By BENJAMIN NJOKU
He is best known for his remake of Fela Kuti’s “Double Wahala” song. Before he came out with that hit song, Ekele Majemite Oritsefemi was unknown.
Today, he is a hot brand . The Ajegunle-bred singer, who started his career as a member of a two-man band, The Junglist, recounts the touching story of his rise from grass to grace, recalling how he had to hawk and engage in other menial jobs in order to make ends meet. He also narrates how his poor background made him not to fend for the mothers of his children.
Your song, ‘Double Wahala’ was a hit. What actually inspired it?
I got the inspiration from God. Everything you want to do, you definitely put God first. Before I came out with ‘Double Wahala’, I was receiving low responses from my fans. I tried my best, but my fans did not identify with my songs. I had to go back to the drawing board to review my style of music.
So you knew that “Double Wahala”was going to be a hit song?
I wouldn’t say I knew. But I tried to do something close to it. Eventually, God crowned my efforts with success.
At a point, you took a break from music. In fact, it was rumored that you went into dubious business. Were you into ‘419’ business?
Definitely, people must say what they like, especially when they see you as a versatile artiste who should be on top of his game. May be, my fans felt disappointed, watching me go down the drain. But honestly, I tried my best to sustain my music then. I did not give up.
I continued working hard to prove my mettle. Until last year, I was not okay financially. But look at me today, my hard work has paid off.
Frankly speaking, I have never ventured into ‘419’ business before. I don’t defraud people nor deceive them. I am contented with what I have achieved. Back in Ajegunle, I had some street boys as friends who were into dubious businesses. But I was bent on creating my own business.
Are you saying that “Double Wahala” brought you good fortune?
It brought me more than a fortune; it opened doors – signing of contracts, endorsements, and hitting international stages.
What was life like before “Double Wahala?”
I was comfortable but things got better when I released it.
You seemed to share the same ideology with Fela. How much did he influence your music?
Naturally, I used to listen to Fela’s songs as well as King Sunny Ade’s as a child. My father happened to be one of the fans of these legends. I tried to pick some of Fela’s lyrics and blend it with the lovely African melodies of King Sunny Ade to create my own brand of music. Interesting, I was the only young artiste in Nigeria that met Fela face to face.
Then, I was under the tutelage of Maverick John Nabella, the founder of Raga Dub Chapel, where likes of Daddy Showkey, Baba Fyro sprang up back in Ajegunle. They used to invite some top American stars such as Shabba Ranks, Tupa and many others to come and perform in Nigeria. We would visit the African Shrine with these foreign musicians, where we usually met with Fela. But importantly, I was conscious of Fela’s message and the lyrics of his music.
A lot of your fans are confused about your marital status. For the record, are you married officially?
Honestly, for now, I am not married. But definitely, I am going to get married very soon. I have a fiancé and we have been together for close to two years now.
But you have children?
Yes, I have two beautiful daughters who are between ten and nine years. I have a family and I’m from a polygamous home. I have a responsibility as a father.
Isn’t your fiance the mother of your two daughters?
No. My two daughters are from different mothers and I am not marrying any of them.
It’s a long story. Back in time, as a street boy, growing up in the ghetto city of Ajegunle, I had some childhood girlfriends who got pregnant.
Then, I had no means of livelihood to sustain them. But I ensured that I took care of my kids right from when they were born. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take care of their mothers because of my financial status then. But now, that God has elevated me, I am planning to take my children abroad.
Before this success, what were you doing?
I was struggling. I was on the streets, hustling to make ends meet. I actually stayed away from my family. I couldn’t depend on my dad, because he had his own challenges as a polygamist.
That was why at 14 years, I went into the street to hustle. I hawked in the street. My dad was an engineer, and he taught me how to dismantle and repair boat engines. I learnt all that.
Then, I had my own boat that I was using to transport passengers from Ajegunle to Lagos Island. I also worked as a bus conductor. Growing in Ajegunle, you have to hustle, otherwise your contemporaries would snatch your girlfriend from you.
Ajegunle residents believe in hustling. That time, nobody knew me, so, why would I go into hiding. But honestly, I didn’t engage in any dirty or illegal business. I believe in my music and that’s what is seeing me through today.
How did growing up in Ajegunle influence your lifestyle and music?
I actually grew up in Tolu which is one of the worse areas to live in Ajegunle. I experienced all types of miserable lifestyles, but I survived them all. Today, I am a role model to a lot of the Ajegunle youths. I used to counsel them that if I could make it, they too, can make it.