Debonair, delightful and distinctive; smashing in his white dress shirt, unbottoned at the top, with a chain adorning his neck and a baggy trousers, he cuts the figure of an accomplished superstar. His stage presence is undeniable; with a wave of the hand, the crowd bellowed in excitement. He smiles, flashing his sparkling white teeth. The crowd chorus in ecstasy, “Love me jeje, love me tender!” Then they add, “You’re my sugar, my honey, my tender lover!” He holds out a mic to them to sing the refrain again. Then slowly, assuredly and tenderly he rocks the mic to the delight of the crowd. His sweet, caressing voice wafts through the calm air, serenading the ecstatic throng. As the crowd ask for more, he begins to wax even more lyrical. With Seyi Sodimu, love is constantly in the air. The Afro soul singer and songwriter has performed alongside Wyclef Jean, Ginuwine and collaborated with reggae star Wayne Wonder. The former United States-based singer who returned to Nigeria and has recently released a remix of his evergreen song, ‘Love Me Jeje’ featuring American R&B singer K. Michelle. He speaks with Azuka Ogujiuba about his music career, family and business
Love Me Jeje remix with K Michelle has got over 90, 000 YouTube views since its release some days ago, how does that make you feel?
I am equally as amazed as some people are, and to think I really did not want to do the remix. I was kind of ‘ambushed’ into doing it. So now I agree with my team that the song came before its time. Well, the song is back, perhaps now that it will be appreciated by a wider audience.
What are the new things infused into the Love Me Jeje remix?
If you have heard the original version that was like an anthem back in the day, and you listen to this new version, the things infused into it hit you straight away. That is why I want people to go online and listen to it and let us hear the feedback which will make us know if we got it right or not.
What do you plan to do with this song?
It is part of other songs that will make up a full album scheduled for release this year.
You have been off the music scene for more than 15 years. Where have you been?
I have been around. I moved to Nigeria about eight years ago. I went to the US in 1985; I was a kid then. It was really hard to detach (myself from the States), get up and come back home. But now, I have a house in Nigeria and I also have a house in Washington DC.
So you just left music after Love me Jeje
I have been doing music behind the scene. I funded some artistes in Nigeria here that you would not know about and I may not tell you. I have been recording, I have raised two kids and I also invested in real estate. I built a school called Hopesville International School in Nigeria about two years ago. I asked my wife what she wanted and she said she wanted to build her own school. I see that project as one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. She supported my music. So I had to support her. But then, I still record music, I have not left music in the real sense.
Are you fully back home now?
Yes, I am. But I travel a lot like any other person. It is a global economy now. I am here 70 per cent of my time. But in summer, I am not usually here. I take off that time to spend the holidays with my kids. Children grow up so fast these days. My greatest achievement is my children. They are the ones I will leave everything I have for, so they deserve that time I spend with them.
You left the Nigerian music scene when the ovation was loudest. What happened?
As you grow older, your priorities change. When I did Love Me Jeje, the structure was not there. It wasn’t even profitable at that point. I was in the US when I released that song. I came home and released it here and I went back. Till today, I still get royalties from that song in the US; I can’t say that for Nigeria. You have to do music when you can give it your full attention. I cannot release a song every month like some artistes do. For me, music has to be evergreen. It wasn’t as if I planned to leave but it was just the nature of what I was doing at that time.
But if you had released another hit even if it was three or four years after, you may have still been much known now or don’t you think so?
You are right. But look at artistes like Adele, she releases a song and goes away for like five years. When you reach a level of success, you have to be able to enjoy life. Asa does same thing. My gap has been a little bit more because of the fact that sometimes I release a single in the US or London and I don’t bring it back home.
When did you become a professional musician?
It is a passion. If you have desire to do music, nothing will stop you. I finished college and I decided to take voice lessons. There was a fire inside of me. I have never regretted it.
Can you in any way leave music for something else?
That’s a very big question because most times, you can’t leave music until music leaves you. I try to do what I know how to do best. In this life, it is very good to diversify in so many ways. Look at most international celebrities, they delved into so many businesses, but they never left what they are known for. Puff Daddy is there; 50 Cent is there; Jennifer Lopez and the likes have some other things they do that keep them busy, at the same time still doing their music – because that is what they are known for.
So it will be hard for me to leave music. Look at King Sunny Ade, look at Onyeka Onwenu, Ebenezer Obey and the likes, they are still active in what they do which is music. So, it’s very difficult to see someone that knows music to leave it for no reason.
So aside music, what else do you venture into?
We just finished a very massive international school around Agboju side; that was my wife’s dream. Her dream was to own an international school where she can teach and impart knowledge to children. The reason why we put the school in that area is because most of these big international schools are usually located at Lekki, Banana Island, Gbagada and the likes. Children around Agboju too can enjoy the same facilities others are enjoying out there. In fact, the children are even enjoying themselves because of the international standard, and they are happy that their proprietor is a young and vibrant woman who knows what it takes to run a school.
And so far, I never knew it was profitable in the long run. It’s a good thing when you want to bring good things to people, doing what brings you joy and at the same time making profit from it. There is nothing more interesting than that.
What do you think Nigerian musicians are not doing right?
Nigerian musicians need to understand that churning out almost 10 albums in one year is not the best. The thing is, these guys feel they are competing with one another in the sense that when this one drops an album, the other party wants to drop his own too. By doing that they end up singing songs that is not worth the stress and that can stand the test of time. Look at most of the evergreen songs you know, of Paul Play, Sunny Nneji, and the likes. If they had rushed like that, they wouldn’t have done a good song. So for me, it’s better I take my time to do what I know will make people remember me for long.