Popularly known as Daddy Showkey, John Asiemo’s success in music has given hope to many children living in Ajegunle, Lagos and slums in Nigeria. In this interview with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS, he talks about his days in the slum, forfeiting education for music, taking a bride without money and secrets to success
For some years now, you have released no album. Yet, you still get shows and endorsement deals. How do you do that?
I still drop singles. You need to listen to my recent single, ‘One Day.’ If I want to do something, I always remember my people. I always do songs that relate with people and their lives. Our people need hope. Also, an artiste is different from an entertainer. As an entertainer, entertainment is inside me.
However, work has been concluded on my album, but I got involved in many things last year. I would likely drop an album this year. The most important thing is to keep doing things that would make people to know you are still around.
What comparison can you draw be- tween music as it was done in your time and now?
There is no difference. In every generation, you would have different happenings. Newborn babies are expected to grow up and do things in their own way. And among all the children born in a day, there is a star. So, it is a generational thing.
Do you think that artistes of your generation did better than today’s?
I will not compare, I do not compare God’s works. When you compare God’s work, it is like you are insulting God. I do not believe music has time. We had a good time then and we are still relevant. Fatai Rolling Dollar played music at 84 before he died, King Sunny Ade just celebrated 50 years on stage; and Sir Victor Uwaifo is still active. Music has nothing to do with age; you have to just follow time.
Also, you need to understand your messages and the kind of music you like to do. Have you ever suffered any form of disrespect from a younger artiste?
You cannot disrespect me because I know my worth. If an artiste tries to disrespect me, I would put such person at his level. I respect myself and I cannot disrespect my elders. I cannot disrespect Ras Kimono, King Sunny Ade and Sir Victor Uwaifo. Those are my fathers in music.
I feel most of these things have to do with one’s upbringing. We are Africans, we have tradition and culture. Though some people cannot differentiate religion from culture, our culture is our upbringing and values. You cannot use money to buy respect; you must have been trained to have it.
How have you been able to stay relevant for many years, even though many of your contemporaries are nowhere near music again?
I do not agree that my contemporaries are not relevant anymore. Everyone is somewhere doing their own thing. If I am not singing, I am looking for another means to survive. Since I have a brand already, what I do with it is left to me.
Ruggedman is a musician but he has a clothing line also. So, if music is not working, he has other businesses he does. I always tell my colleagues that there are other things one could do apart from music. I desire to break that jinx.
Without Showkey, I cannot do the other things I am doing. If it were to be those days I was dying of hunger in Ajegunle, who would believe in me? I have a lot of people who love me and are always supportive.
Does this mean musicians should look beyond music?
Yes, because we do not have retirement benefits. Most old musicians fell back on what they had established, but they are ashamed to come out openly to say they own one or two things. They feel people will question them. But I am not afraid of that. If I have a share or stake in a company, I will not hide it. You just have to diversify your money, because you need something to fall back on.
What other things do you do?
I will not tell you until they have materialised. I am doing a lot of things.
In what ways have you given back to Ajegunle?
I have given almost all my life to Ajegunle. If I do things for people, I do not say it in public, because people who did things for me did not publicise it. People you help should sing your praises. When you begin to praise yourself, I see it as bragging.
I have given hope to all the children in Ajegunle and changed the impression of people about the community. So, what do you expect me to do again?
Why did you move out of Ajegunle?
I was already living in Ojodu Berger, Lagos, when I released my first album. I have been living in Ojodu since 1994.
Those days, we would tell people that we were living in Apapa, instead of Ajegunle because they would identify us as miscreants. Before me, Ajegunle had produced doctors, sportsmen and other top professionals, but many of them were ashamed of identifying with the neighbourhood. If God would take me from ghetto to grace, why should I be ashamed to say I am from Ajegunle?
Given another chance, I would like to be born in Ajegunle, because it makes one to relate with different tribes and people.
What were you doing before music?
I was still into entertainment. From 1977, I have been doing acrobatics. When Dejumo Lewis, Kabiesi of the ‘Village Headmaster’ saw me, he put me on the series.
The person who encouraged me more was Danladi Bako, who was hosting ‘Morning Ride’ on NTA then. I told him I wanted to perform on the programme and he gave us a chance. In 1988, I, Daddy Fresh and Sexy Pretty performed there. That was the beginning for me.
What are those things you would like to do better given another chance?
It is education. When I see musicians who are graduates, I am proud of them. I like to have PhD too. Though my mother was a teacher, she still gave me the freedom to do what I wanted to do. But given another chance, I would like to take education seriously. I would have finished my secondary and university education before going into music.
What stops you from going back to school now?
I have so many people depending on me at the moment. Helen Paul and I even talked about it recently and she encouraged me to go back to school. But the truth is that I feel my children will continue from where I stopped.
My son is a good musician too, but I told him that the only reason I would support and encourage him is if he goes to the university. There is nothing he would achieve in music that I have not done. If he goes to university, it means he would break my record
My son is a good musician too, but I told him that the only reason I would support and encourage him is if he goes to the university. There is nothing he would achieve in music that I have not done. If he goes to university, it means he would break my record. I know he would do well in music, but I want him to do the things I could not do. If I had known, I would have listened to my mother when she was shouting at me.
Being a teacher, how did your mother react to your decision to concentrate on music rather than education?
As a teacher, she understood children. She understood that you could only force a horse to the stream but could not force it to drink the water. That was her policy.
But without my mother, I would not be where I am today, because I lost my father when I was eight years old. My mother and grandma raised me and gave me all the education I had. Education does not mean going to school alone. They trained me and taught me how to associate with people.
My two brothers finished university. I am the last child of my mother, but my father had nine children.
How have you been able to keep your family from the media?
My work is entertainment while my family is my family. You cannot tell a mechanic to bring his children and wife to his workshop. I always take my family out of my business.
How long have you been married?
I started dating my wife in 1993, but we didn’t go to the court till 2000 and I paid her dowry in 2001. Then, there was no money. We had our first child out of wedlock. I had to go to her village to meet her father and explained to him that there was no money for the marriage. He then told me to come back when I was ready.