George Alaba… Naija DJ, who found love, fortune in Austria
His Mission To Bring Home Superstar David, Rose May
The media briefing didn’t take off as scheduled due to some unforeseen circumstances. No thanks to the dreaded Lagos gridlock that ensured most guests arrived late; the traffic on this day was bumper to bumper.
But while the long wait lasted, George Alaba was on hand to make guests, especially journalists, feel comfortable. In fact, he had to declare the ‘item 7’ open before time just to make up for lost hours. Like a proud father, he was eager to see that everything goes well with his daughter, Rose, who was in the country to promote her music.
Though his name might not ring a bell, the truth is that Alaba’s two kids, David and Rose, have brought him fame and fortune. While David currently plays for Bayern Munich Football Club and Austrian National Football Team, his sister, Rose May has become a music star, who is poised to reconnect with her roots.
Rose was already making impact across Europe, particularly in Austria where she’s currently based, but her music career witnessed a major boost last year when she worked with Coca Cola on a Unified Song for the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter games, Can You Feel It.
Composed by Markus Weiss and Bern Wagner, the track was written and performed by Rose alongside musicians with intellectual disabilities from the organisation Jugend am Werk (Youth at Work) playing the Veeh harp, a plucked string instrument that does not require the ability to read music. They performed Can You Feel It live at the opening ceremony in Schladming on March 18 and closing ceremony in Graz on March 24, while Coca-Cola also featured the anthem in its marketing campaign for the games.
The 23-year-old singer showcased her talent at the Austria Music Awards, after releasing her first two singles, All of This is You and Love me Right in 2016, followed by Can You Feel It and then Take Your Time.
Basking in that euphoria, she took a bold step to visit Nigeria last February with the hope of promoting her brand of music, as well as working with Nigerian producers and artistes. For sure, her Ogere Remo, Ogun State-born father, who, interestingly was a DJ and a recording artiste with Tabansi Records before he left the country in 1984, was on hand to lead her back to motherland.
On the other hand, David holds the record of the youngest player to play for the Austrian national team, making his debut in 2009 as a 17-year-old. He has gone on to play in a number of positions including central midfield, right and left wing, but has since blossomed more as a left back.
A crown prince from Ogun State, George Alaba’s royalty parents sent him to study in Vienna, Austria in the year 1984; George’s interest in economics brought him to the Vienna University of Economics and Business. However, his music career came calling once again; he first worked as a DJ in a popular African club.
“I’ve left Nigeria now for more than 34 years,” he said beaming with smile that exposes his dimples.“But before I left, I was working at Tabansi Records as a DJ. I used to move around with the likes of Felix Liberty, Lauren, the sister of Chris Okotie, Majek Fashek… we were always together. Really, it was a great time for me before I left the country,” he said. Alaba’s decision to leave the country in 1984 was to further his education with the hope of returning home to make contributions. However, there was a change of plan, which has kept him in Austria till date.
“Once one leaves at that time, your plan is to study and come back; that was also my plan. But after that, I’ve grown up; I have a family with two kids. That’s how life keeps going on.”He continued: “When I got there, I first studied German language for nine months before getting into the university. But it has been a great experience for me,” he enthused.He reminisced on his early days in Austria thus: “If you know how to communicate, you don’t have issues; it depends on individuals. Here or there, wherever you are in the world, it all depends on your character. It depends on how you approach the people; that’s how the people will also accept you. But over there, I know what we’ve achieved due to the help of God.”
Alaba’s first CD release in Austria was a bomb. After getting national fame and being granted Austrian citizenship in the mid-1990’s, he paid loyalty to the country by serving with the Austrian Armed Forces as the first dark-skinned guard soldier, which attracted great media attention and more popularity. By 1988, George met the Philippine-born nurse Gina and married her in 1996.
“We actually met each other at a school party; I went to the University of Vienna. We met there and before you know it, we are together and we have a family together. In my family, we are like friends; we are like brothers and sisters. That’s one of the things families over there admire us for; we are representing the foreigners,” he said.
From a musical perspective, Alaba found his partner, Petra Suk in 1997 and their breakthrough came with the Indian Song, which landed on #2 on the Austrian musical charts. However, their relationship, which lasted for seven years, ended with a dispute over their band’s name. After noticing there was no way of settlement, he returned to his profession as a DJ, this time in the Gogobar Beverly Hills in the centre of Vienna. He eventually gave up this job in favour of his children, whom he now supports in their careers.
From the onset, Alaba wanted his children to be self-employed. While Rose May Alaba decided to follow her father’s footsteps in music, David Alaba chose to become a footballer despite knowing Austria, his country of birth, pays little attention to football.Both Rose May and David began their career journeys when they were at the ages of 4 and 6 respectively. Rose went into early musical education taking a class in piano lessons and later learned to play the guitar. David, on the other hand, got registered at SV Aspern youth football club in Donaustadt, the district of the Austrian capital where he grew up. Discovering his talent, George made arrangement for him to transfer to the local powerhouse FK Austria Vienna, whose academy he joined in 2002 at age 10.
“When David developed interest in being a footballer, we just supported him; we never knew it was going to be big. It’s hard to plan something like that, but what I can say is that we should try and support whatever any kid loves or enjoys doing; support that, follow that and see where it goes. The same thing happened with his sister, Rose May; we discovered that she likes music and we keep supporting her. I’m here today to support her, to bring her back home,” he said.
While Rose had mixed feeling during her first visit to Nigeria, the second visit was entirely different; she loves the experience.“The first time we visited, she was still very young then. The only thing I remember was that when we flew into Nigeria, we didn’t have much light on the streets. There was also the issue of children hawking; she was touched. But this time around, she’s grown up and she understands how things work here; it’s been fun for her. That’s why she keeps telling me, ‘when are we going back again?’ I was even the one telling her to calm down,” Alaba said.
Indeed, George Alaba and his family have achieved a lot in Austria, especially with the exploits of their children. In all, he attributes the success story to God.“We are believers; my children are growing up in the knowledge of God. In all that we do, we put God first. I think that has made a great impact on our lives over there.”
The lifestyle of the Alabas in Austria has attracted the attention of the country’s president, who hosted the family to a special dinner in recognition of their contribution to the society.
“The president wanted to meet us as a family; he loves the way things go with us. David has been like an ambassador for the youths in Austria, especially because of his character; he believes in God. Then, Rose May is also pushing up with music, trying to do something positive. Wherever we go, people see us differently; they see harmony. That’s why I said it’s with the help of God that we’ve been able to achieve all that. What I demand from my children, that’s what I do, that’s the way I live; that’s how things work.”
Even with their busy schedules, the Alabas rely much on divine inspiration.“Most of the things we do is that we get a lot of words from the Bible; we try to comply and live that way and that brings harmony. Through that, many people admire us.”
From the way he relates with his children, you could tell that the former DJ has bonded well with the family.“When we were at the Soundcity Radio, some people were looking at me like, ‘is that her father?’ But I believe that when God blesses you, He gives you everything. I’m 58 years old, so, when people hear that, they are surprised. It has been a journey but I thank God for everything; I thank Him for giving me a sound health and the blessings.”
He continued: “Everywhere I go, people ask me this question; it’s also a big question in Austria. Like I’ve said before, I’m like a brother and friend to my children; that makes things work. I didn’t act like a dictatorial father; you have to give and take. You have to learn how to play that role and if you play it well, it works. Due to the support they enjoy from my wife and myself, it helps to keep them going,” he said.
Having successfully reconnected Rose with the entertainment industry back home, which has resulted in her latest collaboration with Mayorku on a single titled 50, 50, Alaba now sets his sight on bringing David home.
“That’s what I have in mind, but when it will happen, I don’t know. Right now, they have a lot of tournaments going on; winter holiday is just about seven to 10 days maximum. What I know is that, as from January 2, they have to go to the training camp to prepare for the coming season; that’s short. Summer is a little bit longer and that’s why I said we would be looking forward to that. You know, because he has seen lots of picture we’ve been uploading from here, he’s exciting again. He was here last at age 13 and he enjoyed it then; they both love Nigeria.”
Though David and Rose are currently operating in Europe, their heart is with Nigeria. “I can tell you that my kids love Nigeria 100 per cent. Like I said, you just have to take yourself as a citizen of the world because God made each one of us; He doesn’t say only Austria should prosper and Nigeria should not. He wants everything he made to prosper, so, you have to see yourself as a citizen of the world; that’s their mentality. When they are over there, they feel at home because they were born there. When they come to Nigeria, they feel at home because everyone welcomes them specially and accepts them, they enjoy Nigeria,” he said.
His emphasis on reconnecting his children with their roots is to preserve the ancestral heritage. He said, “Of course, it’s a lovely thing to do. When you don’t do that, you let the children lose their roots. So, you have to show them home; it’s left for them to choose to stay and go back or not to come anymore. But I think if you do that, they will like to come back again; it’s such a lovely thing, it’s different. My advice is, ‘why not just let them try?’ As far as they are your children, you give them that opportunity; it’s left for them to decide to stay with that or not. But one should be able to bring his children to their roots; you need to show them their culture.”
As a key figure in the Bayern Munich team, the reality is that David is no longer available to play for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, having featured for the Austrian National Team. Notwithstanding, he’s huge fan of the Eagles.
“That’s under the FIFA Law, when you play for a country before the other one comes when you are above the age, it’s not possible. For him, he was discovered quite early; he’s a record holder as the youngest ever featured in the national team of Austria at the age of 17. It has been awesome for him, but the opportunity for him to play for Nigeria is not open anymore. But he’s one of the best fans of the Nigerian national team.”
Though still very active in Europe, managing the affairs of his superstar kids, Alaba has resolved to return home upon retirement.“At the moment, it’s not possible. But we see, after the career of David. But coming home, that’s for sure. While we were here last time, we went to see my mum; she’s still alive. Actually, we are supposed to see her tomorrow, but all the programmes are tight. But we are always communicating with her through video calls; it helps us minimise that homesick.”As for entertainment, he said, “I’m leaving everything to Rose May because I have a lot to do now. With my busy schedule, there’s no room for me to do entertainment again. But I support Rose May every time; I check on her works every other time,” he said.