Rising music star, Emeka Achulonu with the stage name, Emmy Cliff a.k.a. Igolo 1, has hit the Nigerian music scene with his maiden album ‘Suggar’, an eight-track highlife/bongo music fully-packed with thought-provoking lyrics and laced with hyper thrilling rhythm. Former banker and graduate of Mass Communication from the Imo State University Owerri, Emmy Cliff in this chat with Peter Uzoho, talks about his maiden album, his entry into music, amongst other sundry issues. Excerpts:
You launched your maiden music album a couple of weeks ago. What can you tell us about it?
Yes, my album, ‘Suggar’, was launched on Saturday, April 13, 2019 at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos, in full glare of some notable musicians in Nigeria, members of my family and friends, teeming fans and lovers of good music. It is my first album and contains eights beautiful tracks. It’s only audio but I hope to make it audio-visual as time goes on. ‘Suggar’ which is the title of the album is actually the name of the first song in the album, so I had to go with it because of the power of the message. The album is a fusion of Highlife and Bongo genre. I try to use my songs to pass certain message about life, to encourage good deeds and discourage evil ones. I try to use my music to criticise the ills in the society and encourage anybody that is doing good. I try to pass a message of encouragement. Of course, the encouragement is that for you to make it in life, you don’t have to follow the fast lane and die on it rather, you have to take things bit by bit, and be appreciative of whatever God has done for you so far. You also need to be appreciative of the fact that there are people that you are better off, no matter the condition you find yourself presently. So, basically, it’s an album of advice–praising good deeds and discouraging evil deeds.
Where did you get the inspiration to write the songs?
You see, I’ve been into music for a long time, even right from when I was in Primary school. This is something I do effortlessly and it gives me joy. You know, when new idea comes in, you try to sing something on it; you try to develop it and make it a danceable song and most importantly, a meaningful one at that. You know some people sing songs and at the end of the day you don’t see any unit of idea or meaningful message in it but, I try to use my music to pass across a message. In the album there is a particular track I called ‘Amuru onye n’ego.’ One particular evening, I was watching TV in the parlour it just came on me like: why is it that some people will just sit down at home, they’re not doing any work, they’re not hustling or singing at any occasion or doing anything they can lay their hand on but, they will be by the corner analysing those who are hustling to make ends meet. You will see a full grown young man talking about one big man’s life. To him, it’s a mirage to see someone riding about four to five cars. To him, that’s unimaginable. As far as he is concern, the person is into rituals or such kind of devilish way of making wealth.
So each time you meet this kind of person he will be telling you all sorts of discouraging things about big men but, to hustle, he doesn’t want. So for that reason, each time you ask him: how are you doing? He will simply answer you: “Ihe esiela ike, meaning: things are hard. But on top of that ‘things are hard’, people are still marrying, people are building houses, people are training their children but, you don’t want to do anything.
Your own is just to castigate those who have found themselves doing one thing or the other. So I try to pass a message with all of that.
If you listen to the album from A-Z, every single track has a unit of idea and a message which you can learn something from. So, when I look at things around our society today I try to make something out of it, either to advise or to encourage people or to rekindle that hope in people so that they know that if you do something the right way and believe in God, someday, you are going to reap from it.
You were once a banker but now you are into music. What influenced that decision?
Actually, I didn’t leave banking, rather I was laid off just because I was not meeting target. I was working in the marketing department. For me, I found out the hard way that everybody must not end up in the office. Some people are called to do different things. So for me, I will just say that music and entertainment is my calling and it has been a long time I started singing music. So when I had issue with the bank I had to go back to my music which is what I know how to do best. I decided that I don’t have to start writing applications afresh. It made me to now give my music more time and attention, and that is the reason why I have an album today. If you know the hustle and hassle one has to go through in the banking sector–you go to work by 5:30am, you come back by dusk, and when you are back you are totally exhausted; you don’t even have the time again to even think about any other thing. So, for me, leaving the banking sector just gave me a leeway and more time to pay more attention to my music, and today I have content.
Today, the Nigerian music industry is well saturated with established acts who have already garnered enormous fan base. Now, you are entering the industry, how do you think you will be able to survive?
You see, there is a popular saying that ‘a good product sells itself.’ In Igbo Language it is translated as ‘ahia oma n’ere onwe ya.’ So, all you need to do to survive in this music business is to have a good content. If you have a good message in your album, people who are upright in thinking and in their judgement will see that your message and content are outstanding. That way, you will garner yourself some fans. So that’s it: once you have a good job, honestly speaking, the good job will speak for itself because, definitely, people will have to listen and when they listen and it makes meaning to them, it begins to circulate.
You are a young guy entering the music industry; one would have thought that you will be going into Hip hop or Afro music, instead you decided to go into Highlife and Bongo. What informed your decision?
Well, it’s a thing of choice. First of all, I am versatile in this business. I have done some collabos with some guys who are into R&B. Actually, I have two collabos and I have some Hip hop tracks that I am recording as well but, I pay more attention to Bongo and Highlife. Today, if you talk about people like Victor Uwaifor, Majek Fashek, Dr. Sir Warrior, Osadebe, Oliver de Coque and the rest of them, you will understand that they made name for themselves.
I respect all these big guys who are into Hip hop and all of that, I’m into that as well. And more importantly, one has to be proud of where he is coming from. I am an Igbo guy from Imo State and our culture and tradition should be upheld by someone. So if we begin to copy Americans and the English, our own culture will die, nobody will talk about them. So it’s better someone does something in that line. Even though you want to do something about Hip pop but just make sure that cultural and traditional music does not die during your own era.
Who are your backup singers?
I have the likes of Nwa Enugu, Sharpbeat, and many other guys and we work together in the studio. I like performances as well. I am blessed with guys who have talent; people like Engr. Bruno who is my boss was the producer and when he left, Sharpbeat took over. Whenever we go for stage performance, Sharpbeat is my keyboardist and when we go back to the studio, he becomes a backup singer and producer. So I have guys who are versatile in the music business and we are good.
You just talked about your producer, why did you settle for him to do justice to your work?
For better understanding, Sharpbeat is my producer. He took over from engr. Bruno when he left for US. We met at Bruno’s office way back in 2012, even when I was still a student at the Imo State University. So as we were all learning and having our recording sessions and all of that I just saw something extraordinary about Sharpbeat. And he made me understand that he is a rare breed when it comes to production skills and in playing keyboard. He was able to learn from engr. Bruno and he learnt very well. So when engr. Bruno was not around I would have confidence in him as someone who will first of all listen to me critically; and when he does any beat for me I’m sure he is going to give me the best. So based on that framing, I think Sharpbeat is the best producer for me.
So now that you have launched your album, how are you going about the marketing?
So far so good, I have my songs playing in several radio stations in Imo State, like Heartland FM, My Radio FM, and Darling FM. Right now I am in talking terms with some presenters in Bond FM here in Lagos. So I just want to be publicising it. Music business is one big business that you have to invest a lot of capital before you can start making money from it. So we are in the promotion and publicity stage now and we are moving it gradually. We are dropping links for download so that if you want my songs you can find them online. Right now, engr. Bruno has an internet radio station in US called ‘Ichaka Radio.’ It was launched recently. So with that too, if anybody asks for the link I give him straight off. My songs have been playing in Ichaka Radio in US. So the promotion is being made worldwide. I want to be known all over for what I do and for my own style of music. So the promotion is ongoing. We are trying, it’s a gradual process and we believe we will get there.
Who among the Highlife musicians are your role models?
There are a lot of them but coming to the East, I will say Dr. Sir Warrior, Osita Osadebe, Majek Fashek, Victor Uwaifo. Coming to the Hip hop world I have people like 2face Idibia. These people use their music to send messages to restore sanity to the society. Through their songs they help to ameliorate certain things that are going wrong in the society. These are artists who are not really after the money but the impact they want to make on the society. But that notwithstanding, everybody is doing a good job in the industry.