My dreadlocks have no spiritual undertone

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The name Beautiful Nubia needs little or no introduction in the Nigerian music industry,
especially in the circle of contemporary folk music. In this interview with ADELEKE
ADESANYA, the leader of root renaissance reveals how he wants to use his music to change the perception of the black race.

Uba Group

How did you come about the name, Beautiful Nubia?                                        “Beautiful” refers to a state of spiritual perfection that I seek for myself and that I think we could all aspire to attain; a state in which one is incapable of hatred, in which one can see beyond face, colour, faith, gender or race. “Nubia” was the name of a nation of dark-skinned people who ruled the world thousands of years ago. They were the world leaders of their time. I use that name to remind African youth that they have not always been slaves, colonised people or second-class citizens of the world.

Your genre of music seems to be a modernised version of oldies. What is the reason for this?                                                                                                     When something is deeply embedded in you and you are willing to walk the walk, you don’t have to work too hard to bring it out and share with the world. I was given a gift, I can dip into the eternal pot of traditional wisdom, find a truth, coat it in a contemporary garb and present it for the enlightenment and enrichment of all of us. I have been doing this for a long time so it has become second nature. Everywhere I perform or speak, I always impress it on my audience that if folks in Africa want to make any progress and step into their higher selves, then we must re-embrace traditional wisdom; the best equipped African is the one who is a perfect amalgam of ancient traditional wisdom and modern knowledge. I was blessed to have been raised in this way and my music is a reflection of that perfect combination.

Does your style of music influence your manner of dressing and appearance?
I don’t think so. I wear whatever is comfortable and appropriate for each occasion. I do not try to dress to look African, I am already African! My choice of fabric and style depends on what the event is and where it is taking place. I love to wear “adire” (tie-dyed) shirts and pants when I’m in Nigeria and in warm locations around the world. But you will also see me wearing other things depending on what the weather or the occasion
deserves. I do not necessarily dress to make a statement every time but I do think it would be nice if more Nigerians wore the Adire made by the local people.

A report said your dreadlocks had a spiritual undertone. How true is this?
That’s not true. I gave my hair what I called “fundamental hair rights” in 2000: the right to grow unhindered by any grooming implement – no clippers, no combs – a chance to be what it would be. I did that because for years, I had a running battle with my very thick and stubborn hair. It never responded well to barbers or styling and I often got headaches from repeated combing. Eventually, I resolved that the day I became my own boss, I’d set it free. So, when I left paid employment in 2000, I promptly threw away the combs and clippers.

Is it true you are preparing to vie for governorship position in your state come 2019?
After providing guidance and advice on how things should be done for years and seeing no change, perhaps the “prophet” may need to become a statesman to prove that the solutions he’s been suggesting are practical and possible. It is possible that at a point not too far away, you may hear of me announcing my intention to run for some kind of political office. To prove to everyone that generous, sincere and selfless leadership
is possible.

If eventually you become the governor of your state, what will be your philosophy?
True leadership requires extreme personal sacrifice from those in office. I would want to lead a government that cares for its people and puts them and their needs first at all times. And my primary focus will be on the education of the young and the youth, to
ensure a proper preparation of the children for the future and to support the growth of a new generation that will appreciate good neighbourliness and the need to take care of ourselves in the society. And of course, I cannot be part of the kind of fraud that characterises the governments of the day. There will be strict accountability
and prudence. My focus will be on Education, Agric, Health and the strengthening of local industries. And I would love to be able to do this work without receiving any salary for the whole term.

What inspires most of your songs?
Songs come to me in many ways sometimes I get a song in full, with melody, rhythm and lyrics in one package, just like that, a flash of inspiration and I will sit down quickly and write the lyrics. But, many times, I get a melody (tune) in my head for years before eventually filling in the words. Often, it’s the other way around – I write a poem and, over time, work in a melody. Songs come to me anywhere and at anytime – while I’m walking, in bed, in the bathroom. Sometimes, I respond to what I see, hear, smell, experience. I am especially always touched by the struggles that people go through in search of happiness and fulfillment. I don’t think of what will sell when writing or recording songs I record what I like; I follow the inspiration that comes to me and, because of that, those who listen with a keen mind develop a deep connection that is hard to explain to those who don’t get it.

How would you describe your journey so far in this profession?
It has been a colorful journey with many challenges and successes. I started writing songs 40 years ago and always knew the path I would follow. But one can never totally
predict the nature of the challenges that would come. However, I have been blessed with the kind of attitude that engages and surmounts any challenge with courage and positivity.

How well are you combining your marital life with this work?
As a professional artiste, it is often quite difficult maintaining a good balance between your artistic and domestic lives. The good thing is one can learn from the errors of those who have walked this path before us and put the lessons to use. You focus on what is important. Relationships are important, people are important. If you have children, they are primary. You don’t go walking all over all these gentle souls because of the extreme need to fulfill your destiny as an artiste. One has to find that balance. I’m fortunate that I achieved it, though it is never too easy.

Words to your fans…
True and sincere artistes are a special blessing to the society; true and dedicated fans are a blessing to the artistes. Everything else I have to say is in the music. We have more than 10 albums out there, go and get them. Dance all you want, but do listen carefully to the words and use these words to create changes in your lives. Also find time to come to the concerts. I love seeing you there.