Ferdinand Ekechukwu writes on his encounter with the musician Chinagorom Onuoha, popularly known as African China.
Growing up in the neighborhood with this writer triggers some sort of nostalgia meeting with the ‘Crisis’ crooner and his songs are written and sang in the local dialect, a thing which he imbibed growing up in the streets of Orile, occasionally crisscrossing Amukoko and Ajegunle vicinities of Apapa Iganmu and Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Areas of Lagos State.
He started with music before diversifying into some other businesses. He still does music, he said to me, but mostly doing gigs on the average of 20 shows in a month. In between the conversation, he switches between the real English and the pidgin. He went on to explain, albeit with a tint of pride, that “One thing people should understand about music is that music is not a do or die affair.
“Seems we don’t understand when we say music as a career, like football being a career, acting being a career doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t do any other thing aside that thing. You can be doing it but now you pushed it to a professional level. Because right now everybody thinks okay if you are doing a song and it’s not out there everywhere, definitely you are nowhere, hell no. African China is a brand that has come to stay. I have millions of people as fans that are following me with or without music,” as he keeps up regular activities posting messages online. Some weeks back he had posted on Youtube a video conversation between him and Omoyele Sowore, a presidential aspirant.
His songs are social conscious. In fact, since he came to limelight in the year 2000, he has been known for questioning Nigerian politicians and the people in government with his particular kind of music. His trailblazing track, ‘Mr. President’, released 19 years ago is still relevant across successive governments as some of the problems he sang about are still prevalent in the country. For sure, he can’t play that music that you want him to play. “I have my kind of music.
At the show, African China reunited with the ‘swo crooner’ (Marvelous Benji) and some other artistes. Reconnecting with him elicited some feelings for African China. Both were headliners at that show. What was the feeling like on that day knowing that Marvelous was first-rate also? “We met in London when I had my crisis. Kennis Music brought me to London and we all met, sat down and had dinner and all that,” he disclosed. “We have been meeting.”
In 2006, that London experience had left African China with a sour taste. That was his first trip to Europe. Amidst the frenzy and the fun during that journey, he was alleged to have raped a white girl. It was one memorable incident that taught and impacted on his persona and his career. It inspired one of his hits songs ‘London Fever’. The lesson from that episode, he recounts. “It taught me what I am doing today; learning to keep to myself, learning to be myself, learning to respect myself…” he confessed, raising his voice, “learning to tell myself the gospel truth and learning to help myself. That was what that whole incident taught me. The whole thing taught me that ‘it is you that matters African China’. Nobody matters anymore, except my family…that’s my wife and kids (two beautiful daughters in his words), aside me.”
At the moment, he is working on an album which will be released on his record label, 45 Entertainment. The body of work was supposed to be released last year but for some reasons, it was withdrawn. Now, he has started working on new songs but those new songs are going to be duets. “So from the old songs we are just going to do like selections from the album and mixed with the collabos.”