By Sam Eyoboka
OBUKOOHWO Dezalee was born on Lagos but grew up in his home state of Delta where he studied Geography at the Delta State University, Abraka.
Known today as Obus Zalee, the youngman discovered his gift in the entertainment industry very early and in collaboration with two others, formed a gospel band known as DC Envoys performing songs in Urhobo and pidgin English, besides being members of the Word of Life Bible Church’s Milk and Honey Choir.
In a recent interview with the writer of the Welu Welu song, confirmed that comedy is synonymous with Warri, saying; “I’m a comedian; I’m the bishop of music and comedy. I’m a singer, I’m a fashion personality.” He is into the training of youngsters in the industry and has actually perfected plans to host annual talent hunt for the entertainment industry.
Why did you abandon Geography for entertainment?
I actually did not leave it. Geography is my course, but my passion is music. So when I discovered that I love music and I studied Geography, I decided to apply geographical music. I call it regional music. For example, when you go up north, the kind of songs we sing here intrigues them.
When we sing a northern song down south here, it intrigues them. You don’t really carry them along; they wonder where you come from. A Yoruba boy came to Warri and was singing Urhobo songs, “we come dey look am dey laugh.” We were surprised, it was amusing. People will want to know more about where you come from. But for us who grew up understanding that geographical music has a way of influencing things for people. We started looking at the good side of it.
So is this geography in music or music in geography?
There’s music in geography and there’s geography in music. What I did was to make sure I didn’t waste the years I studied geography. So, I now brought the education of music into geography and took the best out of it. Now that I’m in Yoruba land, if I want to sing, I will sing in my dialect and in Pidgin English. When I sing in Urhobo, they won’t understand, but when I sing in pidgin, they’ll understand because I’m communicating in pidgin English but with my dialectic rhythm. I’ve transported the geography of Delta South to Lagos. That’s why the song Welu Welu was well understood.
I understand you were into a band, DC Envoys. Can you talk about it?
It started 27 years ago. DC Envoys was a great group. We read the Bible in Pidgin English. We’ll read the English Bible and translate it in pidgin. Like they said Jacob was sleeping and the angel was going around and suddenly they started wrestling. I would translate it into Warri language, Jacob dey lay one day, he dey sleep, small time nai gbege just start, he just dey rack. Immediately dem wake am, na only him just dey fight the person. You know say na only trouble maker dey fight person when dem wake am up. So we try to now bring the context of the bible from English to our traditional language. If you can read the white man’s language, understand their scripts and translate it in your own local dialect, it becomes more effectual. We started DC Envoys in Word of Life Bible Church under Papa Ayo Oritsejafor. We were discovered by Pastor Leo. For two years, we were rehearsing acapella. We were one of the most versatile groups in the 90s and we grew and started singing round the country. They called us the most traveled group without an album. Songs like Wellu Wellu, Jump and Pass came from us. People like Ifeanyi and Sammie Okposo copyrighted us. We grew with the fulfillment of being a group that comes from a supposedly dark region and brought light to the place, because people now embrace our cultural music. It was just like magic. Many of our fathers in music started dancing and behaving like us. It was really contagious.
Who were the members?
Myself Obus Zalee, Gordons who is hugely in comedy now and Festus. We were all members of the Milk and Honey Choir. We called it the Tadita gospel, you dey look am, e dey enter; before you know, e don hold you. It was progressive and really impressive. When Victor Oladokun spoke with us, he told us to do our own keyboard because we tell them the tones we produced were Greek language, Urhobo Greek. We were together for 16 years.
And how come you didn’t release any album?
We did three albums. We stayed committed to the church; we stayed committed to our locality. We believed that if God doesn’t speak, we won’t move. We re-leased three albums. The first one had songs like Who get ear make e hear oh. The second one was the one Sammie Okposo pirated, Wellu Wellu, a song of excitement. We had an accident where the car somer-saulted four times, and when we regained consciousness, we couldn’t think of any word to quantify God than to say Jesus I thank you wellu wellu. It says Wetin you do for me dey make body dey sweet me. That was what Victor Oladokun heard in America and he came to meet us that he needs us to produce the song. We actually did it together with Sammie Okposo, and then the song came out. But there was a little delay, and Sammie released his own in Lagos. So the law of first impression …because we were from that small city, somebody who has a media here, so it blew beyond proportion. But we’ve resolved it.
Believe you me; I have close to 900 songs. Personally I have released three albums. DC Envoys had three albums. The visibility which is killing talents in the kingdom today; was not there. If we have a platform that caters for the young, there’ll not be gap, the bridge will be beautiful. The young ones are fantastic; they are even better than some of us. You just need to rub of your character on them for consistency because to be famous is possible, but to manage fame is only possible with God.
What do you do now?
I do comedy, I do music. But purpose is bigger than that. Comedy and music are just a means to an end. Until a man discovers his purpose, he will become an unambitious, aim-less wanderer.
I discovered that God has called me to take my story and replicate His purpose or interpret His purpose by helping younger ones not to go through the same pain that I went through. DC Envoys were denied, we were deprived. There’s a lot of denial and de-privation in the music industry. I don’t think children should go through that.
My concern is the kingdom, the Church. We have so many churches in Niger-ia, how come 90 per cent of the children who go to reality shows are from the Church and the Church is not doing anything for them? We have so many churches with talents, how come such talents are playing in night clubs and not in the churches?
Which means there is a misfit. When I say the Church, I mean myself because I am a representation of the Church. God keeps saying if you discover a fault, you are the one who perhaps has the capacity to resolve it. So I said well let me sink my life into this. So we started a club called the Christian Talent Club, CTC.
It’s a group comprising of like minds pursuing stardom without loosing their core values. So we said since not everyone likes the word Christian Talent Club, but our lifestyles reflect excellen-ce, so we created a plat-form where every Niger-ian youth can take a stand. If you have it, take the stand, if you don’t have it, take the stand.
By the time you take the stand we will know. But if you don’t have it and you want us to help you get into the CTC, we’ll now begin to teach you the routines of music, of comedy, of fashion, of films.
I’m an actor as well as a bead maker, craft. Any gifting you have, identify it. What we do is get you to different depart-ments, we come together and we hear the contents, they give us the right character. They say character will make sure you don’t go down.
So character is the missing link. That’s why a secular artiste will sing a song and open his whole body, and will wear boxer showing it for people to see, it’s not a trad-ition. That’s a backward move-ment.
So we want to see how we can raise people with core values, with proper ethics, their value for humanity for the talent that they have is well balanced. We have unbalanced talents right now; 80% of our songs don’t have a direction. They just sing what they want to sing and the beat is there, and everybody starts dancing.
We carried out a research, 67 per cent of the church youths play secular music at weddings and the rest. The character is what I measure, let’s have moral people. What kind of nation will we be having two years from now?