By Ebun Babalola
Prince Elvin Allam Bloo is a comedian and musician. He began his incursion into the world of comedy as a high school student. Although he was more inclined towards the music businessÂ where he made his name, he has since abandoned the profession that gave him fame to embrace his second love, comedy.
In this interview with our correspondent Ebun Babalola, Allam Bloo who would not hesitate to tell you that being born into a polygamous family could kill the dream of a child opens up on his life and career as a musician and comedian. Excerpts:
What was growing up like?
I was born into a polygamous family by a late police officer. In those days, policing was a respectable job. Government supplied everything the police needed and there was no corruption. I went to a boarding school but my father died when I was in my final year in secondary school, in 1979. And when he died, life made a 360 degree- turn around.
That was when I had a taste of what the tough side of life was really like.Â The situation was even made more difficult because my father had three other wives and there was no way the left over would have gone round fairly.
Being on your own became the other of the day as the children went apart. But I thank God that we are coming together now.
Didnâ€™t he leave a will for his children and wives?
My father was like an Iroko tree. He trained almost everybody. He held the title, Olotu, yet when he died,Â his children were neglected by family members. My brother, we all suffered.
And what happened to your mum?
When my father died, my motherâ€™s life crashed . Everything came to a stand still. My father had been everything in her life and unlike the older wives who were established, she was largely unsettled when he died.
Another thing that followed the death of my father was that his childrenÂ adopted their mothersâ€™ different maiden names.
There was no unity. But right now, my elder brother (by my fatherâ€™s first wife) has taken up the task of uniting everyone now. And I must confess that he has done pretty well so far.
Have you reverted to your fatherâ€™s original names?
Not really. As a matter of fact, he advised that we donâ€™t bear his surname and that is why itâ€™s easy for the children to bear whatever name pleases them. While some bear my grandfatherâ€™s name, others chose to stick to their mothersâ€™ maiden names. But one of my brothers is bearing my fatherâ€™s first name.
And how did you come up with the name Allambloo?
â€˜Allamâ€™ means Almighty and the â€˜blooâ€™ is a like a vibration. I discovered that whenever I talk at a gathering, it stirs up excitement in people. So, I concluded that itâ€™s only God that is working for me. I was into comedy but was later swept into music.
Comedy is a hobby and it comes naturally. So, I developed myself. Although, I had reason to continue doing comedy because I loved it,Â I never took up it as a serious business.
Music was my focus because people like Chris Okotie, Felix Leberty, Sunny Okosuns, I.K Dairo, King Sunny Ade, to mention a few, were musicians of high reputation. Their songs inspired and helped to transform lives.Â So, I picked up interest in music.
So, when I retired from my teaching job, I joined a band called Funk Ministers and it was there I found Mike Okri.
We were together in that band as back-up singers. And eventually I became a lead singer and that was in 1982.
And in 1984, I became a professional musician. To safeguard my future, that is in case music and comedy failed me, I enrolled into the College of Education, Warri. When Mike Okri came up with his Concert Fever album idea, I followed him to Lagos where we met Fortune Otega, one of the greatest producers in the country.
He advised me not to release any album since I was still in school. But that I should join Mike Okri because I was a song writer as well as a musician. He said it was better to learn from his fault so as to become a better musician.
I did my best to support Mike and helped him become an incredible musician. I gave him some of my songs and this helped launch him into stardom. I contributed to the success of the hit songs Rhumba Dance and Opeke. The word Opeke means aÂ beautiful African woman that has special gifts. That is the beautiful, the thick, the intelligent and naturally endowed woman.
So, you are one of the musicians that started the new trend of lewd and vulgar songs?
My song tells more of the qualities of women. My songs are not vulgar. Women are the most precious gifts on earth that God created. And because God used the best part in a man to create them, women are our best companions.
Unfortunately, most men cannot recognise a good woman when they see one. They would rather value those who go about flaunting their backsides.
What does comedy mean to you?
To us, comedy was like hobby. It wasnâ€™t something that anyone thought could bring food on his table. Then, we derived our jokes from the happenings around. Itâ€™s the real world and nothing more. Itâ€™s the occurrences, issues that you see and bring to book.
One of the biggest deals I got today came from comedy. And it was a joke I cracked on one of the Directors in an oil company, precisely Texaco. My joke saved him from an unforgettable shame that would have happened to him.
The man was in a traffic jam and it was during one of those fuel scarcity crisis period. I perceived that the man was pressed but he couldnâ€™t express himself because of who he was. Although, he was in an air conditioned car, yet, he pulled off his tie and was looking worried. And because a similar thing has happened to me in Ajegunle, I quickly rushed out of my car and went to him.
Jokingly, I said, â€œSir, you better get out of that car and go to that Mallam. Get yourself a nylon bag and go to the back of that bank where there is a â€œPost No Billâ€ signÂ and post the bill inside that nylon bag. Buy a full toilet roll, and fill the nylon with the tissue paper, and then carry it, as if you are coming out of the bank.
Moment later as the man emerged holding unto his parcel, this Okada man from nowhere snatched the nylon bag from the man. The man fell on the ground and both of us burst into laughter. People never knew what went wrong but we knew and that was why the man was saved from his shame.
The man collected my business card and thatâ€™s how I got the deal. That was my permanent joke. I invented â€˜ the rich manâ€™s cry, poor manâ€™s cryâ€™. And that can be seen in the first edition of â€œNight of a thousand laughâ€ in Unilag of those days. For me, jokes come so easily, especially when Iâ€™m at a function. I get my jokes from happenings around.
And comedy has suddenly become a refuge for anybody…
It is a pity that everybody is now seeking solace in comedy, including the riff raff. I spoke with Alli Baba about the project Iâ€™m working on, making him know why we should not encourage indiscipline, especially those who use the platform of comedy for abuse. And where we can go and look for originality in comedy.
And that there is need to monitor and effect discipline in people so as not to look stupid before the society. A time will come when people will have to be screened you before they crack jokes. Because some comedians are used to insulting people.
Letâ€™s digress a bit. What does comedy mean to the Warri people and why do you think comedians like using the Warri accent?
It is because the Warri people have made pidgin language convenient for everyone, in such a way that everybody can be familiar with it.Â The other reason is that most of the comedians are from Warri.
Unfortunately, people have used the same comedy to destroy the same Warri. And as a result, Warri people have been tagged the worst citizens in the country. It is too bad and it is a wrong notion. Warri people are the best.
They are not radical people. The frustration of the Niger Delta area has turned many people into comedians. Instead of carrying arms, they rather subscribe to entertainment.
With your comic background, you still moved on to music?
My comedy as at that time was fun. It wasnâ€™t anything serious. But I concentrated on music believing that there was something in it for me.Â I joined a band and became a back-up singer and from then, I was able to learn music. Unlike now, most musicians donâ€™t want to be back-up singers.
Maybe, they donâ€™t have what it takes to become a back-up singer?
Itâ€™s good to learn the rudiments of music as a back-up singer. You must learn to sing effectively so as to experience the keys in a song. Most musicians donâ€™t know the key they are singing on.
So, you studied music?
Not really. But I was able to learn the discipline by reading books on music. Singing is the greatest instrument in the world and that is why it takes the voice to know the particular key, and that is how one can be able to sing good songs.
If not, you will not be able to do hard-lips, refrains, harmony in music. Artists must learn some basic things in instrumentals.
You werenâ€™t a popular face.
Nothing good comes easy. If you were fortunate to come out, thank God for your life. But I hadÂ songs that were appreciated, especially my popular song but it was pirated in Ghana. A Ghanian man was responsible but at the end he was caught and jailed.
You said you were frustrated in the music world. Was that the reason why you couldnâ€™t go any further in it?
I was frustrated but I think it was as a result of complexity. Sony music realised that I did Opeke, and other songs that I wrote were acknowledged to be one of the best. Part of the songs that I released was â€œRe-make the Worldâ€ and it was a song that everybody was able to relate with.
So, what went wrong?
I couldnâ€™t get any support. I was left all alone, until some group of friends came to my rescue.Â The album that I launched then had the support of my friends, if not, it would have been a total loss. But it wasnâ€™t wasted because the kind of stuff I have in stock now cannot be compared with any other one. By the time they are released, it will go a long way. Delay is never denial.
But you had the likes of King Sunny Ade who could have used his influence on your life?
Sunny Ade was very kind to me. But he was very busy. The first money that was given to me to balance up my profession came from King Sunny Ade. He gave me a N150,000 cheque. That money really had an impact in my life. That is why Iâ€™m grateful to him till date. He encouraged me with the some other artists too.
Unfortunately, he cannot do everything at once because both of us werenâ€™t into the same kind of music. If not, he would have supported me more.
Every other man who made it, including Ras Kimono, Majek Fashek suffered. When I was doing back-up artist, Majek Fashek was going to studio to do his own music.
YouÂ were part of those who composed the Nigeria â€˜99 song. How much did you realise from it?
People were paid well. All the artists that performed in Nigeria â€˜99 were well taken care of.Â But it is a pity that Sunny Adeâ€™s â€œMake we work for better Nigeriaâ€ couldnâ€™t have the kind of support we were expecting from the government. Sunny Ade spent money to make sure that the song came through but the government of this country couldnâ€™t buy into that music and make it one of the best songs in Nigeria. I was expecting Nigerian government to support Sunny Ade.
And it was also an added advantage for you?
Of course. And from there, I was discovered. The man that also gave me an opportunity was Tony Okoroji, the then PMAN President. He gave me the opportunity to be one of the first comedians to perform on flight.
I was entertaining people on board ADC airline on our way to the award Night in Abuja, Nicon Nuga Hilton, during the time of IBB, and that was the greatest award done in Africa. Another one was on Nigeria Airways and I was bringing all comedians to perform on the flight.
What are you doing presently?
I have a project called â€œLaugh Nigeriaâ€. The purpose of the project is to help the helpless, talented youths to re-channel their energies into creative work, instead of destroying things in the society.Â It has been a five year- research on the lives of the teeming youths, just as I went through, some years ago,Â when nobody could help me. It is a weapon to stop bad government. It is also a way to correct the nation and the leaders.
What method do you intend to use?
Giving awards to men and women of high integrity who have used their power and influence to affect this country positively. Bringing happiness to the poor and the weak. The invisible eye is another method to be used to check individuals on the street.
EFCC, Ministry of Information and Communications, Police Force.