Preye Sampson Braibebe is the Governor of performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, Bayelsa State chapter. In this interview with PAULINE ONYIBE, Briabebe spoke on his efforts so far in reviving the nearly moribund association in the state, among other issues.
How long have you been involved with the Nigerian music industry?
I have been in the music industry for twenty four years now.
Which do you consider some of your hit songs?
I did “Bluff Return which was released in 2006. After then I recorded “Pull off”, I think those two are my most popular songs.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in the music industry since you became a practitioner?
Music is money. No matter how good you are, if you don’t have money, nobody will hear about you and nobody will care to know about you. So the challenge I have been facing is finance.
But how do you feel about the tendency to go outside the state to import musicians when there are big shows?
Actually, that was the first issue I dealt with in office and I think the Seriake Dickson-led admiration has accepted that fault. Let me call it fault because the past administrations were doing what you just asked. They will organise shows and bring like 99% of these artists from outside Bayelsa State. The state organised AMAA for more than five years but there was no platform given to the indigenous artistes to showcase their talents and we were spending millions of naira every year on these shows. If one or two indigenous artists manage to perform, when, at the end of the day, they want to show it on the cable channels where the whole world will see it, they would cut out the Bayelsa entertainers. It happened in the past administration but when I came in last December, we talked to the government and they have accepted. The government has organised three shows since then and the first one was January 1st and it was strictly for Bayelsa State-based artists. That is what we are fighting for, for them to start using local materials. After that came another February 14, the governor’s 6th year in office celebration. That one, His Excellency said “we are using Bayelsa based artists even though you are a Bayelsa indigene and you are not in Bayelsa State like Timaya and all of them, they said strictly for Bayelsabased artists. During the Easter festive period, they held another show and they brought only one artist from outside who is Skales and they used about 42 Bayelsabased musicians and comedians. And that is what we are fighting for. I think government has heard our cry and I think they are doing something about it.
Out of the 42 artists that performed that day, how many of them in your opinion can compete with their contemporaries outside Bayelsa?
I was back stage but I know we have a lot to do. We still have to work on ourselves, myself included, to attain such heights.
In that case, how do you as Governor of PMAN in Bayelsa State, how do you separate the chaff from the wheat?
It is difficult because PMAN was dead for six years before I came in. So I met a virgin PMAN and as such, you must know what you need to do. That is the process I’m passing through right now. It has not been easy with us, PMAN doesn’t get subvention salaries from anywhere. I’m building PMAN in Bayelsa State and a lot of youths are asking: “What has PMAN done for us? What are we going to gain?” Even coming to tell them to pay dues, you won’t believe I asked them to pay N200 dues a month so that they will not feel that we want to make money out of the system.
So why have you not released any album despite being in the industry for 24 years?
Funds. Clarence Peters would charge N1.5 million to shoot one good video. The music videos you watch on Soundcity, for you to get to that standard you are spending nothing less than N2.5 million to get a good video. I started in Lagos and we don’t have Ijaw people there. I’m an Ijaw man. We don’t have Ijaw business people that can assist you and who believe in this business. Entertainment is business. We don’t have Ijaw people that can say “Ok, I’m investing N10 million to sponsor you” but Yoruba people would do it for their brothers, same for Igbos but we don’t do it. That is why I change my name to D Yardy meaning a village boy. I was born and brought up in the city but I came back to Bayelsa and decided I’m not leaving, I must work from Bayelsa. Till tomorrow we are still convincing, talking to our big boys here that this is a viable business. I’m not asking you to come and spend this money on me, invest it and trust me, you will make it back. I did a song for Bash Ali. There were more than 30 of us that recorded songs for him. A friend of mine (Obanla Williams) just called me and said: “Please Google Bash Ali and do a song for him.” I have been watching his fights but I have not met him. I did this song and the World Boxing Federation president, Joan Megan, called me from Italy and she was like “wow”, you did that song for Bash Ali. What am I trying to say? Give us that platform and then you will see our quality. They are still battling with the fight but Bash Ali told me that if the fight comes to pass, I am their ambassador.
So have you been able to convince any among politicians, those in government and other individuals to invest in you?
Bayelsa State is a political state, a civil servant state where people are waiting for a 31-day salary. Even politicians are also waiting at the end of the month to get salary. We don’t have core businessmen here that can look into the entertainment sector. The entertainment sector is a sector that nobody has invested in. That is the problem. At the level of PMAN, we have a project coming up tagged “drop the gun and grab the mike.” It is very heavy on me. I have spent money on the project but nobody has given a dime. I don’t want to look at the monthly dues from artists, I don’t base plans on their money. I’m here to engage the necessary people and see how we can build the industry. One thing I want to extend to, look at companies in Bayelsa, we have all kinds of companies and none of them is performing their corporate social responsibility in this state.
Would that be because you are not meeting the right people?
Yes. That is one of our fights too. We want to make sure we engage them although they are trying to like elbow us not to give us the opportunity to come in but we must go in because they are operating in Bayelsa State. They are selling their products here. MTN is here, so is GLO. Nigeria Breweries, Guinness, oil companies, they are all here but nobody cares. I don’t know if somebody is making money through that angle but we are here to find out.
To what does what credit how secular music has crept into the church?
I think we are getting it wrong here. Music is all about tone, the beat and the lyrics. Now the Christian music does not say you need to play blues or you must play reggae and dance Apala or Awugiri. You can praise God in any form. You can play Awugiri music and praise God in any form. The lyrics matter a lot, not the kind of music. I think that is where we are getting it wrong. I do reggae music. I can use it to produce gospel music that can be used to praise God.
We don’t have such people like Lucky Dube, Bob Marley around now. Isn’t it that some people are meant to be musicians while some are there to make money?
I think the problem is the masses. If I do a song today and the song is not good, the song will not be accepted. We musicians believe that any song that is accepted by the masses is a good song.
Let’s talk about pirating music and other intellectual works. What’s PMAN in Bayelsa State doing about that?
Well, people have been fighting piracy. Charly Boy fought and fought. I was in Lagos when Charly Boy was going to Alaba but you cannot beat them. These are wealthy men. They are rich. The piracy thing is rich men’s business. And later we found out that this piracy thing to an extent is even helping the musicians. I’m not supporting them because they are killing us. You do a song like “One corner” I heard he is complaining. A friend I was talking to in Ghana said the guy has not made money but his song is all over the place. Now he doesn’t have money to push himself but look at what piracy has done for him. Everywhere in Nigeria, if you are a DJ and you have not played “One corner” some people may even stone you. The piracy thing, we are fighting it gradually as I’m setting up a team because we have a lot of stores selling mixed tapes and all of that but we need to fight them tactically. The pirates will take your song very far where you cannot have the funds to push your songs to and they are making the money while you are making the name. Sometimes we do even pay them. Some artistes go to Alaba and pay them to pirate their songs. You pay like 200,000 thousand to be included in the mix tapes they sell and you get back your money. You are still paying them to pirate your song because you want your song to be popular. You want to be known. These days your CD doen’t give you money. If you want to check the cost of printing, may be 10,000 copies of CD and if you want to sell for N100 or N200, how much can you make? The only thing that can give you money is your shows. So people see piracy as something that will promote them so that people will start calling them to come and perform. That is the only way they can make money. So that is why it is difficult to fight them.
How have you address the issue of paying artistes from outside millions while Bayelsans that partake in the shows are paid peanuts?
That is another fight we have like SKales came and he was given, I think, N2million naira but we were given N100,000 each, half of which is even still hanging. However, it takes a gradual process to achieve these things. For the government to have accepted using indigenous artists, I think government is trying and gradually, the money will keep coming up.
You have about one year and six months to govern PMAN in Bayelsa State, how do you intend to make an impact on the group?
We don’t have anybody funding us. We have programmes that we are looking at. We have the “Drop the gun and grab the mike” project that is coming up. Looking at our society today, most of the youths committing crimes are between 20 plus and 32. Once you are beyond that, maturity has come and you want to start reasoning well. And most of them are talented. I remember two in Okaka prison, they are good musicians and one just got out. I think giving them the right platform and the support will help them. For me, I started singing from secondary school, representing my school, Ilegbu Alagba Grammar school, Ojo from JJS 3. We are not doing all of those things here. We called it school, it is where we should do debate, dance and all of those things.
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