Reggae music maestro, Orits Wiliki, talks about his latest album, Dem Mad Over It’, PMAN, career, and Raggamufin’, the genre of music which he introduced into the Nigerian music scene about three decades ago. He also talks about his hit song, ‘Heart of Stone’, reggae music and other issues, in this interview with TONY OKUYEME
there were reports from a statement by Baba Onaguwa as acting president of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), that you, Tee Mac and some others have been suspended from the association… What really happened?
But you should be used to this. I don’t want to discuss that because it is irrelevant. I don’t want to discuss irrelevant things. How can somebody who doesn’t have the authority say he has suspended somebody. As what? He claims to be acting president. Which president? President of what? We have one PMAN at the moment; not the one Pretty Okafor says he is the president. The true president of PMAN today is Voombastic Uncle P. And election is coming up. Electoral Commission has been put in place. Very soon election will be held, and the person who emerged winner in that election will then be the president.
At a time, you were off the street in terms of album release and stage performances. Was it deliberate?
We have been working. We have released an album this year. Last year, we were warming up to do 35th anniversary but because of the Covid-19, everything has been put on hold. Covid-19 has changed the whole world, and we the musicians are the most affected, because now we don’t have events (shows) to perform in again. There are no shows. My studio now, for instance, where people are supposed to be recording, there are no client’s coming. If one comes at all, then you are lucky. You can’t even sell CDs traditionally the way we used to; everything now is from the internet. So, it is tough for us entertainers, especially the musician.
Let’s talk about your recent album titled ‘Dem Mad Over It’. What is the idea behind this title track?
It’s an eight-track album, and it is because everybody loves the song. ‘Dem Mad Over It’ is just a happy song that came with a new dance called ‘skank and pause’. There are other great tracks such as ‘Omase’ which I did in our local language thanking God. In the song, I said if I have a million tongues, they will not be enough. There is also a track titled ‘Omase’, which means it is not enough. What I was trying to say is that if I have a million tongues, they will not be enough to praise my God. I have seen a lot of things in the past four years.
I lost two great friends of mine – Ras Kimono and Majek Fashek. I have lost some other close brothers, cousins, and so on too. So, I asked myself, God must have a reason for still keeping me here. I felt there was need to thank Him for everything because it is just by His grace, not because I am better than those that are no more around. There is another track titled ‘Iyere’, which is a song for warrior. They call me the conqueror, so as a conqueror, I am a warrior. When a warrior goes to war, one of the songs he sings when he is coming from battle is ‘Iyare, Iyare’. We have other tracks like ‘Slow Down’, ‘Zion Throne’, and ‘Burning Up’, which is a club song. ‘Slow Down’ is an inspirational song. ‘Burning Up’ is for my fans who still want a little bit of what I am used to singing.
What happened to ‘Raggamufin’, the genre which you introduced into the Nigerian music scene?
It is still there. You know, reggae has evolved into other styles and forms of music. If you listen to Bob Marley’s last few releases before his death, you will notice that he was already changing his style in tune with time. So it was no longer the normal traditional roots rock reggae. The tempo was beginning to be faster than it used to be. Ragga evolved from reggae. And as you know, reggae started with ska music, and then reggae with the hardcore traditional feel came out. This one was the root rock reggae. From there, they slowed the beat down to what is called ‘lover’s rock’, and from there to reggae with fast tempo, ragga. From ragga to dance hall which is a mixture of pop and reggae. From dance hall to hip hop. It is reggae all the way in different forms. So, reggae is moving with time, there are a few people doing the traditional roots rock reggae like you know it. But reggae has evolved hip hop. You know, hip hop is reggae, and it seems to dominate everywhere because that is what they play for people to hear. There are a lot of good music that deserve to be played as well but they are not heard because there is a systemic plan to play hip hop, may be because there are a lot of youths controlling the station today. These days, there is a benchmark for those who work in the stations. If you are over 25 years old, they would not employ you. And the young ones are the people who listen to this kind of music. On our airwaves today, except for a few stations, you hear the same sound everywhere. No content. That is why we have much violence. The value of what a good music should impact on the people is absent in the songs that we hear these days. Instead, they promote violence, cultism. What they propagate is not healthy for our children. But unfortunately, that is what a lot of our children want to listen to because they watch television and movies and see nudity on display, the way they dress. So, the children want to emulate them, dress like them. It is because of what they see on the screen. In our days, we were better; we were disciplined and careful about what we put out to the public. But these days, if you don’t show nakedness in your video, you won’t fly; people won’t like it. They want to see breast; they want to see buttock; they want to see alcohol; they want to see drug; they want to see a lot of money on display. So, that is what it is all about. And that is fake life.
One of your most popular hits is ‘Heart of Stone’. What inspired it?
Yes, Heart of Stone’ is one of my biggest hits. And it is because it came at a time when religion was becoming a problem in this country. For instance, in Kano, there was war between Moslems and Christians. A lot of our brothers – Moslems or Christians – died in that course. It was during that time that the inspiration to write ‘Heart of Stone’ came. When you listen to it you will understand. What I was saying is that if Jehovah wanted soldiers, we humans are too weak to fight the battle of God, because Angels are there to do that. So why kill people in the name of God? It is ignorance. So, I said people should drop their sword. That was the reason I wrote ‘Heart of Stone’.
How have you, as a celebrity, been able to stay away from scandals, especially regarding love, women and so on…?
I have many female friends, but most of the time, I also know where to draw the line, know where the red line is. When you do not know when to draw the line, that’s where the problem comes in. And I have one of the most beautiful women in the world as a wife, so what else do look for? The fear of God also has a lot to do with the way live your life. When I say the fear of God, I give thanks to my father, and especially to Almighty God who created me, because without my father I probably would have been dead by now. I probably would have ended up as a gangster because I was stubborn growing up. Even as the son of a reverend. I was on the street. But it gets to a time when you need to come down, especially when my father died at 49. So, I became a father immediately because I needed to be there for the rest if my siblings. So, that changed a lot of thoughts and I have to reform myself and live a normal life that can help me. And most of the teachings he gave me helped me a lot. Teach your children the right part to grow so that when they grow old they will not depart from it. That’s what the Bible said. That helped me a lot. The fear of God rules my world. Anything my conscience tells me is not good or I am not comfortable with, I won’t do it.