By AYO ONIKOYI and EKAETTE BASSEY
As the stage is set for another Felabration, a week-long music festival, to immortalized the legendary, iconic and unforgettable Afrobeat creator, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, many artistes of different genres are bracing up to strut their stuff to be part of the annual event. One of such artistes is San-Francisco, US-based, Nigerian artiste, known as Rex Suru. Rex Suru, who was born Rex Olisuru Ogunniyi, arrived the country days ago, to be part of the iconic event. In this interview he talks about how Fela and Bob Marley have influenced his music, while reeling out what to expect from him as he mounts the stage on Tuesday, October 16, for the event that begins on Monday, October 15, 2018 to October 21, 2018.
It’s Felabration again, what should we expect from you?
Well, we have a lot to give to the Nigerian audience musically, like you know, my music convey a lot of positive messages. Right now, the country is going through a depressing time and we need a sort of upliftment; spiritually, economically, socially and through music I intend to deliver that on Tuesday at the Felabration. Also, people will get to experience a beautiful stage presence. You know who Fela was, he was a very dynamic artiste and most artistes admire his style, including myself, so, I intend to bring a little Fela into Felabration in some style which I admire of him;outlook wise, stage dynamics and presence. The music also will be a little different because it is Afro roots reggae.
Can you see any kind of connection between your music and Fela’s kind of music?
There are connections, a little connection though, but they are similar, especially, in the on-session. I love Fela’s music because it is mostly on-sessions, the rhythm is percussion rhythms and it is the same with mine but his is afrobeat while mine is Afro roots reggae. We have dynamic rhythm sessions and our sessions seem to go with the highlife style of presentation and also stage presentation. Fela influenced me a lot on how to talk, he called his yabis. I don’t yab but I try to speak like him in some ways. He is part of an influence in my life and so is Bob Marley. We are just going to combine these two great vibrations into what we are doing including what I have as an original of mine then we will see how it goes.
You play reggae but Fela’s style was afrobeat, so between Fela and Bob Marley who would you say influenced you more?
There is no comparison between them because they were both musical giants. I will say they both equally influenced my music.
Who does your music reflect more between them?
It is very hard to differentiate between the two music icons and legends. They both came to the world as messengers to impact change in their time. They were special beings that came with message to change the world and I think I’m following in their paths. But I’m more inclined in delivering my messages in the line of Bob Marley. Mine is more spiritual and Fela gave us awareness of self and national identity which I also have in the style of presenting my music. So, I will say they carry equal weight of influence in my musical style. If you hear my music you will know it is Afro roots reggae but you will still hear the afrobeat underneath, they are both great influence in my life. While Bob Marley tended to be more spiritual, Fela was prophetic, psychological and even political to an extent. Fela, was like any prophet that wasn’t appreciated in his own town but gained worldwide acclaim through his music and the message that came with it.
In today’s Nigerian music, live performances seem to be out of fashion, why?
That is a challenge, the youths are drifting away because they are looking for quick access to fame and fortune. We are old school and are not looking for quick access to fame or money, there is beauty in live entertainment because it is all spiritual vibration energy that you are giving, if you enjoy it you will persevere and continue to do it. I enjoy live performances and I think it will be the theme of the future because people will get tired of all these quick-fix sounds, trust me.
Are you getting paid for performing at Felabration?
Yes, I got paid last year and I expect to get paid this year as well. Even if they don’t pay I’m still happy to give Nigeria what I have. Everything in life is not about the money but about the joy of presenting what you have to the people and if they enjoy you then you have accomplished the main goal but it is also good to be paid because there are a lot of people involved and not just me.
Which numbers should we expect you to perform on Tuesday and how do you think that will fit into the Felabration spirit, considering the theme for this year’s event is ‘Overtake don overtake overtake’?
I already have a programme of what I will be performing, the first music we intend to perform is ‘Africa Africa’ which is the unity of our people, not just Nigerians but African people around the world and the song carries a very powerful message about unity. Although tribes and tongues may differ we are still one people. We also intend to sing ‘Oh Jah Love’, just the love of God which holds no bounds, the same sun and moon that shines over the people shines on all, even the animals and plants is the love of God, that is what that song is all about. I also intend to perform a song called ‘Dreamers’. If you have a dream or an ambition, a nagging ambition, you should never deny yourself in doing what you like to do, never give up, keep pushing and get satisfaction for what you believe. We have another one ‘What Jah Say’, a spiritual song that mirrors the soul of man
Who is Rex Suru and what do you stand for?
My name is Rex Olisuru Ogunniyi, but my artistic name is Rex Suru. I’m the founder and originator of the Afro-roots reggae music. The name of my band is the Cherubim Vibes, but I go simply by the name ‘Rex Suru and the Vibes’. ‘Vibes’ as in vibration, while ‘Cherubim’ means angels. I’ve been doing this music for over 25 years. I have a very deep passion for what I’m doing. Music has been the essence of my adult life and I sincerely believe, without any shadow of doubt, that the heavenly realm is trying to use me as a medium to deliver positive messages. I’m not saying I’m a messenger, but that’s the vibration that comes through me. Doing music of joy, praise and unity among the human race.
Do you have any regrets doing music?
I have none because whatever I choose is not for material gain, it’s for spiritual development. When I started, I wasn’t really a great singer, but now I sing well, even though I’m not the best. There’s no regret in any developmental stage in my life. We didn’t come into this world with a bank account and we will not leave with one. It’s not about material accomplishment but spiritual development.