Being one of Nigeria’s most notable names in music, Orits Wiliki commands ample respect within the Nigerian music terrain and far beyond. A veteran in every sense of the word who remains active both on stage and in concerts, he celebrated 30 years as a musician just a while back. In this interview with ADEDAYO ODULAJA, he speaks about life, music and the perennial crisis-ridden Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN).
What have you been up to lately?
I’ve been up to lots of things but mainly our current project, that is the collabo with my brother, Ras Kimono. We’ve been working seriously and quietly for the past 10 months and we are about now ready for the release. Secondly, we have also been working underground trying to fix the numerous problems of the entertainment industry.
How has music life been for you?
Life with music has been very good, bad and ugly. Good because this is my calling, my passion and my first love. It’s good because l have made success of it despite the huge challenges. This is good because for over thirty years of active performances, l am still here standing tall to the Glory of Jah Almighty- the giver of life and everything that comes with it. I know how many we were at a time and l know how many are still here relevant. It’s bad because we ought to have done better.
We are not where we are supposed to be industry-wise. It’s bad because any innocent mind can be easily deceived by the hypes, show and shine of the business when you see our lifestyles as stars, moving around in our various huge cars and living large in mansions in Lekki, Victoria Garden City and so on. The bank account may not necessarily reflect that. Some of these hypes are things the artistes do to package themselves for better pricing. And it’s ugly because we don’t really have the right and proper industry with the right structures to run it. We have more of shows without the business. It’s also bad because Nigeria at fifty something still don’t have any statistics of what the industry actually contributes to the GDP. Ugly because we are usually the worst hit in any depressed economy because most Nigerians see music as luxury, it is not one of the essentials when you go shopping after all there over 1000 radio stations or TV you can tune to and listen to any thing you want to hear music.
It has been very long since we last heard from you, what is happening to you?
It has been all right, but things are not the way they were in those days. These days, live concerts have been restricted to those who can afford it. We want to be respected and paid what we ought to be getting before we can perform at ‘live concerts.’ While we were doing what we did those days was because the industry was booming. Then, indigenous music promoters could tour the country with an artiste for six months and more. It was possible for a local promoter to tell you that he wants to take you across 15 cities in six months and pay you your first four months before the journey begins. But the case is different today because it is very expensive to take artistes on a musical tour.
How active have you been when it comes to featuring young artistes and generally mentoring them in music?
I have featured some artistes in my songs. In 2002, I featured Eedris Abdulkareem on The Good, The bad and the Ugly album. I have also featured other artistes and I will definitely feature more of them in future. Orits Wiliki’s Reggae is all about preaching “Truth and Equal Justice.”
Do you think that consciousness is going out of fashion?
Reggae music is not going into extinction. Popular stars and artistes like Snoop Doggy Dogg from the United States, is changing the face of reggae music. In Nigeria, 2face is a Reggae artiste, Faze is also a Reggae artiste. Omawumi’s recent album has Reggae flavour. Yes, some of our young artistes are influenced by the hip-hop genre, but if you listen to their music, you would notice that they are truly playing Reggae music. And we know that Hip Hop itself is an off-shoot of Reggae.
You recorded some songs at Hope Studios sometime ago, are you working on an album?
Yes, l’m always recording sometimes not for immediate release but to increase my archives. As a composer, writer, producer and performer, you are always in tune with sound. One of those recordings is the collabo with Ras Kimono. It’s going to be a turn-around for the industry because the airwaves have been polluted with all kinds of lewd lyrics for so long so we feel our children need a redirection in terms of lyrical contents. We want to redefine this trend.
Has being a music producer over the years put food on your table?
I do nothing else than the business of music and entertainment. To God be the Glory. At least, l am not hungry. l am not saying l am getting what l duly deserve. We are coping. Until we have the right structures in place no entertainment practitioner can earn rightly. So we are coping with the crumbs.
Is being a music producer lucrative in this part of the world?
Yes it ought to be a lucrative business if it was in the right environment. Let me also say that entertainment is driven by passion first before anything else. A producer earns his wages not only from production fees but also from royalties. So, he ought to earn well.
How about the welfare of musicians?
Artistes’ welfare is zero. The question l always ask is: “Who is looking after who?” It’s been every man for himself, God for us all.
PMAN of which you are an elder is still a shadow of itself, what is the present state of the music union?
Well, we realised that, that situation couldn’t go on like so forever. So some concerned groups have been working silently but are often frustrated by the illegalities that have bedeviled us for some time as a union. Thank God for that relentless effort of the concerned group. I hope PMAN will soon find her feet again.
Is Pretty Okafor capable of steering the wheels of progress in PMAN?
Pretty Okafor is one of the problems of PMAN presently. The road to the seat of the President of PMAN is by election. Pretty, because people have illegally declared themselves President of PMAN and got away with it, felt it was his turn to do (the) same. Some touts in the Union got a very questionable judgment from the Federal High Court and asked him to become the interim president of the Union while there was a Caretaker Committee saddled with the mandate by the Ministry of Labour and Productivity to conduct a fresh election.
We told him three things; first was to let him know that the Federal High Court has no powers or jurisdictions to entertain any union matters, secondly the Union does not have any provision for an interim president and thirdly he is not known to be a card carrying member as there was no such records with the Union. In order to be seen as inclusive we asked him to collapse his activities into the caretaker committee, this he saw as insult and therefore insisted on parading himself illegally as the President of PMAN with the ‘judgment; whether good or bad it remains a judgment until set aside.’ Not even the intervention of the Ministry of Labour could make him see any reason, in fact the Director in our final meeting in Abuja warned Pretty Okafor not to transact any business in the name of PMAN. So it took us almost one year to set aside that judgment but Pretty won’t respect the law. He has been misleading the corporate companies, the general public with huge lies and antics but all that has come to an end now.
What will it take for peace to reign in PMAN and finally see the music union gaining its lost glory?
We are on the right track now to solving these maladies or quagmire. A proper election is on its way. That is the only thing needed to stop all the intrigues and Illegalities.
As regards your music, are you doing a collabo with younger artistes?
I have been doing lots of collaborations with both old and new artistes, the latest being with Ras Kimono, and this is a huge one; just watch out.
Is any of your children taking into music or the arts?
Well there is one l am looking at but l can’t make that decision for any of them, you know.
What are three things people don’t know about Orits Williki?
Okay, l am very emotional. I am a very shy person. Seeing a woman beaten by a man whether, boyfriend or husband, brings out the beast in me.