In 2011, hip hop singer, Anthony Mechelin Iketalu aka Mechelin, got a N10 million mouth-watering deal from Ahbu Ventures, one of the biggest music marketers in Lagos.
However, after discussing it with his spiritual father, a Catholic priest, Mechelin decided to reject the offer. Today, he is back as a gospel artiste with a 10-track debut album entitled, Oghene Dimkpooo.
In this chat, the artiste reveals why he turned down a N10 million deal among other issues.
Tell us about growing up.
We were four in the family: my father, mother, sister and I. Growing up was tough and rough, because at the age of three, my parents separated and my world crumbled. I had to live with my aunty who was the third wife of her husband. I had to work as a bus conductor at the age of 13 in Onitsha. I did this for four years until I decided to come to Lagos. While working as a bus conductor, I always nursed the desire to go to school. My first priority was to go to school. I wrote GCE five times and made it on my fifth attempt, after which I gained admission into Lagos State University (LASU), and here we are today.
How did music begin for you?
Music began to manifest when I got admission to study at LASU. I started singing professionally in 2001 as a hip-hop act. Silverpoint was my first record label. Later, I moved to Point Beat owned by the late music icon, OJB Jezreel. In 2005, I dropped my first single, Jump O, which became a hit.
Who were your early influences?
My earliest influence was Thompson Oranu. Back then people said I sang like him. Along the line, OJB Jezreel and Paul Wilbur became my biggest influences. I had all of Paul Wilbur’s songs, and because of him, I can speak a bit of Hebrew because most of his songs were in Hebrew. I still follow him to this day. Also, music ministers like Solomon Lange, Frank Edwards and Sinach have influenced me.
How have you been financing your music?
When God calls you, He will provide all the resources you need to work for Him. When I was doing hip-hop, it was tough for me because finance was an issue. But when God said ‘come’, everything began working as He planned. The only thing I did was to listen to His voice and everything has been smooth.
Back in 2011, one of the biggest marketers in Lagos, Ahbu Ventures offered you a record deal worth millions of naira. Why did you reject it?
Wow! I was about to drop an album and there was this juicy deal dangling before me. But a priest, Rev. Fr. Bernard Oleru told me to quit hip-hop because it wasn’t my calling. This was difficult for me to accept because I had already struck a deal worth N10 million with one of the biggest marketers in Alaba (International Market). The marketer had agreed to buy the album outright because my songs were in high demand. I was in a dilemma. I rejected the money and lost many friends. I tried hard to convince the priest that I was active in church, but he said ‘what about the people you will mislead through your music?’ At that point, I gave up and quit music.
What was the marketer’s reaction?
The marketer was on my neck to get my signature so that we could commence the deal, but to his greatest surprise, I told him I wasn’t interested! Initially, he thought I had a bigger offer, so he called again for us to renegotiate. I told him what the priest said and he became angry. He said: ‘you’re acting strange, what’s happening to you? You need to check yourself. This could be from your enemies in the village’. That was how I went back to my job and forgot about music completely.
Then in 2017, I visited the same priest who is now a parish priest and he asked me about my music. I was surprised and I reminded him of what he told me in 2011. He said he couldn’t believe he told me that. He then said I should go back to music but this time I should do gospel because God has called me to serve Him through music. To God be the glory, I went back to the studio and today we can see the results. However, I did not regret rejecting the N10 million offer, because after that, I made more than N10 million. Now, I have peace of mind and I am a happy person.
Ever since you returned to music, have you released an album?
Yes, I released my first album, Oghene Dimkpooo (My God is Big). Oghene means God in Urhobo language while Dimkpooo means big in Igbo. It is a 10-tracker inspired by God. We have a track, Yeshua Adonai, which is the original name of our Lord Jesus Christ. He said we should always call Him by His name for our prayers to be answered. Also, we cannot talk about Yeshua without mentioning His mother, the Virgin Mary. I dedicated that track to Mother Mary. The album has tracks like Have Mercy On Me, Glorify Your Name, Idi Ebebe, and I Am A Winner, a song on suicide. I also sang in Tchechewa language from Malawi, alongside a priest. The album will edify your spirit and it can be downloaded at www.buyingandselling.com.ng or iTunes and all digital stores. I’ve also shot the video of Oghene Dimkpooo, which is enjoying airplay on every platform.
You are a devout Catholic and strongly involved in the pro-life movement, can you shed more light on this?
In 1998, I was working with my maternal uncle when I met Uche who was working with my uncle as well. We were very close; so on Valentine’s Day he asked me about my girlfriend and I told him I didn’t have and he burst into laughter, calling me a Jew. He said his babe was waiting for him at home. Jokingly, I told him to take it easy so that he won’t ‘score a goal’. He replied laughing that he had actually scored so many goals. After a month, he came to me, saying that he had scored yet another goal, meaning his girlfriend was pregnant. I congratulated him and he quickly cautioned me that he was going for an abortion. That was the first time I heard about the word ‘abortion’ and that was how I became a pro-lifer.
My (pro-life) work started immediately after that encounter. Even though, Uche was 10 years older than me, I spoke to him about why he shouldn’t attempt an abortion. In fact, I told him that the girl would die if she went for abortion. I didn‘t know that the same girl had terminated five pregnancies for him! The girl was just 13 and in SS1, and that pregnancy was the sixth. It was a tough decision for both of them, but with God using me, they both had a baby boy and eventually got married and lived happily ever after. Afterwards, I joined the Pro-Life League at St. Denis Catholic Church, Akoka, Lagos, due to my passion. I became the president of Pro-Life till date. God has used Pro-Life League to save so many lives.
Tell us about your annual walk for life.
In Pro-Life, we believe that life is sacred and must be defended at all cost. We also believe that life begins at conception. No one has the right to take the life of another. In March every year, we walk on the streets of Lagos to sensitize the public on the need to live a chaste, drug free life; avoid pre-marital sex, abortion and suicide.
For example, this year, a woman was planning to commit suicide; she had bought sniper to drink until one of our members gave her a flyer and that was it. She called us and we invited her. We discovered that she took a loan from a micro finance bank and the following day armed robbers collected the money from her. When it was time to pay, she couldn’t. The woman had four children and had attempted suicide in 2017 but God saved her. This time, she wanted to end it all but Pro-Lifer stepped in and empowered her with some cash to start trading. To God be the glory, she now supplies drinks to different people and companies. These are the little things that we do to save lives.
Where do we see Mechelin in the next five years?
I don’t know what God has in store for me, but I am begging Him to expand my ministry of praise. I wish to own an event center where we will all gather to praise God. I also wish to have a home to help rejected pregnant girls. It has been a big challenge for me as the president of Pro-Life. Most girls go for abortion because their parents drive them away while some parents send them to the village to avoid shame and embarrassment. I have so many cases of pregnant girls but accommodation is a challenge. If I have a home, I’ll shelter them and after birth reconcile them with their families. I will be glad if in five years God can grant me these two wishes.