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Abass Akande OBESERE - Xclusive Interview
Abass Akande Adeniyi (A.K.A Obesere) used to be a boxer. Later he became a printer. Then he tried his hands in electronic business. But it was in music that he finally found his feet. And since then he has never looked back. Peter Anny-Nzekwue traced Obesere to his posh residence in Swords, Dublin, Ireland. He spoke humbly and frankly about his music, his new romance with Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), his age-long feud with K1 De Ultimate, his recent brushes with the law in Belfast. Everything. Well, almost everything because he is currently cooking something with his God and he doesn’t want you to know about it, yet.
Obesere Your full names are Abass Akande Adeniyi, so where did the name Obesere come from?
Obesere is a stage name. It came because a lot of people see me as a funny guy when it comes to entertainment.

Can you remember exactly how the name originated?
My fans gave the name to me, and that was about 17 years ago.

Can you tell us little about your background?
Obesere is a native of Ibadan, but was brought up in Lagos. I went to St Paul Primary School Ebute Metta then to Jubril Martins Secondary School 3 (it was later changed to Iponri Grammar School) Ebute Metta.

We understand that you once had a career as a boxer and a printer, can you tell us how life was then?
In this life there must be one or two processes everyone must go through before getting to his destiny. Yes, I was once into boxing. But after a while I discovered that boxing was not for me. Then I wanted to be a printer - All these were when I was still in school. I made sure that I did not let anything in my life to waste. I went to school in the morning, and after school I went for my printing job. Again I realized printing was not for me. I tried my hands in electronics business. I see myself as a hustler. I never depended on anybody. While trying my hands in these different professions, I was also singing. And a lot of people felt that I should concentrate fully in music. They said I had a good voice, and that anytime I was singing I attracted a lot of attention. I was advised to gather myself together and face music full time. That was how I went into music full time. Apart from that, I was born into the home of music. I'm a born musician. My late uncle was a well known musician. My late grandfather was also a musician. Music runs in my family. It is not something I learnt. It came to me naturally.

We understand that one Fatai Akanbi Valentine, a musician based in Newark, is related to you?
He is my blood brother. There are two others, my immediate younger brother and the one next to Valentine. They are all into music and they are all doing well.

You said earlier that people who heard you sing actually urged you to go into music. Can you tell us exactly when you went into music full time?
That was in 1978. I was with Alhaji Tatalo Alamu. I was in his band for some years.

That was in Ibadan or Lagos?
That was in Lagos. I was with him from 1979-81 before I started my own band.

So you actually started your own band in 1981?

Why did you leave Alhaji Alamu to start up your own band? Was it just the feeling that you could do it on your own or that you were forced to leave because of one problem or the other?
Whenever I went on show with him a lot of people wanted me to sing. Most of the time also, when we went on shows, within 2 hours he would hand over the microphone to me and I would sing all night. People who thought I was good enough to stand on my own then encouraged me.

Being an important figure in Alhaji Alamu's band, one has this feeling that it would be difficult for you to disengage without a fight. Was the parting peaceful or very acrimonious?
There wasn't any problem before or after I left his band.

So you can say sincerely that he was very happy about it.
I think so. Though I cannot say if he was very happy about it. Though he is late now, he showed me some love.

You are well known and often branded as King of Lewd lyrics with omorapa, tosibe, asakasa, aratooto, abassido etc. Why does Obesere sing dirty?
To that I will simply say that people like to criticize. When you sing good things instead of people to come and say good things, they will never. Whatever you do, once you know that you are doing the best and the right thing, and you are satisfied with it, just go ahead and do it. Don't let anybody discourage you.

But we are talking about the words in your song; most times they are full of obscenities…
My music is very, very different from what people have been playing before I came out. A lot of people appreciate my music, but there are still those who criticize. To me if there is no criticism there won't be progress. It is from these criticisms that you decide on where to make amends and the direction to follow. Having said that, these people that are criticizing me, where were they when I was not singing? At least you were at the party where I played all through the night yesterday. The songs I sang there were different from the type of songs I will sing, say in a musical concert. There is no kind of occasion that I cannot handle.

But I still want to get this issue trashed out. When people say lewd lyrics they are probably referring to x-rated words you use, the sexual talks and all that. What exactly are those things you say in your music that people find lewd?
There is no fuji musician that has not sung lewd songs. Sunny Ade Sang about things like that before. So also did Shina Peters.

Like Sex?
Yes, if you can go back and listen to some of their songs. All I can say is let's thank God. Whatever you are doing and you achieve a lot of things and people know you are still there, being a star, give thanks to God. That is the way God wants it.

From what you are saying you wouldn't like to be classified as a musician who sing dirty.
I don't sing dirty.

Sometime in April 2005, we read in the papers that you wanted to build a new image and that you were going clean with clean songs. Is there any change from the way you used to sing and the way you sing now?
I said this before, I'm a professional musician. Since I started singing there is no kind of song that I have not sang. I sing about naming ceremony, a lot of sensitive songs that people can listen to, but just because these “asakasa” lyrics brought me out that is what people are seeing. Some of them don't bother to listen to my other songs. Even when I release a new song, some would always say the “asakasa” is always there instead of them to sit and listen to the entire album. There must be something that should be useful to all ages and categories of people. But now they are seeing some changes in the way I play and sing because I want them to know that it's not only “asakasa” that I can sing. I can sing other songs that other people can listen to and it would be danceable.

Talking about criticism, earlier this year, in March to be precise, there was this story in the papers that you were arrested and detained in Belfast over an alleged currency related offence. How true was the story? Can you throw more light on this?
I was never detained.

But there was such an incident.
I think that what happened then was that one of my enemies went to report that I deal on drugs and when I was coming in the immigration stopped me and checked my bag, and they saw some money with me. I had to explain to them that I am a musician and I that I earned the money through music. They had to do their investigation and at the end of the day they found out that I was not into drugs and that I worked for the money. Even that period some people where spreading rumour that I could not come into Ireland anymore. Let's give thanks to God.

But did this incident lead to your being detained for a period of time?
Nothing like that happened.

Everything happened that day and ended that same day?
Yes. I'm not a criminal.

Still talking about the Nigerian press and some negative stories they carry about you. Sometime ago in 2005, there was also this speculations that your marriage was about to hit the rocks because your wife discovered that you were having an extra-marital affairs with a female politician. How did you manage to rescue the situation seeing you are still happily living with your wife?
That was a rumour. Nothing like that ever happened.

How would you describe your relationship with the Nigerian press: cordial or very combative?
The press people are my friends. But you know everybody cannot be your friend. If everyone is your friend you cannot make progress. You must have enemies. All you have to hope for is to have 80 or 90 percent of the people as your friends. Your enemies can be just an insignificant 10 percent. The press people are very loyal to me and I am very loyal to them. Whatever they ask me I tell them the truth. At the same time, whenever they hear anything about me they always give me a call to find out the true situation. I will always tell them the truth, but there must be an enemy.

To read the rest of Obesere's interview Purchase this issue.

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