Songwriter and gospel artist, Zubby Enebeli, in this interview, talks about his career, marriage, music industry and Nollywood. The ‘Love Adure’ exponent also recalls his experience with the late highlife music maestro Bala Miller and other musicians. TONY OKUYEME met him
How was growing up like?
For some us that were not born with a silver spoon, we managed to carry on somehow. I was born in Surulere, Lagos, specifically, in Randle Avenue. I grew up in Lagos, and at a point, I went to my village to stay with my mother. Later, I came back to Lagos, and started school. I attended St’ Thomas Aquinas Primary School, Atunrase, Surulere. After that, I went to Eko Boys High School, Idioro, Mushin, Lagos. Thereafter, I went to Kaduna Polytechnic, where I studied Mechanical Engineering.
So, at what point did music take centre stage for you?
I used to be a dancer when I was in primary school. I did break dance and all kinds of dances. But the love for music overwhelmed me. First of all, I used to go to Bobby Benson, where we used to sing and dance. I did that for a few months, before I travelled to Kaduna, where somebody linked me up with the late Bala Miller.
How was your working relationship with Bala Miller?
Late Bala miller was a fantastic human being, wonderful and intelligent person and a musician. He was very articulate. He taught me the rudiments of highlife music. I worked with Bala Miller for four years, before I moved to the East where I worked with the Geradu-Pino and the Extended Family Band. I had a swell time. I was working there as a backup singer and lead singer. I also worked with Georgy Gold. From there we went on a tour, and it was during the tour that Onyeka Onwenu saw me, and it coincided with the period that Mike Okri was going to release a music album, so he invited me to join the band. That was how I became a lead singer for Onyeka Onwenu’s band. So, I left Pot Harcourt for Lagos.
How long were with Onyeka Onwenu’s band?
I was with the band for almost five years. I was a backup singer for “Dancing In The Sun”, and the duet she did with Sunny Ade. Working with Onyeka Onwenu was a different ballgame. I became a studio rat.
I was always in the studio working. We had a group then, called Jazz Squad. Other members of the group were Austine Okonkwo and Manny Eke. We were always working with Lemmy Jackson. Looking every project that we did for Lemmy Jackson, I can say that we worked on almost 7000 songs. We did a lot of songs for Lemmy Jackson. We did backup for all his projects – Ras Kimono, Orit Wiliki and others. Along the line, I was still working with Onyeka Onwenu, then, I won Lekki Sun Splash in 1991. The Lekki Sun Splash that I won in 1991 had never been won by any other person the way I won it. Mine was something else. In 1995, I released my debut album titled ‘Be Strong’. And one of the hit tracks is ‘Love Adure’.
What inspired the album?
Before the release of my album, we used to perform in clubs like Pintos, which on Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos. We used to perform there, me, Sammie Okposo, Manni Eke, and others. We had a band called Treasure Band, which, I can say, was best band in Africa then. Each time I played that song ‘Love Adure’, people danced like crazy. And somebody suggested to during our rehearsal that people like that song, and the way I rendered it, and that I should do a rehash of the song. So, I went to the studio and did it, and it came out great. The video was directed by Segun Arinze. The second album is called ‘Surugbege’. It is actually called Surugege, which is a dance of the spirit. But I changed it to Surugbege, because I wasn’t doing music for the spirits; I was doing music for time. I did another hit track called ‘Baby Pancake’. It was released in 1998. In 2001, I released another album called Suru Something. This was because a lot of people loved Surugbege, and each time they saw me they used to call me Surugbege. Then somebody decided to add her own, ‘Suru Something’. Then, people started hailing me ‘Suru Something’. So, I decided to use it as album title.
You have released seven albums so far. Which of these would you say is your favourite?
I would say it is ‘You No Go Know Me Again’. It is a prophetic song.
Why have you not considered going into other genre of music, commercial music such as hiphop and others?
There is a saying that ‘shoe has its size’. You cannot have a 70-year old man or 80-year old man celebrating his birthday, and invite any of these musicians to come and play. It doesn’t work like that. I am not a small boy. By the grace of God, I am 53 years old. So I cannot be playing all those kinds of music that they play. I have to play music for the matured minds
You said in a previous interview that music now doesn’t have good, rooted meanings, it’s all sex. Has the situation changed?
Nothing has changed. As per music production, a lot has changed. But the message has not changed. Have you checked the life span of all this music that you hear these days? The moment you hear them, it goes like wildfire. Give it two or three months, and it would fade. Another one comes. So, the life spans of this music are shot.
Would you encourage your children to go into music?
Yes, I encourage my kids a lot when it has to do with music, but education must come first. I have three graduates and the last one is about to round up. All glory to God in heaven.
Who is Zubby Enebeli?
My name is Azubuike Emmanue Enebeli, but my stage name is Zubby Enebeli. I am from Abbi in Delta State. I am a seasoned musician, gospel artist; a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am a father of four children – three boys and a girl. But the mother of my children and I have gone our separate ways. We decided to separate in 2006. I have been on my own since then, but I have somebody in my life now. The person is also a minister of the gospel. We will tie the knot very soon.
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