Dancehall artiste, Chinagorom Onuoha, aka African China, talks about music and other related matters
Aside from music, is hairdressing one of your many interests?
By opening a hairdressing salon, what I have done is invest for a rainy day. If you check properly, you would realise that some of those who began their careers about the same time I started mine are now broke. Today, a lot of them cannot feed themselves and their dependants. Before fame beckoned, I used to work as a barber at a salon and I am not ashamed to say that. Now that I am African China, I know this business idea would generate income on a daily basis because people always want to look good. The salon business is not the only business I have. I also have a boutique in Surulere, Lagos. I have a sound equipment rental business and I have a record label that is as old as Kennis Music.
It appears music no longer pays your bills?
It still pays my bills and I still get shows. I just don’t want to be like others who are now struggling.
But it appears you are no longer invited to perform?
My space is there; I can come and take it anytime. I will always be relevant. I will continue to do my thing. The industry is not the way it used to be. In the past, an artiste used to release an album biannually. Nowadays, it is every week and that’s why those songs will cease to be relevant in the next three years. Some artistes even go to the studio to freestyle which to me amounts to talking rubbish. Even the artistes who freestyle know that they are playing on the intelligence of their fans. When those artistes come together, they talk and laugh about it.
Is that to mean you are no longer in demand?
I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t want to use that word because I am performing at a show tomorrow and I am also performing tonight. One is at Egbeda and the other show is at Okota. I wouldn’t say the demand for African China has dropped.
Don’t you think you have been edged out by the new generation artistes?
No, because lyrically and musically, I am still African China. Nigerians love variety and the fan base is divided. I have my fans who are loyal to me and my music. They will go wherever I go and they like the fact that I always speak the truth.
Is your genre of music still relevant?
Yes, it is. At some point, it almost faded out because everybody wanted to listen to songs glorifying women’s backsides, champagne and all sorts of rubbish. The media are not playing my songs because a lot of the them work for the government.
How come you are not collaborating with the new-school artistes?
I don’t have anything against them. I am friends with them and I am also an elder brother to them. Recently, I contacted Tekno for a collaboration but he has been busy. There was a time I needed to do a song with Ice Prince and I tried to reach him. His manager kept playing hide and seek with me. As a result, I lost interest. When Burna Boy was the rave, I telephoned his mum who was his manager at that time. They didn’t revert in spite of the fact that I telephoned them several times.
How come you are no longer composing hit songs?
It is not my fault. These days, if the radio stations don’t play your songs consecutively, it goes off the radar. Even marketers are no longer interested in the business because you can easily download every song you want. There are close to three million sites where you can download any music of your choice. I come from that era where we made money from copy sales. We did not depend on radio or TV stations. Now, if you are not ready to pay bulk money to radio and TV stations, they won’t promote your music
You had a rape scandal in London some years ago…
If we were outside Nigeria, I would have sued you for saying that because I wasn’t found guilty of rape. What would you say about the likes of Timaya who allegedly fled? I stayed back to prove my case. I was charged to court and I was acquitted. There was evidence to prove that I did not have carnal knowledge of my accuser.
Have you visited London since that incident?
Yes, I have been there many times. I shot the video of London Fever there and I have travelled with my family to London more than once and we will be travelling there again this summer (shows screenshots of his wife and children’s expired and valid United Kingdom visas).
Career wise, what are you currently working on?
I am trying to set up a lounge in Owerri, Imo State. I am a businessman and that is the project I have at hand.
Are you impressed by the new generation of artistes?
At the moment, they are doing well. The beats are still okay. People dance to the beats more than the lyrics. We have more junkies than activists in the music industry; people who smoke before they can write a song. I will categorically tell you that a lot of us never smoked before recording or going on stage.
Any regrets in your career?
The rape scandal is the only thing I regret because it was uncalled for. But in life, one will have highs and lows. I wish it never happened. If it was a crime I committed, I would not feel bad about all that I went through. It was all over the Internet and I find it traumatic when people refer to it. If Nigeria was like the United Kingdom or America, I would have made millions suing people for always referring to that episode because the courts declared me innocent.
How have you been able to sustain your marriage?
Thank God I have been married for nine years and I have two beautiful children. The woman you’re married to has a background that is dissimilar to yours and you need to understand that disagreements would always occur. You just have to tolerate each other as long as you’re married. No marriage is peaceful. Even the pastor you run to when your marriage is distressed has his own marital problems and he does not come to the pulpit to discuss it. When I have issues with my wife, the only people I run to are my father in-law and elder brother. I don’t even discuss it with my sisters.