By Ogbonna Amadi, Entertainment Editor
Dating beautiful and powerful women gave Sammie Okposo fame but it also brought him pains. In this interview, the Delta State born ace producer, singer and actor shares the gains and pains of stardom. He also discloses why he took his time to settle into marriage. Enjoy.
That was a good one, the show I saw you performing at, where was that?
That was in Baltimore, Washington DC. It was a concert marking the anniversary of ‘’Jesus House ministries, Baltimore’’. I was invited from Nigeria, along with one artist from London and another from America to be part of the celebration.
You are always out of the country evangelising right?
Yes I am, but not always. I try as much as possible to be where I am needed to be depending on how much my calendar or schedule can accommodate.
I noticed you do strictly live music and no miming. Did you travel with your band or did you pick guys up somewhere?
They are mine, I call them the ‘’Next Generation Band. Well, I grew up in an environment where live music was the way to go. First was the junior Choir before I graduated to the senior Choir So basically, I was surrounded by live music.
When I became an artist, that was the only thing I was familiar with and also the proper thing to do. I have never mimed and most likely would never mime. But in a situation where the promoter cannot carry my band along with me, I would try to locate musicians where I am traveling to, rehearse a few times with them and perform.
How convenient is it for you to move around with a band?
It is not entirely up to me most times, rather it is the job of the promoter. They are in charge of the flight, accommodation, feeding and ground transportation.The burden is seldom on my shoulders especially when we have to travel outside the country. The promoter plans for it and makes sure it is at a season where tickets are not extra expensive. And sometimes, they get sponsorship deals from airlines.
Traveling with a lot of people has its danger sometimes, don’t you worry that some of your band members could run away?
I’d speak for my band now. It has never happened and would never happen. You see, my members have known me for too long and they are aware that I am not desperate about wanting to go over to the Western world to settle. They have seen me grow and progress in the things I do here in Nigeria. I am the example they see and I have not for once ever believed that the grass is greener on the other side.
It is good to travel but with what they have seen me achieve, they know home is the best. It would be totally insane of me to pack my bags and leave the country. I believe they do not have it in their subconscious and there is no place they cannot go to if they wish. They have known and seen how fellow colleagues that ran away from their bands in search of greener pastures live. They do not live a more fantastic life than what they lived back home in Nigeria. Their attitude to this over the years is, to travel when necessary, do what is expected of them and come back home.
At a point, the industry was dominated by up new artistes who couldn’t perform live on stage, how were you able to survive and scale through the massive treat?
There were a few of us who stuck to our guns because that was the way we started out. Most people were used to the fact that you cannot invite Sammy Okposo without his band. I tried my best to remain relevant in my field. That way, I was always in demand. All through that period when things were real tough for some of my colleagues, I was just one artist that was not hindered or disturbed by that trend.
But there were exceptional cases where I may decide to play at functions without taking a band. Events like awards ceremony where I am invited to perform the National anthem, I would take an instrumetals of my songs and sing live to it. Sometimes, it could even be a theme song without my lead voice, so it has always been my decision.
Generally, how did it affect the industry?
It affected the industry tremendously because up till now, there are a lot of known artistes who are invited for live performances but who would rather give their CD’s to the DJ and sing on top of their songs. And I ask myself, who is performing. My personal opinion is that it is a rip off. People pay to see a live concert but instead they see you mimming to songs on your CD. It is as good as staying at home and listening to your CD.
Is it now a crime to do that?
Yes. I strongly believe it is a rip off because you are singing what people are familiar with already. They need to see and hear a live performance, something that is not on your CD, something they can go home and talk about.
But you weren’t always a gospel artist, were you?
From the very beginning, I have been. Although I did not start off as a musician, I started as a producer. I did a lot of Nigerian home video soundtracks because I was trying to carve a niche for myself under my then boss Kingsley Ogoro who taught me basically everything I know about making jingles, TV commercials, theme songs and album productions. I went through that process because I wanted to understand music as an artist.
Today, there are numerous artistes who know nothing about any musical instrument which is wrong. An artist should be able to play at least one instrument, maybe not professionally but slightly. I went through that process of being an instrumentalist to a producer because of my yearning to know more about music.
My first album ‘’Wellu-wellu’’ in 2000 was a gospel album. But before people started seeing the artist in Sammy Okposo, I was already well known in the entertainment industry as a producer. I worked with popular names way back like Lekki Sunsplash from the days of Alex Zito, Blackky, Tina Onwudiwe, Charly Boy, Chris Mba, Mandy andmany more. I was very functional in the industry as an instrumentalist and a producer which I thought was a necessary school to pass through.My first album up until now, has remained gospel.
It is one thing to be a gospel singer and another to be a Christian, where do you belong?
I was born into a Christian home. My father was the founding elder of a Gospel Church’’ and my late mother a deaconess and a choir member. So as children, we all grew up in a home where the fear of God was not compromised. But as we grew up to become teenagers, we decided to experiment. I had my own years of experimenting.
My band and I played all kinds of circular music at all the notable jazz joints Lagos had to offer. We were called the ‘’Treasure Band’’ and we were very popular. But it got to a point when I looked back at all we had achieved and I felt empty. By the time I did an inward search, I realized I had missed my calling and I needed to go back to doing gospel.
You were quite notorious with the women, why was that and what did these women see in you?
Unfortunately for me, all the women I had relationships with, were very popular and powerful women way ahead of me in the entertainment industry. I once dated a Miss Nigeria, a very popular actress and a few others. What made me popular was like a mystery. When people wanted to know who I was and how I got to date those women, they started digging and that was how I became relevant. It was not the awards I received that brought me fame, it was the ladies I was connected to.
Was it something you planned or was it deliberate?
No, it was not planned. My band was jamming at Pintos then and the owner Mr Onabolu was one of the organizers of the Miss Nigeria pageant then. As part of the package, the winner of the Miss Nigeria was scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Pintos which was his joint. She had a fantastic voice and someone mentioned she should try singing with my band and that was how we met. We just struck a chord, got very friendly and that was where it started from.
Your affairs with women made you notorious and you say it also helped you build your career, right?
Of course it did. Like I said, everything works together for good. I tell people that in the midst of all the publicity be it negative and positive, it would eventually make your name known but you have to be able to balance the situation because sometimes, you might be at the wrong place at the wrong time, sometimes you can be misrepresented and sometimes it could be your own doing.
The kind of fame you got at that point, didn’t worry you?
I came from a good Christian home and my parents were not happy hearing those things back home in Delta. Most of the time they get filtered information from here. People tell them all sort of stories and they were all amplified.
My family was a very quiet and happy one. I brought my surname out. They were very unhappy when rumours filtered in from Lagos down to Delta about me. It was difficult for them to comprehend what was happening because they did not understand much about the entertainment industry.
Could that have contributed to your getting married very late in life?
I have been single for a very long time. I had to rule out getting married in a hurry because I saw too many things happen in the industry. And as I was growing up, I said to myself that as crazy as the industry is, I would have a sweet and happy home. I didn’t want to have a crazy home and belong to a crazy profession. I saw people who went into things they should not have gone into and all of that made me to see things in a more realistic state and calmed down.
What kind of things did you see?
People went into relationships especially marriages and before the blink of an eye, it was shattered. It discouraged me so much that I couldn’t bear seeing myself doing the same thing. I needed to be more careful and so I asked questions. Marriage is not just a fashion that comes and then goes out of style, it is a lifetime agreement, so I decided to discard all forms of pressure.
Talking about your child now, was the baby expected?
Well, what I would say is the baby came and we had to deal with that fact.
How did you react to the news?
I was shocked because that was the last thing on my mind then but I had to brace myself and accept it. I was barely able to find my feet at that time but the good thing is that the baby came and is now a blessing to me. I always say thumbs up to Gloria and her family because the early stages of the life of my daughter was in the hands of her mother and her family. If it were up to me, I had nothing to offer and till tomorrow, if not for who she is, I wonder what would have happened to the lady.
Was there no pressure from her?
Not at all, I must confess it is not easy to find someone with a heart as good as that. I did not get any kind of pressure from her financially or emotionally. She knew the level I was on and how to adapt to it.
I wonder why she chose you when it was obvious you had nothing to offer…?
Those are the kind of questions you don’t have answers to. The heart has a mind of its own. I’m thankful to my daughter. She is a wonderful and intelligent, sweet young girl. I must also add that I was never for one day denied access to my daughter by her mother or members of her family.
Currently what is the relationship like between you, your daughter and your new family?
It is a fantastic one. Gloria is not a troublesome person. She’s exposed, and comes from a good home.
Did you try to make thing work out between the two of you?
I’m not going to say I tried or not. We had to be civil for the sake of the child and allow her to grow. My daughter was at my wedding.
I was going to that and how you met your wife…?
I met my wife in the United Kingdom and she still lives there. I met her while on one of my trips. Her whole family came to watch my show and when I was signing autographs on my CD’s, they came to buy. It took just one glance and I yearned to meet her again. I said a little prayer to God that if we were supposed to meet, it should be soon.
I went back to my hotel to prepare to leave the U.K, when I got a call from a friend who wanted to take me out.
We went for an exhibition which happened to be organised by my wife’s sister. And to my surprise, she walked in and we got chatting, She refused to give me her contact and finally I went back to Nigeria without getting it. That got me more interested.
But as God would have it, that whole period, I was getting more invitations to perform mostly in the U.K. That gave me more opportunity to interact with her and after some serious chatting, I finally got her number and we were able to communicate easily. I once mentioned to her that the first time I saw her, she looked like the woman I was to marry and she said ‘well, we’ll see about that. We have been married for two years now and I’m happy with it.
Is it true that you have something to do with an American company?
Yes. The company is called TMG. My new album by the way is going to be released on the 3rd of August and its currently taking all my time now. The title of the album is “The Statement.’’ And it is coming out six years after my last album No More Drama which was released in 2006. And since then, I have only released singles just for promotional purposes.
How many singles have you released since so far?
Just about six singles, but the album would have about 26 tracks. Different inspirations, attitudes and vibes would be in that album. There would be something for everybody regardless of who you are. TMG records signed me up for international release. They are waiting for the unveiling of the new album. And they would be in charge of the distribution and marketing in America and the Caribbeans.