By Mukosolu Nzom
Obumneme Ali a.k.a. Smash and Nwachukwu Ozioko a.k.a. Vast popularly known as Bracket are the rave of the moment in the Nigerian music scene. With hit tracks like Yori Yori, Ada Owerri, Muah Muah, among others, the group has become a household name across Africa. Showtime celebrity recently engaged them at their Lekki home in a lot of issues, including the secret behind their parting ways with their long time friend and colleague, Bishop.
What was your growing up like?
It wasn’t easy . First of all, we both have National Diploma and degrees from different institutions. Smash had a Diploma in Social Works and a degree in Psychology from the University of Nigeria Nsukka, while Vast had a Diploma and degree both in Mass Communication from IMT, Enugu.
Are you in anyway related or you are just friends?
We are not related in any way. But we grew up together in the university town of Nsukka. Smash’s dad used to work in UNN while Vast’s parents lived within the neigbourhood .Then, we used to attend the campus shows when we were in secondary school.
How did it all start?
Those days, we use to have tape recorder. And each time, our mums purchase all these christian cassettes, we usually use the cassettes to record the songs of some of the great musicians in those days such as 2pac, Michael Jackson and others. Our parents would be wondering if anything was wrong with us.
Sometimes, after listening to the music, we usually write down the lyrics and memorise them. Later, we would mime such songs at school shows alongside other aspiring rappers. It was during one of such shows that we came in contact. The rest is history.
You were three in your group. What happened to the third person?
It is a long story. Igwebuike Amobi a.k.a Bistop was with me (Vast) before Smash later joined us. We had some issues that made him to take his leave. It wasn’t our fault that he left the group.
According to reports, he alleged that you people connived with your manager to kick him out?
Nobody kicked him out. We read most of those allegations he leveled against us, even the claim that he was the one that composed almost all our songs including Yori Yori.
Was he actually the one who composed Yori Yori?
If he was the one who truly composed it for us, we could not have released another album, we will be waiting for him to come and compose it again for us. It is normal for people to say all sorts of things but for him not to be in the group is his fault and he knows it. No matter what he is telling anybody, deep inside his heart, he knows the truth and we all know the truth and God knows better.
He made mention of taking you guys to Ape planet?
He was not and doesn’t know Ape Planet from Adam. I (Smash) was in the same class with Ape Planet.He didn’t know him. He just cooked up the story.
What was the name of your record label then and now?
It was and it is still Ape Planet
We are still single but we are not getting any younger. Please oh! You should advise us to go and get married, all we need is gingering.
So, are you guys planning to get married soon?
We do love to get married and we believe that most artistes’ think about it and they look forward to getting married as well as thinking of where they will be in the next twenty five years. Is it with my kids or am I going to be doing something different? You might be the biggest artiste today, tomorrow you might not be. Artistes come and go, so we believe we must think about it too.
Why did you relocate?
Hmm….We don’t know o! But we relocated because of the nature of our job. Most parents complained that we disturb the neigbourhood. But its not as if where we are staying now do not have their rules but it is far. We have our studio here in our house but we couldn’t do it there because of the complaints and we do everything without anybody complaining again. We never said we must stay in Lekki. It was a friend that secured it for us.
Is there anybody like Mr Odor whom they said sponsored Happy Day?
Mr Odor? No! This is the first time we are hearing such name. If it’s Mr Nazy, he is our manager, and talking about sponsorship we got was from Ape Planet and from a man who wanted to work with the person who gave us ten thousand Naira which we used to book a section that we never made use of. However, the only spon sorship Happy Day got was from Ape Planet. Before then there was no name like Ape Planet and Bracket. It was then that the whole name was created.
Is it true that it was you guys who bought a jeep for Mr Nazy?
Well, Mr Nazy bought a car for himself on his birthday and we all celebrated along with him.
How was your show in Germany?
It was a very nice show because we get to meet people, people who have not been to Nigeria for a very long time. They are really enjoying it because they believe you are taking them back home. Some of them at the end of the day cried because your bring back lost sweet memories.
You use that medium to reach to our fans that are over there. It was an awesome show, you know Germany is big. We went to just a place and few places in Europe. When you talk of all these outside concerts like Europe, America, it is not as massive as those in African countries. Africans pay you well and they are the ones that show true love.
Your relationship with P-Square?
We are like brothers, we are very close. We visit them and the repeat the visit as well. We even planned spending this year’s Christmas with them but we are to have a show at Equatorial-Guinea on 24th and we are meant to come back the next day and their President’s son said that we still have to play another concert on 25th. Its so sad we are not going to spend our Christmas in Nigeria.
But you guys were not sighted in their mother’s burial?
Yea, we were not around, we were in Paris then. We visited them before the burial rites and they even advised most artistes not to come to their village because they don’t want crowd. Rather friends and sympathisers were encouraged to visit them at their Lagos home.
It was reported that you were unable to perform with live band in America
They will tell you to come with a live band. But they won’t pay you for it. That doesn’t make any sense. First of all, the contract we had was that we were coming with a band of nine, they said, sorry , we can’t afford to pay flight ticket for nine persons,rather both of you should just come, so, what do we do? Even if you were doing it without your instrumentals, you do more of accapela.
They can listen to you and we do that a lot. Just stopping the song and just singing your song with no instrumentals, the fans will follow you up. If they pay for live band, we call our band members but when they check the cost, they will say no. When we went to South America, they paid for live band. P-square went to Zimbabwe and everything they needed was there for them and that made the show a very nice one.
Is live band better?
Live band is good because people will love to see you sing but on the other hand, you still need room for performance. Most times, when you perform live, it gets bored in such a way that your audience would want to see you do a different thing on stage.
Your kind of music?
We call it Afro high-life because most Igbo music cuts across Africa. When you listen to most of our tracks, you will see that it is evolving from that place, just that we made it a little hip-hop but it is still high-life.
That’s why when they listen to it, it reminds them of those people and sometimes most of our songs sound like their own. Nigerian music industry is the biggest in Africa now.
Your track Yori-Yori whats the message behind it?
Yori Yori means sweetness. We weren’t just singing for a girl, our music appeals to everybody. Anything that is precious to you is your Yori Yori. Your television set can be your Yori Yori.
The yori yori and its remix are not really saying the same thing?
Yes. That why it is called a remix because you have to pass a different message. After recording the track, it wasn’t meant to be called yori yori. After doing it in the studio, the name of the track was meant to be “remember” but before we knew it, it has already been mixed in Alaba. It leaked and they gave it that name yori yori remix.
Why most of your tracks have love theme?
Nigerians don’t understand the meaning of love because if they do, they will surely show it in their day-to -today dealing with their fellow Nigerians.
We mostly do love songs but that does not mean mean that we don’t do other songs. Just like P-square and 2face, we use our songs to preach love and understanding among Nigerians.we give people encouragement through our music.
Let’s know some of the African countries you guys have staged shows apart from Ivory Coast?
We have performed in Sierra-Leone, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda and so many other countries that we can’t remember now.
The dream of most emerging Nigerian musicians is to break into international market. Are you having such notion?
Whatever we are doing we are doing it for our international audience. Let’s see how it goes by God’s grace. For now, we are targeting African audience. It is only Africa that will take one across borders.
Can you give example of a local music?
Yori yori is a good example, when it came out, people were like what is Yori Yori again? People said all sorts of rubbish about the song but at the end of the day it sold out.
Which western artiste will you people like to collaborate with?
Michael Jackson or 2pac if they were alive but since they are dead we are thinking of plan B.