Tuesday, 3rd October 2023
<To guardian.ng

Stanley Okorie…Behind golden era of Nollywood’s soundtracks

By Chinonso Ihekire 
10 June 2023   |   3:00 am
If you haven’t watched the 2019 Nollywood Epic blockbuster, Return of The Billionaires, there are still high chances you have heard the official soundtrack (OST) dubbed, “Billionaire (Onye Ji Cash)”. The comic soundpiece, composed and performed by Stanley Okorie, joined the litany of Nollywood OSTs to go viral on social media, earlier in the year.


If you haven’t watched the 2019 Nollywood Epic blockbuster, Return of The Billionaires, there are still high chances you have heard the official soundtrack (OST) dubbed, “Billionaire (Onye Ji Cash)”. The comic soundpiece, composed and performed by Stanley Okorie, joined the litany of Nollywood OSTs to go viral on social media, earlier in the year. And while the current generation of music lovers revel in the nostalgia and comic relief from the tune, the spotlight has also beamed once more on its creator, the veteran musician who is behind several hundreds of Nollywood soundtracks from the golden era of the 2000s digital video boom, till recently.

From songs such as his social media favourites, “Billionaire”, “Happy Mumu”, “Ashawo No Be Work”, to earlier classics such as his breakout recordings like the 1996 OST blockbuster, “Karishika (Queen of Demons)”, and the 2004 Nkem Owoh hit, “I Go Chop Your Dollar”, among others, the veteran artiste has stood the test of time as a brilliant musician who was able to spearhead an era where contemporary pop was used in the most relatable and comical ways as Nollywood’s trusted plot driver.

In this exciting chat with Guardian Music, the hitmaker peels back memories of his sonical foray into the second biggest film industry in the world, from stumbling into the career with the help of the late gospel legend Sammie Okposo, to accepting soft drinks as payment, and eventually heralding hundreds of songs for Nollywood. He also lets us in on his current exploits as well as his plans to extend his legacy in the annals of the Nigerian music industry.

How does it feel for you to have reached this milestone in your career?
IT’S a good feeling. It is quite a fine feeling. It is like a painter who has made a series of paintings over a series of years or time then somebody comes across and says that’s a nice painting. You feel happy, you feel glad , you feel fulfilled and you feel you have not wasted your time so it’s a fine feeling I must tell you.

In the era of when Nollywood just fully started, you towed a very unfamiliar route composing soundtracks. What drew you to that space in the first?
Firstly, you are right I got into that soundtrack place but it was purely by accident I must confess. I had come to Lagos to do my masters after graduation and youth service. I didn’t know anybody. I had only a few friends and we were looking for ways to get into school, do masters and earn some money. I ran into a friend, the late Sammie Okposo. That’s where the whole thing took off.

Sammie was doing soundtracks for some movies and he was in need of someone who could write. So I will write, he will produce. Later, he wanted someone who could sing, I said I could sing so I will write, sing and he will produce. I was also the sound engineer. So, that’s how the thing started and not long after, I recorded my first real studio album which sammie helped me with. It was a gospel album

He wanted to go into gospel so we switched and I got into the soundtrack. It was purely by accident there was no really training. All I had was my interest, the little background in music and the little background in mass communication which I had just graduated from. Like a lot of us who got into nollywood, it was purely interest-borne talent, determination and drive and learning on the job.

I am a very shy anti-public person, I am a behind-the-curtain person so at that time nollywood was starting, people were getting into directing and the likes; there was really no music except from the little Sammie was doing before then people were using Jazz and Blues. There was really no content with Igbo or African music; so I just said let me do this thing now.

How do you feel now when you see your soundtracks going viral on social media?

Firstly I just laugh, I laugh because laughing is a good thing. When you have a good feeling, you laugh and I ask myself “where did you bring all these things back from?”. The obvious fact is that we must have done something good. Good stuff never really dies. Some of those songs we recorded, even before we recorded them , there was “Happy Mumu” which I have done. It feels good and it shows that we are still relevant somehow and can still keep working.

How were you able to finance your career when you started?
When you start off with anything especially the art and you are thinking of profit.. forget it! Firstly what you want is proof and validation of your craft. Secondly, you want people to enjoy the things you are able to do. For me, it was rough because I had come to make extra money for my master’s degree and I wasn’t really getting paid much. The first soundtrack I ever did in my life, I was paid a bottle of soft drink for it, I think it was a bottle of sprite and the guy kept telling me, “look I’m doing you a favour, you should be the one giving me this thing”.

Then we kept doing it slowly and as we were doing it, luckily the songs and the music I was making was making a difference not just in the industry but in the pockets of the executive producers. At one point they were now naming the films after my music titles and there was a time I was making the music for all nollywood films.

We were not paid as much as John Williams will get paid for James Bond score. At least we were just happy that we were being appreciated. At that time it wasn’t really profitable because we barely got anything, we had to do it and do something else. And of course, there will be the owing factor, people will owe you and as time went on, our value.. the music became strong. Before people will buy movies, they will ask who did the music.

Stanley Okorie so when I realised I had this fish as a Naija guy , you go Dey add money so the pay was good but we weren’t really doing it for pay, we were doing it for the fulfilment. It made us proud, and it made our bank account a little happy.

Do you think you can ever create movies soundtracks again or are you working on any?
I will do it again happily with more wisdom with the same drive, determination with the same skill. Within the movie industry the realities are brutal and for years we were in the studio writing the songs. I will do it again, but maybe not as much. If I am doing it the second time, I will just relax.

What’s next for Stanley Okorie?
I am busy, seriously busy because I have this very close friend of mine who died not too long ago. He is a highlife legend . He said “No matter what you do, always have something else to do and apart from the music.” I am still in music. I released my album recently. It is called The Best of Stanley Okorie, and it is a collection of my soundtracks. I hope to make my own film, my own traditional African film soon. So, I look at the future and there is still so much to do.

In this article