I got into musical organ business by adventure – Delano
Dark skinned, and 6.1 meter tall Lanre Delano, is the chief executive officer of Church Organ Projects In Nigeria (CHOPIN) and the Organ & Music Magazine O&MM. He is the representative and sole dealer of the world-leading organ manufacturing company, Allen Organ Company of USA.
Dressed in a cream linen free styled short sleeve shirt and a black pant trouser with a panama cap this afternoon, he exudes confidence as he bares his mind on his musical organ business and childhood. The University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) music major in this chat with The Guardian, spoke about how he got into the business of organ installation.
Asked what sparked up his interest in music and how got into it, Delano said: “My interest in music dates back into my childhood and I was favored to have very understanding parents who encouraged me fully to study music since that was my only major and academic interest.
“One of the encouragements I had was, being allowed to go to watch and listen to Fela Ransome-Kuti at the shrine. My father insisted I studied music formally by sending me to Pa Kobinna Creppy at Kose Lane, Lagos where I obtained my Grade 5 ABRSM in February 1978. My other teacher was Mr. Kayode Oni, who taught me at the music department at the Polytechnic Ibadan in 1977 before I gained admission into University of Ife as one of the first set of two students to start the music degree programme in 1978.
“I was under Prof Adetunji Vidal, who was the head of department then at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). In 1983, I did my NYSC with the Nigerian Police Force Band Ikeja under the then Director of Music, Police Commissioner Ben Odiase, who composed the present national anthem. After my Youth service, I applied to join the music section of the Nigerian Police Force. I went through all the physical drills and was employed as a cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police on Grade Level 08. Unfortunately and to my surprise, I was posted to the general duty department of the police force because of my physique. I had to leave the force because they did not accept my deployment to the music department,” he stated.
According him, he would forever grateful to his parent, who he described as average income earners with a deep love for music, and they had hoped to develop the same keen interest in their six children.
“To achieve this,” he said, “my dad bought an upright piano and hired a private music teacher. I wasn’t too academically inclined but I was very restless and showed keen interest in music. Though my sister and brother played the piano, I was the most involved. We used to play the organ at the church morning and evening services as well as special services for Christmas.
“My mother believed I had special talent for music, though I was often distracted by other things due to my adventurous nature. Sometimes, while playing the piano to my mother’s listening pleasure, she would just be getting in the groove of the music and I will suddenly excuse myself with a flimsy reason and never return till the music wore off her.
“Some people once said my parents took a risk by allowing me study music in the higher institution as against more glorified courses like medicine, law or architecture. Today, the story has changed because I have brought a lot of honour to my family through music and my parents are very proud of what I have achieved and me.”
On how and when he did get into the organ music business, Delano says its a question he has continuously asked himself because he did not set out to do organ business. He said, “I knew nothing about organ business, I never wrote a feasibility study to start organ business, never worked in an organ company, nor knew anybody working in an organ company. Though I am one of the first two graduates of music from the University of Ife, we never had a course on organ studies need less say having an organ in the department.
“Yes, I like the sound of the organ which I got fascinated about in my church, St Jude’s Ebute Meta, now Cathedral of St. Jude’s. That was all. I admired the pipe organ in a few other churches like St Peters, Aremo Ibadan, Cathedral Church of Christ Marina in Lagos, and Methodist Church of the Trinity, Tinubu.
“It surprises people when I tell the truth that I never saw a digital organ in my life until 2001 at a small good and appliances exhibition in Dietzenbach, Germany. However, I have been in the business for fourteen years now. My company CHOPIN – an acronym for Church Organ Projects In Nigeria, was founded in 2002 and I sold my first church organ a week after the launch of the company.”
Delano noted that classical music is not as popularly embraced in this part of the world like other climes like the highlife, hip-hop and Juju music because it is not our culture. “Despite this, we still have an appreciable number of people who love, listen to and patronize classical music. It is a western music and of course it cannot be as popular as the pakurumo or Juju or highlife music, but there is enough market for it,” he stated.
He continued: “Church Organ business in Nigeria is developing rapidly mainly because the interest in organ music has been rekindled especially in churches. CHOPIN is trying to create more interest in classical and contemporary music. We organize concerts and events. Although we may not get the kind of crowd that the likes of Sunny Ade or Davido will get, we have a sizeable audience and we are contented with that.”
With over 74 installations in Nigeria, across organisations like MUSON and churches, orthodox and Pentecostal, and a few individuals installations, worthy of note is the installation at the Redeem Christian Church of God in Aso Villa, where the Vice President worships.
For Delano, the project is remarkable because of the caliber of personality involved. “It is really a thing of joy for me and a landmark because that single job has fetched us several referrals,” he said.
“Another notable installation was the one we did for the MUSON in Lagos about six years ago. We organised the first organ recital at MUSON Centre, Onikan on April 27, 2002 to formally launch the company, and this paved the way for the purchase of its first organ to be featured at the MUSON Centre and into the teaching curriculum for the MUSON School of Music.
“Although it was a small organ but it is a landmark for us because we were the first to organise the first organ recital in MUSON and that helped greatly in developing the interest and awareness for organ music in Nigeria.”
Is business lucrative and competitive? “Yes, lucrative in all its ramifications including it stress,” he quipped, adding that “it is competitive in a way but I am quick to let people know that what CHOPIN is doing and stands for is very different from other organ dealers.
“Based on my experience, I have categorised the competition into three. First, there are product competitors made up of representatives of other organ brands that jostle for the attention of the customer and try to convince them against choosing the Allen organ.
Second, I encounter in-house competition from members of the decision-making committee that try the influence the purchase of another organ brand other than the one I represent, mostly because of their selfish interest and the business stakes they might have with the other brand. And thirdly, resistance might also come from certain antagonists who have no vote of confidence whatsoever in CHOPIN or my organ brand.”