‘I Make Music From My Comfort Zone’
Afro-RnB singer, Chike Osebuka, came to limelight after an impressive feat at Airtel’s The Voice Nigeria reality show (2016), and MTN’s Project Fame West Africa (2015) as runner up respectively. Afterwards, he had a slow start with the Universal Republic Records releasing only one of his singles. Prioritising the music over financial sentiments, he quit the label and kick-started a career as an Independent artiste in 2016. With the release of his debut album, Boo of The Booless, he continues to break new grounds, clearly carving a niche for himself in the already crowded Nigerian music industry. In this interview with CHINONSO IHEKIRE, the Enugu State native talks about his eclectic music style, growing an organic fan-base and taking his music one step at a time.
With thousands of people that registered to b part of the Airtel’s The Voice Nigeria, how did it feel emerging runner up in that music competition?
I was excited. It was a competition then and in competitions, you want to make progress, and I was excited that I was able to make progress.
Does that excitement still linger?
That’s a long time now, to be honest. I just feel that we are chasing bigger things now and trying to make progress. But, I mean, it’s good for the memory books.
You released your debut album Boo of The Booless earlier this year. What actually inspired the messages on that album?
I’m a musician and I would say that I found my heart, thinking and thoughts. I was just making songs and songs; I didn’t really choose the message, but I guess when I was putting it together, it came off as a love album. That’s my truest self; I wasn’t struggling to make the music, I just let it flow.
How did you arrive at the title Boo of The Booless?
You could say the body of work was trying to be a representation of all facets of feelings that you go through. Generally, what we were trying to say was, ‘look, no matter what you are going through, somebody understands you. This project is there for you, by being the boo of those, who are boo-less.’
So, looking into your creative process, how would you describe your sound?
I love my music; I think my music is genuine; it’s pure. Mostly, I believe my music to be true. Also, when I do the acceptability survey of my music, I found out that every 7 out of 10 people are able to connect with it; that’s a high number for me. I’m impressed with that.
So, if you are adjudged as a love singer, would that be correct?
I would say most of my contents that have been out, predominantly, are around love. So, I would understand if somebody gets that impression. Let’s see how it goes. I mean, I have other body of works coming out; let’s just see where it goes.
How do you start out making your music, how long does it take you?
I think and I imagine. Then, for stuff that brings out emotions when I am writing – instruments like the guitar or piano – once I hear it, I can finish a song in an hour or less. Once I hear those instruments… those are my favourite instruments, mostly strings. So, I imagine stories. Sometimes, I even try not to imagine too deep, so as not to make the music to niche. I try to stay on the surface sometimes. In the end, it all turns out well.
I see you are experimental with sound, how do you pick the producers you work with?
So far, for the producers I have worked with, it wasn’t about picking; it was about working with those I could work with. It wasn’t like an option-filled basket. It was more like, ‘Hello, this is what I’m trying to do; this is what I think about the music. If you share the same beliefs, then let’s work together.’ I was able to find producers, who share the same vision and we worked together. As long as they understand what you are trying to do – even though they have other ideas —, as far as they are not steering you away from you, then yeah.
Right after The Voice Nigeria, you released Fancy U, which is more of an Afro-Pop record, unlike what you do now. Was that style change deliberate?
I’m happy you yourself said that it is more of an Afro pop content. Here is why I ‘m happy you said that, earlier in the interview, you also spoke about diversity and the style of music. So, I was able to show you that that was possible. But I always say that I make music that I’m happy about making at the time; it’s dependent on how I feel at the time. I’m happy to have made you see that an Afro Pop jam (from me) is possible. So, you won’t be surprised if I have another pop record.
You tend to always colour melodies with Igbo language and culture, is there an agenda or a movement behind that?
Typically, as human beings, we are more comfortable when we speak our language. So, I don’t see anything out of the ordinary in speaking my language in my music. I remember I told you that I was making music in my comfort zone. Basically, if I talk, I talk in Igbo. I talk in English (and) I talk in Hausa, sometimes – although a little bit – and I talk in vernacular. So, It means I can make music in all these languages. For me, having the Igbo touch in my music wasn’t anything stressful; a lot of that would still happen.
It seems you are picky with the artistes you collaborate with, how do you arrive at those you work with?
For me, when I hear good music most times and in my head, I know that I can sound good with this person or this person can sound good with me, I reach out. To me, it doesn’t get more complex than that. But you know that when you reach out, you are able to work with some people and you might not be able to work with some people. I have worked with those I have been able to work with and I have moved on.
Name three Nigerian artistes you would like to collaborate with right now?
I like Tems; I have always imagined what it would sound like, just for the sake of it. I like Flavour; I feel that if I wanted to do a track that is mostly spoken in Igbo language, Flavour would be a good collaboration. Also, it is to be able to learn what he is doing. The third would be Kiss Daniel.
On the business side of your music, you have been without a record label since 2016, what’s the reality like for you?
The reality is pretty much to learn, work, learn, work. We are learning as we go and we are putting what we are learning into practice; it leaves room for error. It gives room for us to be able to imagine and be whatever we want to be because we are providing those services for ourselves.
Any other specific perks and challenges?
There is room for error; there are people, who have done this before me. So, with us doing this by ourselves, we are prone to mistakes and it takes time to remedy; time that you might never really get back. I guess at the end of it, it is all right.
How do you cope financially?
We are coping. Whatever we can’t afford, we don’t go for. It is just sustaining ourselves for the moment.
So, are you open to being signed by any record label at the moment?
That’s not a priority right now. So far, we are doing a good job. If we are able to get people, who share our beliefs and are able to add to what we are trying to do, then surely we don’t mind working with other people.
You also played a major role in the TV series, Battleground. What inspired you to go into acting?
It was something I decided to go into. I’m creative and I should be able to do different things.
When you are not acting or singing, what do you enjoy doing?
I’m home minding my business and playing video games. Right now, I’m learning different businesses; learning what I would like to invest in. That one a topic for another day. But I’m still an indoor person. Even when I go out, it is to visit friends at home.
Does your career as an artiste conflict with that indoors nature?
Sometimes, it is best to be reminded that people recognise you and you have to be a bit more available than you would normally be. I have not had any major struggles.
Starting out, where your family and friends supportive?
They were never against my decision; I guess they were supportive, to be honest. I have never had any regrets.
You are also a computer engineer, are you ever delving into that line or anything related?
You know I already told you that I’m looking at businesses; I don’t feel like it is a competition for now. When I’m able to do that (go into business), in the light of my qualification, as a computer engineer, that would have enabled me to go into business.
Your latest project, Dance of The Booless, could be seen as a risky venture, owing to the low acclaim of electronic dance music in Nigeria. Why did you decide to take that risk?
I don’t want to talk about it (the music) as a business, but it is still a business. For us, it was about giving another experience to a group of people. And for those people, who are replaying the Dance of The Booless album right now, they are exactly the kind of the people that we were looking to get, not the people we got with The Boo of The Booless. It was something possible and a good business move.
How would you describe your relationship with your fans?
I’m happy that when I talk, they talk back at me. I’m happy that when I put out content, they boldly advertise for me. You know word of mouth is still the strongest type of advertisement. I’m happy that I have this group of people, who believe in what I do.
So, where do you envision your music?
I keep working and putting in the hours; I have been taking it to step by step and so far it works. So, I would just keep taking it step-by-step and putting in the hours.
Finally, what does music mean to you?
Music is strictly expression to me.