Ras Kimono is one of the few in Nigerian showbiz that can be truly referred to as a legend without raising eyebrows. Things may have slowed down for the reggae artiste, but his music remains a reference point. In this interview with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS, he spoke on fond memories, decline of reggae music, and his light-hearted spat with Majek Fashek among other issues. Excerpts..
Seems like the popularity of reggae music has gone down in Nigeria?
It is still in vogue. The problem now is that we don’t have good recording companies anymore, that is why it looks like that; but it is not true because almost all radio stations in this country have reggae programmes. Out of every five people, one person still likes reggae music too. Reggae music talks more about current issues, but the youth are afraid because reggae is hot; they cannot handle the pressure. Reggae is like afro beat if you play it like the originator did. Afro beat deals with the ills of the society, but the youth want money and they don’t want to die.
Do you plan to release new materials anytime soon?
I just finished recording one of my singles; I am dropping two singles this year because albums don’t make any impact. I am dropping ‘Blessed Africa’ and another one. Also, my brother Orits Wiliki and I just finished recording a song that should be released before the year ends. I am around. If people don’t see you often on television they believe you are not doing anything, but television or no television I am still doing my thing.
What do you mean by albums don’t make impact anymore?
Albums don’t make impact in Nigeria anymore. When we started, companies didn’t drop singles because it was more costly to drop singles than albums. But it has changed in recent times, so I am dropping singles. After dropping like six or eight singles, it becomes an album. They say when you are in Rome you behave like the Romans, so I am moving with the trend.
Do you still have the required energy to do music?
You think I don’t have energy anymore? I would advise you to put your money where your mouth is. Musicians don’t retire; I would continue to do music until I die.
When was the last time you played at a show?
I go to shows as often as they come. If it comes I go and if it doesn’t come I still give thanks to God. We still did a show about three weeks ago for the 60th birthday celebration of Senator Ben Murray-Bruce. It was a lovely show even though I had 10 minutes on stage; my band and I gave our best. Anytime I see our performance on TV, it makes me feel happy. It was one of the flawless shows I performed in recent times; everything went as planned.
Do you still make money from music?
As we talk, I don’t have other businesses I do apart from music. The underwear that I wear I got it from music and the gum I am chewing now also. I am living today because I am living off music; all what I have today I got form music. We are not benefiting anything from the government, although the society appreciates us. The attention I get from people now is even more than when I was releasing music. Some of these youth were not even born when I left Nigeria. So, the attention I get from the society makes me proud and gives me the belief that I am still relevant. But the government doesn’t care about me, they don’t like me and I don’t like them.
You must be proud that your daughter (Oge) has taken after you?
For now Oge is my only child doing music, maybe when others grow up they would take it up. But if they don’t I won’t feel bad about it. I am happy for Oge and I am happy anytime I see her on stage. I always tell her to be patient and learn the trade properly. I tell her not to think that because Ras Kimono is her father she knows it all; she must be humble and ready to learn. We expect our children to do more than us but nowadays, children don’t even know half of what we do. Being a lady, she would probably not have the time to go to places I had been or do things I did. If she were to be a man, things might be different. But now before we know it, she will get married and the husband may tell her to take things easy for motherhood. All I need to do right now is give her my support and make sure that she does the right thing.
Do you wish she was a man?
I don’t even have a male child right now; I have five girls. I don’t care about it because most male children are drug addicts. They become disappointments to their families. I thank God I don’t have a male child and I would blame parents for not handling their children well. If you notice that your son is skilful in a certain area, you shouldn’t force him to do another thing simply because you want him to be like your friend’s son. When a doctor marries a professor, how do you expect them to have quality time for their children? Doctors go to work at 6:00am while professors go to school at the same time. They are forced to leave their children in the care of a Togolese or a stranger who doesn’t even speak good English, while both parents are busy making money. Life is not all about money. Also, why would you send a 12-yearold child to a boarding school? To me, it is the end of that child because at that age he or she needs her parents around to learn certain things. We have some young ladies nowadays who cannot cook or wash their clothes. But you cannot blame them so much because they didn’t learn these things while they were growing up. Parents don’t teach their children morality at home; they rely only on schools.
Which is your greatest song?
Time and season have fetched me accolades. When ‘Rumba Stylée’, my first album, came out, everyone said I couldn’t play a tune like that anymore. Then I came out with ‘What’s Gwan’ and I won two platinum awards. It was really difficult to achieve that with one album. They thought it was over and I came out with ‘Under Pressure Part 2’ which swept all over Africa. So how much do I need to prove myself? I also came up with ‘Oracle of Jah.’ So all of my albums at different times made impacts.
How come you’ve not been able to produce more popular songs?
Like I said earlier, we don’t have recording companies anymore. When I dropped all these tunes I was under Polygram or Premier Records. Today, Premier Records is the last one standing. Even though they’ve not put out hit songs in a while, they are paying all artistes on their stable royalties. I would probably drop my singles this year under their management.
What did fame change about you?
I live moderately; I don’t smoke, I don’t drink and I don’t womanise. I don’t show off the things God blessed me with; I am a Rastafarian. I am not one of these artistes that live more than their means. I believe in simple living and I didn’t change my friends when I became popular. You cannot compare me with the new generation of musicians because they are more about materialism than realism.
Talking about being a Rastafarian, there was a time Majek Fashek accused you of breaking the rules
I replied him then. Anything Majek says now or back in the days doesn’t really affect me because we lived together, we grew together and I watched over him. I taught him a lot of things when it comes to Rasta but he is not one.
How would you describe Majek Fashek’s state after the rehabilitation?
He is cool now. We’ve been doing shows even before the rehabilitation. We now live together at Magodo, Lagos. So nothing he says gets me annoyed because we both know where we are coming from. It could just be plain jokes or sometimes the media trying to make an issue out of it.
Is Ras Kimono your real name or adopted?
That is my real name, but not my surname.
What is your surname?
What do you need my surname for? Do you want to give me money? I used my surname in my passport, in the bank and places it is required. I would only tell you my surname if you promise to give me money.
How do you relax?
I listen to radio and sometimes read the Bible. I play snooker and table tennis with my friends also.
Your wife has not been around for many years; how do you cope without her?
Man must not live by bread alone they say. I have a girlfriend and she knows too because I can’t be in Nigeria and she is in America. We went there together, but I got tired of the place and I came back home. She decided to stay behind with my kids.
Do you still remember your first car?
That was Datsun in 1990. I got it as fairly used from a company in Ilupeju, Lagos, but I cannot remember the amount I got it anymore. I don’t think the car still exists. When I got a Toyota Corolla, I gave it out.
Are you satisfied with your accomplishments?
If I die today I give thanks to God because I have done my best, though I am not ready to die yet. I signed a contract with God that I would live till am 95 years. If he gives me more than that I would appreciate it. But if I die today, I believe I have lived a very good life.
Do you really believe in God?
I keep calling God in our conversation and you are still asking me. Did I call “sango” or any strange name? Yes, I am African who believes in African traditional culture, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respect your creator. God didn’t say we shouldn’t follow our culture; it is only Africans who see their culture as taboo.
The British that brought religion to Africa still respects their culture, they still do what they have to do. Culture is culture while religion is religion. But in Africa, our culture becomes a taboo once we are bornagain. I don’t support that.
What are your concerns for the industry?
As we don’t have good recording companies anymore, everything is going down. Forget about what we see now – the fact that everyone is making a lot of money. Everyone is making money for themselves, but there is no proper structure. The youth are busy buying the best cars and houses, but what happens tomorrow? What happens to the coming generations? People are running into this industry for money, women and fame. People have forgotten about ethics; they don’t even want to learn at all.