Oritsefemi Majemite,simply known as Oritse Femi took the music scene by storm when he released his hit tracks “Mercies of the Lord” and “Oleju” which enjoyed massive airplay and an evergreen status in the hearts of music lovers. Though he plays gospel, there is so much of dance-hall infusion into it that it cannot be ignored by a wide spectrum of the society. In this encounter with WG, the Delta State-born Itsekiri Femi, born and bred in Ajegunle, bares all on his journey from the shanty settlements of Ajegunle to the limelight. Excerpts:
How have you been surviving ?
It’s hardwork and most especially, you must be prolific and realise you must change as your environment changes. Presently, Afro Hip-hop rules the music industry. For instance, if you are a Fuji musician, Reggae star or a rapper, you must infuse Afro into it because it is what rules the scene now. This Afro is generated from Fela Anikulapo Kuti. If you listen to Fela Music, he usually sings with our local pidgin English which they call commercial. So, you must infuse that commercial and Hip-hop in it. So, I keep including that in my music.
But the most important thing is your own uniqueness. I try to rediscover my unique selling point so that anywhere I go, it will serve as my identity. And one of my most unique traits is my vocal, the way I sing and whenever I sing, people understand and identify that this is Oritsefemi. Meanwhile, I try my best and take my time to put out very unique lyrics. So, I infuse all these into my music and it has been working for me.
I make sure the content is beyond reasoning. Another thing that we, Ajegunle boys, lack is publicity. Our guys have the mindset that they won’t play their music on radio but I keep asking them to try nonetheless. The industry is now highly competitive so you have to promote your songs. I always try my possible best to meet up with that competition. So, that’s why I’m still relevant.
If you hadn’t hit the limelight would you have still remained in Ajegunle full time?
I will move to anywhere in the world. Like I said earlier on, the world is like a circle you must learn how to move around but ‘Aje’ is still my hood and I still have a belief in it.
What inspired ‘Mercies of Da Lord’ ?
I was born and brought up in the ways of the Lord but because of worldly things, I derailed. But my mum, who is highly religious and Godly, brought it back. There was a low time in my life when I felt so depressed but my mum with her inspiration woke the spirit of God back in me. I was so filled with the spirit to the extent I never thought possible.
So, that was how the inspiration came out. Actually, that song was the last song I did in my album, I was supposed to round up my album, I’ve already rounded up the album; I just need an intro into the album. But when the producer, Ben Droze heard the intro, he said what I just dropped can be a track, so we now completed it, making it a full track.
How was it like working with Pasuma ?
Yes ! Pasuma is a nice and humble artiste. When I walked up to him that I have a song and I would like him to feature in the song. Immediately I gave him a clue of the song, he said the song would be a hit. I swear that was what he said, so he put his own impact. We went to Clarence Peter’s Studio around his house.
Suspect was the engineer; I now brought my own producer which is M-Shine to come and produce the beats while Suspect took the vocal and because that place is so close to Pasuma’s place then, he came in to do his own part. After we finished the job, it was so smooth and fantastic. It was like a dream come through. Up till now, the song is still relevant because I still perform it on stage and I see people’s response to it.
Your memorable experience?
I think it was when I was in a group called, The Jingolist. We released two albums. It was a joint project with my colleague, Chibudo. The first album was entitled, ‘Boys Dibinu’, that is, “Boys are not happy”. The second album was ‘Money Na Time’ and they had eight tracks each. Later I went solo and released an album, ‘Elewon’, which means “Chase them”.
That was when I started singing about the flopped politicians and the need to chase them away. It was released in 2007/08 during the elections and turned out to be a hit. My second solo album has just been dropped into the market entitled, ‘Unfadeables’. I was motivated to release this album because of the wickedness prevalent in the world. One of the hit tracks that is making waves on radio and TV is ‘Mercy of the Lord’.
It has a remix featuring the late Dagrin, Rhymzo and also my record label chairman, Shining. We have already shot the video and it would be out any moment from now. The ‘Unfadeables’ has fourteen tracks. It is going to redefine what the Oritse Femi people have been hearing about. Apart from the artistes I mentioned before, I’ve also featured in my works 2face, Pasuma Wonder, Nico Gravity, B Kleen and some other popular artistes in Nigeria. It is a ‘thank you’ album to my fans who have been urging me on. The fans have been there, saying that Oritse Femi cannot fade. That is why I titled the album, ‘Unfadeables’. It is a street lingo narrating how people neglected me when I was not known
As the only surviving musician doing this genre of music, what are you doing to support other ones?
Yeah! I’ve heard so much about that and what I believe is that, we are all players in one position or the other. For instance in a football match, we have everyone playing different wings, so everyone must be noticed in his or her own position. Even if I am playing the defence role, I will try my possible best to be noticed. So, that’s why I keep holding that place that I am.
Already, I don’t want to mention names. But talking about Timaya, he is a good friend and right from time, Timaya has always seen me as a competitor. You know sometimes, someone can be your friend and still feels you are the only problem he has. The last time that I called him that we should do a song together, he said we are going to do it but he kept postponing it because he sees me as a threat. He doesn’t want a situation whereby people will be comparing us. Timaya is a good artiste and he has his own energy and he keeps doing what he knows how to do best but to me, I don’t see him as a challenger. I can compete with any artiste in the world.
What was the first fee you got as an artiste?
My first money is small; N5million. And five million naira then is 50 million naira now.
How did you handle the excitement?
It was in cheque because the people that gave me the money knew I have never handled such amount before and they didn’t want to cause problem. When I saw the cheque, I was stupefied, speechless and continued staring at it as if it were a dream. I wasn’t too sure but when I saw the money in front of the cashier men! I was like wow, and from there the inspiration rose and that should be around 2004/2005
Before then, what was the highest money you have ever acquired for yourself?
It was one hundred thousand naira (N100,000) and that hundred thousand naira, I used it to form big boy for more than one month because the hundred thousand naira was like a very big money to me then. You can’t blame me because I was born and brought up in the ghetto. And the hood that I came from ‘I don dey experience flood before Nigeria dey get flood’ because then even the so called mosquito net cannot be enough for the population of people living in that area. We have more than 10 million people who will struggle to get it. So, if mosquito bites us, we see it as a way of life. So, you can’t blame me if I see hundred thousand naira and I over reacted.
How was your dream like after you collected the N5 million, judging from the kind of environment you were coming from?
Immediately I collected the money, my nightmare changed. ‘I dey dream say na Europe I dey’ because then I used to dream about OPC and Area boys fighting.
Your latest single, Sagbene is presently rocking the air and people want to know what next , can you tell us what you are working on ?
My new single will be dropping any moment from now, it is titled ‘Double Wahala’ which basically talks about the problems in Nigeria. Even small children born today know Nigeria’s problem. Nigeria is filled with hardship; there is insecurity, unemployment and many others.