cannot compete. I speak more than Yoruba language. I understand every part of Yoruba language. I also understand Igbo, Hausa, and a bit of Benin language.
Can you place European and African Jazz into context?
The local Jazz Yoruba have is Highlife, which is general. Igbo also play Highlife. We have the likes of Osita Osadebe, Oliver De Coque, and Sir Warrior playing highlife. There is a brand of Oriental Highlife called Ikwokirikwo, also called Ariaria music. It is a fast beat music, and danced with waist swayed side to side. We also have Ogene music, which is generally identified with the Igbo.
Tell us about endorsements you have received on the forthcoming concert?
Almost all the elites and musicians in Nigeria have endorsed the show. I’m like a son to most of the big names in the music industry. They know me. Big names like King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Tiwa Savage, Timi Dakolo, Tim Godfrey, Sammie Okposo, and Professor (Sir) Victor Efosa Uwaifo, who is like my godfather, because, when I recorded “Jeromi”, he actually took me like his own biological son. He gave a dream and added so much to my being. I want to say a special thank you to him.
How much impact did your training at Peter King School of Music make in your musical career?
I used to have a song Peter King wrote called “The Palmwine Tapper”, and passing through him made me to understand that even your best would never become your best. You still have to try every day to improve in whatever you are doing.
Even, as a professional, who has learnt from America, I can tell that I’m not yet where I want to be. Till I breathe my last, I’ll keep learning and improving.
How many works have you released so far?
I’m unveiling my two albums during the show. We’ve not arrived at the titles, but it is one that is going to be out of the box. We want to use the works to make a very big statement that Jazz is actually acceptable by everyone from every nook and cranny of the world. It promises to be a sold out as everyone that matters in the society would grace the show: Government officials, politicians and corporate bigwigs. This kind of show doesn’t come up regularly. But we are hoping to make it an annual event. This is the debut edition. The show is Olu Jazz’s, but every other artiste from the urban category would feature with OluJazz. I’ll also be collaborating with other musicians. It is a three-hour event beginning from 6-9 p.m. Red carpet and cocktail will kick off at 5pm. We have different categories of tickets: platinum, gold, VIP and regular.
What is your assessment of the Nigerian music industry?
I can say that Nigerian artistes are doing well. The industry is growing tremendously and the musicians are improving vastly. The whole world still bows to Nigerian music. The list of those who are doing good music has increased in Nigeria. No one can push any Nigerian musician away. They are superstars in their own right. Even the Jazz and saxophone world of music is also growing. We have couple of saxophonists who are doing well in Nigeria. Thank God, I was able to travel to America to study and dig deep into Nigerian Jazz music and to perfect my craft. Now, I can say by God’s grace that I can stand anywhere in the world and perform without goose pimples.
How about our lyrics?
I’m a moralist. I don’t play music that are out of the norms. I play music that are well curtailed. I’m a gospel musician and minister of God. Without God, I cannot get to where I’m. I started from the church, hence I didn’t go away from the church, and I will remain in the church. But that does not mean I cannot play outside the church.
The church is my place of worship and secular is my place of multiplication. The scripture has enjoined that we should go into the world and win souls for the kingdom of God. Souls are not won in the church alone. We have to go into the hood and win souls. Some people have criticised gospel artistes who feature secular ones in their songs. To me, I don’t think there is anything wrong so long the artist is pure in heart. The combination between both can actually influence other people to turn to God. We should not be too religious about it.
Jesus Christ said he was going to wine and dine with people. Which people is he going to do that with? Is it only the disciples? Which people did he feed when he fed the multitudes with five loaves of bread? He actually fed everybody; those who were willing to come to God. Even those who are not willing to come to Jesus Christ were given second chance. Why not let us give everybody second chance? Love is above everything. You should make sure you love everyone as you love yourself. It is scriptural, and, when that happens, it conquers every defect in the world.
How far do you intend to go with this genre?
I want to play music, especially Jazz, for the rest of my life, because without music I’m nobody. Music is in me. Anywhere I go, I’m known as a musician. I’m one of the few people in the world that can actually speak four phonics; not everybody can say it. They can actually play it, but cannot say the physical notes. I’m a rare bred in Jazz music. Music is my God-given talents. A lot of people are learning it in Fabulous School of Music, Beverly Bolton in Yorkshire. The Europeans cannot say the notes the way I do. They wouldn’t be perfect in it. But God gave it to me without paying a dime.