Singer, producer and video director, AbdulRasheed Bello aka JJC Skillz, talks about his career and marriage to popular actress and producer, Funke Akindele-Bello
I think I have always wanted to do music from when I was a young boy. I used to have an area group in Kano, and we used to do Apala music from door-to-door. I actually thought I was going to become a Fuji star. We’d go to people’s houses, knock on their doors and when they opened, we made them laugh by singing some funny songs. From then, I knew I wanted to become an entertainer. When I moved to England at 14, I became a hip-hop artiste. Meanwhile, I formed my first group in school called Secret Weapon, and it has always been that way. I was always forming one group after another, until I had a successful group called Big Brovaz signed to Sony.
How did you coin the name JJC?
Back then, I had a heavy Nigerian accent, and everyone used to laugh at me. Hence, the reason I gave myself the name JJC which is an abbreviation of Johny Just Come, which is used to describe someone who just arrived a place. When I realised that they weren’t going to accept me, I decided that the best thing to do was to bring people from the neighbourhood together that had the accent and the swag. I created my own group, signed them and started promoting them, even though I was about 19 at the time. Two years later, we won the Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Award as the best unsigned artistes from London. From that point on, all the record labels wanted to work with us.
You have an affinity for being in groups, don’t you think you can stand alone?
I will say I am inspired by many people like Dr. Dre, Puff Daddy, Timbaland etc. Those people have their own identity, just like if anyone sees me, they will know that’s JJC of We Are Africans fame. But more importantly, it is about being able to transfer that knowledge that I have to other people. I do not see myself as just an entertainer, but as someone that can develop people. And that is why I have been developing groups and artistes.
After I got Big Brovaz signed to Sony and we went platinum, we travelled to America to do the movie, Scooby Doo. After that, I stepped out of the group because I felt it was becoming too oyinbo-like for me. I wanted to create something a bit more homely, because right from when I was a child, I was one of those guys that went about saying Nigeria is the best land. Then, people used to think I was crazy for saying that, but I knew that one day, I would come back home, and here I am. Anyway, while Big Brovaz was still big, I started another group called JJC and the 419 Squad, which was very successful as we had over a million album sales and won KORA award. However, most of the members later moved back to Nigeria, while I stayed back in the UK. I then decided to start another group called Mr Skillz and the Crazy Girls, which got signed to EMI Records. After that, I left the music scene and went into video production which is my other passion.
Of all the groups you have worked with, which did you have the most chemistry with?
I think I had chemistry with everyone I had worked with. Right now, I am having the time of my life with Scene One Productions, which is a new record label I’m working on with my wife, Funke Akindele-Bello.
Do you play any instrument?
I play a bit of the piano. On every single group I worked on, I did a bit of production. I also developed other producers, like Don Jazzy, to produce for groups as well.
When you first met Dbanj and Don Jazzy, did you have any inkling that they had what it takes to become superstars?
The truth is I usually see greatness in people even before they see it in themselves. When I first met Don Jazzy, he was a piano player for Mr. Solek; he was not a producer. But the passion he had for music made me know that he could be transformed into a wonderful producer. Dbanj was a harmonica player and he was very fun to be with. He was funny, lively and had the charisma of a super star. I saw all that in them, and that is why I picked them. And I picked so many other people just like that.
What was Don Jazzy’s role while you were working together?
He was an upcoming producer that was set to take over the scene. And that was what he was there for.
Are you still on good terms with Dbanj and Don Jazzy?
We are all cool; it’s one family. But you know they say, there are no permanent friends or enemies; just interests.
When Mo’hits fell apart, did you try to mediate and bring them back together?
When their journey continued after the JJC university of music, what they did and what they created was none of my business. And it is not really my place to come into someone else’s business and tell them what to do, and how to do it. So no, I did not get involved.
How are you finding the experience of being a video director?
It feels like a natural progression because I studied video editing and production, which I passed with distinctions. While still in the UK, I got a job as a video editor and I did that for two years, working for big companies. Music is more of a situation where you are always pumping money into it, but video is where you make money.
So you have made more money as a video director than as a music artiste?
I wouldn’t say that; I have made money both ways. The good thing about music is that if you do it well and monetise it, the money keeps on coming non-stop. You can make money from a song years after it was recorded and released.
As an entertainer, what has marriage changed about you?
It has made me more focused. It has also given me more stability and peace of mind.
You once said that you were wary of any kind of emotional attachment, why did you decide to get married to Funke Akindele?
In life, when you find the right person, nobody needs to tell you to settle down. It is like finding God; you may be a bad boy in the club today, and the next day, you’re in front of the church shouting ‘Halleluyah.’ Nobody can determine when that change will happen, and I’m very happy that it has happened to me.
How did you meet your wife?
She had an idea called Jenifa’s Diary that she wanted to do, and she was looking for a good director and cameraman, so she called me to help her shoot the TV series, and that was how we met.
Was it love at first sight?
Absolutely, it was an instant connection. In fact, it was love at first sight. I saw her,she saw me and, we saw stars. From that point on, everything was aligned.
What were the qualities you saw in her that made you know she is the one?
Ask every single man that is married, they will tell you the same thing. It is the same qualities that everybody wants.
So what are those qualities?
To be honest, I do not want to talk about my personal life. My wife is my baby and I cherish her a lot. If I start giving you all the secrets, people may want to snatch her from me.
Even if you do not tell us all, just give us a sneak peek…
The truth is I work really hard all the time, and a lot of the people I dated in the past used to complain that I did not devote time to them. But now, I have found my better-half who works as hard as I do, so it is a perfect combination, and the world is in trouble because we are the perfect team. As I am playing music, she is making me laugh. We have the perfect synergy, and what we are working on right now will blow people’s minds away. And I want to advise people in the entertainment industry to go and look for their better-half within the same industry, because it will give you more focus and direction.
But many people feel inter-marriages in the entertainment industry do not work, can you share some of what you have discovered that can help them?
Pray to God for direction because I did a lot of prayers and God answered. Different things work for different people. All I know is that God has given me what works for me.
Banky W, wife announce delivery of baby boy
Popular Nigerian singer and songwriter, Olubankole Wellington popularly known as Banky W, and wife, Adesua Etomi have announced the delivery of their first child, a baby boy.
The couple, who took to their Instagram pages to share photos of their maternity shoot in celebration of Adesua’s birthday, today, February 22.
It will be recalled that the couple got married in November 2017 at a destination white wedding in Cape Town, South Africa after they shut down Lagos with their star-studded traditional wedding.
In her post, Adesua disclosed that their bundle of joy arrived four weeks ago.
“You have a track record of keeping your word. Ọlọrun Agbaye o, you are mighty.
“4 weeks ago I received the best birthday gift ever. Our Son,” Adesua said in her post.
Also, Banky W while announcing the birth of their baby boy paid tributes to his wife describing her as beautiful and strong.
He also appreciated God for turning their tears into triumph and for making everything beautiful in his time.
The post read, “Happy birthday to my lady, my love and Purpose Partner,
My world, my wife and Baby Mama.
I didn’t think it was possible for you to be more beautiful than you already were… but I was wrong.
“Because you’re not just beautiful, you’re strong.
“You’re grace and favour personified, and you’re so much more.
Words cannot properly express how grateful I am for you, how much I love you, or what we’ve been through.
I’m thankful that you’re mine
“And that God made everything beautiful in His time
“He turned our tears into triumph, and our loss into laughter
“He’s changed our lives forever, here’s to the next (and best) chapter
Nothing I can say or do can top what He gave us
“My baby had a baby and he’s everything we prayed for
“Happy birthday “Mama Zaiah”
I love you SCATTER”, the post concluded.
‘Juju music is still active’, says Toye Ajagun’
Far-famed veteran musician, Uncle Toye Ajagun has revealed that Juju music in Nigeria is not dead, maintaining that it is still potent and meaningful as it was in the past decades.
The Juju maestro insisted that the advent of Fuji has not overshadowed Juju music in the country describing it as “a mistake and wrong assumption if we say Fuji has swallowed Juju music.”
Ajagun stated this while featuring on a radio show in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital on Monday
Speaking further, the ‘Magbe-Magbe’ creator tackled the self acclaimed Fuji lord, Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, popularly known as K1 and others like him who have infused different strings into their musical arrangements saying that they have deviated from the ‘standards.’
He said the introduction of string instruments by these fuji musicians is a total departure from the standard laid down by the creator of fuji music, late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister.
According to him, “Wasiu Ayinde Marshall knows that Juju music in Nigeria is not dead. He still gives us our due respect. I listened to one of his recently released albums where he praised me, King Sunny Ade, Idowu Animashaun, Ebenezer Obey and others”.
The juju singer also disclosed that his own style of music is aimed at promoting peace and love among his followers and listeners in the country.
“I use my music to promote peace; I do not use it to cause acrimony among people”.
Justifying his style of music, the Egba-born musician explained that the album he released in 1976 was targeted at restoring the frosty relationship between two top juju musicians of that time, Admiral Dele Abiodun and Emperor Pick Peter.
He charged the present-day musicians and youths to work and pray hard and not to allow frivolities to deprive them of their glorious future. He specifically advised them not to allow current enjoyment to deprive them of the better things waiting ahead of them in the future.
Ajagun, however assured his numerous fans to expect him in the studio soon as plans are in top gear for the release of his next album.
Ayinde Barrister Was Unstoppable | By Tunde Busari
Another reason Ayinla Omowura’s star could not eclipse that of Ayinde Barrister, if Omowura had lived beyond May 6, 1980 till December 16, 2010 when Barrister passed away, rests on the flexible body and template of Barrister’s fuji music.
Again, nobody can and should disparage Omowura by placing him at the back of Barrister on the queue of our indigenous musicians. Barrister would not throw such insult at Omowura because he acknowledged and respected his prodigy and seniority in the house of Agodo, where music resides.
That was why he could not seriously take him up beyond a feeble reference in his AWA O JA, a vynl he released in 1979, shortly before his Fuji Londoners band collapsed. The title of the album-AWA O JA- is even self-explanatory on Barrister’s reverence for Omowura who had just hit him with a thunderous punch in his elpee, dismissively comparing him with all sorts of little living things.
And when Omowura died nay tragically and Barrister entered studio to record his tribute, he came out with a joker which made his fuji an all-conquering genre. If Barrister was not a soldier and musician, he would have made a brilliant career in academics. He was in love with research and vigorous musical engagement. That’s the secret of his many timeless releases-be it studio records or stage performances.
He sneaked into the hearts of the allegedly livid fans of Omowura and discovered their need in his tribute. He sneaked out and laid his song on the percussion supplied by his new band members which was ably anchored by his lead Apala talking drummer of the old Fuji Londoners, Kamoru Ayansola. What did Barrister sing? He flirted with Omowura’s template without really copying his lyrics; he picked only his sound, singing:
Iku wole ola
Iku wole ola
Abiri ti ku
Abiri rorun o
Ayinla omo yusufu…
I learnt that the track was magical as it melted the high voltage anger in the heart of Omowura’s fans and warmed Barrister into their hearts with an appreciable number of them becoming fuji converts and sharing patronage between him and Ayinla Kollington who was an acclaimed protégé of Omowura.
In his subtle but aggressive expedition, eight years after Omowura’s exit Barrister experimented with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s Afro and produced FUJI GARBAGE and FUJI GARBAGE Series II, the latter in particular catapulted him to the level he probably did not imagine it could take him.
With his perfect use of piano and steel guitar, blend with fast tempo from apala, sakara, omele, agogo, sekere, igba and drum set, Barrister successfully pulled fans of juju and Afro genres at home and abroad to his fuji as evidently revealed by Sir Sina Peters in an interview in which he sensationally revealed how Barrister stole the show at a party where he performed alongside a top juju act at the TBS, Lagos.
SSP went ahead to confess that Barrister’s fuji profoundly influenced his invention of Afro-juju, the new genre which separated him from the conventional juju played by KSA, Ebenezer Obey, Dele Abiodun, Segun Adewale and few others.
Three years before FUJI GARBAGE and five years after the demise of Omowura, Barrister felt the need to bring his fuji to the Egun sub-ethnic group in the westernmost part of Yorubaland. He waxed an album titled SUPERIORITY and devoted a track which brought the best of Egun sound from Barrister. He sang:
Ruru fun wa kajo haha
Won binu wani
O ru fun mi gangan
Eleven years after Omowura’s death, Barrister also was determined to impress and capture two other major ethnic groups in Nigeria, namely Hausa and Ibo. He released FUJI NEW WAVES precisely in 1991 using his intro to woo those people in their respective tongues. When General Ibrahim Babangida paid a state visit to the former Oyo State, Barrister was at the Liberty Stadium where a grand reception was organized for the Head of State, Commander-In-Chief. He sang:
Ya jonmon Hausawa…
Sabudi Anabi Mohamma
Yomuhirawa waka fuji
My postulation here is that with hard work and continuous update of his fuji with different styles and instruments, for instance, Barrister would be relevant, and even soar higher were Omowura alive. In that context, in fact, Omowura would need to do what Musiliu Haruna Isola is doing to Apala, by infusing piano and guitar into the genre, to escape fuji’s onslaught.
If Omowura still relied on his ‘25 tanshi 40’ which he sang in his last elpee, I guess, his music might not make appeal beyond his catchment zone. He might not be a favourite of the political elite of the Second and Third Republic who seemed to be in race to get Barrister’s fuji at their occasions including campaign rallies.
For instance, at the Social Democratic Party (SDP) campaign for its Presidential Candidate, late MKO Abiola in Osogbo Stadium, Barrister was on stage, sharing the show with KSA.
I think, where Omowura ended it was a comfortable spot to remain an enigma he is, and when the Mainframe film is out of location and editing room, I have no doubt in my mind, based on conviction, that it is going to do more promotion to the legendary of Omowura because of the brain behind it.
But Tunde Kelani must be reminded that Omowura was never a standing musician. May God repose the souls of Omowura and Omo Agbaje. Amen
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