(Interview conducted by Chika Oduah)-Saturday February 18, 2012
Chika Oduah: Hello viewers, you are watching SaharaTV. I hope you have been enjoying our show thus far. As we promised we said we were going to have D’banj with us today on SaharaTV and he is with us live via Skype. This is D’banj, also known as Dapo Daniel Oyebanjo, also known as Koko Master, Igwe, all the names all above. Can you just say hello to our audience?
D’banj: I’m D’banj or Skibanj as my Jamaican friends call me “Cappella like my South Africans call me. Mensah like my Ghanaians call me. Frikay in Liberia. Hmmm. (unintelligible) Mr. Endowed. (unintelligible) New York. New York. How are you today?
Chika: Well thank you so much for coming onto SaharaTV. We really appreciate it this morning.
D’banj: (unintelligible) God bless you.
Chika: So you are here for your American debut. This is your debut in New York City. You will be performing tomorrow at Irving Plaza. How do you feel about it?
D’banj: I feel the same way I feel, you know, when I am about to (unintelligible) concert or when I am about to perform in Surulere, in (unintelligible), in front of my fans in Lagos, Nigeria or anywhere else in Africa. I’m an entertainer and that’s what I do for a living. So, you know, I’m ready. In fact as I’m talking to you right now, I want to see you. Can’t I see you? Where are you?
Chika: I’m in your head.
D’banj: (unintelligible) Kokolette. Are you endowed? I can see you there. You are about to be a scapegoat.
Chika: Wow. I hope not. Well how do you feel? Did you ever think you would achieve so much in your musical career? You’ve won several awards. You’ve won MTV Africa awards. You won the BET award last year for the Best International Act. Did you think you would achieve so much at your age in your musical career?
D’banj: Well what can I say? I hoped. I have, like every other person, I have a dream. And I started dreaming. I’ve dreamt of winning [the] Grammy. I’ve dreamt of [the] Oscar. I’ve dreamt of [the] Lifetime Achievement Award. So for me all I can say is I say a big “thank you” to God. I’m still very very humble. I still see it as, I see myself as a person God is kind of using to take our message across from Africa to the global world. So, I can only say thank you.
Chika: OK. So, how does it feel to be positioned as the golden boy of African pop music? You know, you’ve gone international. You are pretty much the face of African pop music. How does it feel? Is this a lot of pressure on you?
D’banj: Yeah, a lot of pressure a lot, a lot of pressure. (Unintelligible.) I can only say, like I said, there is pressure but I’m not scared because I do not do it by myself. The almighty God (unintelligible) as far as I’m concerned as long as (unintelligible) I have nothing to be afraid about. But they say to [whom] much is given, much is expected.
D’banj: You understand? So I just know that I have so much responsibility and I pray that God sees me through it all. And I beg that my people give me support as they are always there for me. (unintelligible).
Chika: So obviously you recently signed onto Kanye’s record label and you are being described as Kanye’s protégé. How do you plan to maintain your identity as an African though you are going to be performing more and more in the United States. Many African artists come here; they become Americanized, so how do you intend to keep your African flavor?
D’banj: First of all define what’s ‘Americanized.’
Chika: Well what’s ‘Americanized,’ maybe if you are blending so much. You know obviously the language. You usually speak in pidgin [English], you also do songs in Yoruba as well. So language is a factor.
D’banj: Have you heard my song “Fall in Love?” I think that was in English or “Scapegoat” or “Endowed.” In fact, “endowed” is very very, you know, it’s in the dictionary as being, you know. Can you see me?
Chika: Sure, sure. So you don’t think there is a type of ‘Americanized’ music?
D’banj: I think my music is very universal. It depends on how I feel at the time that I’m doing a song or how I’m delivering it or to whom that song is going out to. You understand? Kanye did not sign me because he saw something that can be, as you said, ‘Americanized’ or Yoruba-nized’ or whatever. He just liked what he heard. He liked what he saw. And by God’s grace we’re doing it and I’m very happy that who best for me or who best introduced me to the American market or to the global world than Kanye West, someone who we all know how creative he is. So we should know that that is what he wants, sef. That thing. I’m D’banj. (Unintelligible) Representing Africa. (Unintelligible.)
Chika: So you know you have so many fans who want to know your status in terms of availability. Are you with Genevieve Nnaji?
Chika: People want to know your status, your availability, your fans. So, are you with Genevieve Nnaji?
D’banj: What kind of connection are you using? Are you OK? Are you there? I can’t hear you. Are you there?
Chika: I’m perfectly fine. But there are so many rumors that you are dating Genevieve so can you just clear it up. Just tell SaharaTV exclusively, are you with Genevieve Nnaji?
D’banj: No, no, no. I’m happy that you said there are so many rumors. You understand me now?
D’banj: If you go online you will see my video “Fall in Love” you know there is something that is nice in the video. You see Miss Genevieve Nnaji looking sexy (unintelligible). But anyway, I’m very single. And I have somebody I want to date. But let me ask New Yorkers, Americans, what do you think? I like Rihanna. What do you say?
Chika: Well I don’t know. You know we’ll see. Obviously she is available as well. She’s local, she comes to New York all the time. So D’banj is interested in Rihanna but he’s also single.
D’banj: Would you people agree for me to date Rihanna? You understand what I’m saying?
Chika: We’ll see. We’ll see. Anything is possible, right? But you know you have a lot of fans on social media. You have more than 160,000 twitter followers. You have more than 250,000 thousands Facebook fans. Correct?
D’banj: Amen. Hallelujah.
Chika: Right. Just like you have fans, you also have critics. And last year you got a lot of criticism for interviewing [President] Goodluck Jonathan last year. How do you respond to those criticisms?
D’banj: It depends on how you’re asking the question. Last year, this year. If you’re saying interview, what we’re having now is [an] interview right?
D’banj: Because you’re asking me questions, right.
D’banj: So did you watch what I did last year?
Chika: Sure I did but the thing is a lot of people are saying that you collected money from the President, you know, to keep quiet, to do the interview, to help you with your tour, your concert.
D’banj: You’re confusing yourself or you’re confusing me. When you say a lot of people say you collected money, first of all let me clear that. That was not an interview. It was a request personally from Goodluck.
D’banj: [The] reason why I did that as you all know I supported (unintelligible) for a long, long time. I did a song for him and I wanted to know why, because I know that I have loads of fans that would ask me. So if you watch what you’re calling an interview, you would see what I said, I said I would like to know your plans for the youths and he answered me. So you should watch the interview, or as you said documentary. So many people have said so many things about it. The reason why I did that was to justify my reason for voting for him if you understand what I mean.
D’banj: So in terms of money I think people can say anything, you understand? But we all know that he cannot even give me money. It is not right. It is not OK for that kind of thing, I don’t, I didn’t, did you collect money? Did I collect money?
Chika: No, so the question is did you collect money. Have you ever collected money from the President?
D’banj: No the President has not given me any money before.
D’banj: I did not collect any money from the President. Because if you know, if you understand what we are trying to do you will understand that we are trying to bring Africa, change [Nigeria’s] image to the global world. I am not a politician. You understand me. And I do not do politics, but I am the face of a lot of people and I understand that I have loads of fans around the world. So if my fans right now say to me or if I get a request and say, “Yo, I want you to support me.” And I say, “Ah ah, you want me to support you, Sir, no problem. I want to support you. But in order for me to support you I would like to ask you one question. What are your plans for the youth?” That was the only question I asked him. I said, “Sir, I’m D’banj.” My name is this. I introduced myself and I said, “I want to ask you, I represent loads of youth. What are your plans for the youths?” I remember vividly, one question. That was all I asked.
Chika: Well, obviously in January thousands of youth of Nigeria came out on the streets to protests the removal of the fuel subsidy. What did you have to say about the removal of fuel subsidy on New Year’s Day in Nigeria?
D’banj: First of all, for that one, you’re asking two different questions. But since you have just said it, let’s give one minute of silence for the lives that were last as of fuel subsidy. Occupy Nigeria. One minute of silence.
Chika: OK, go ahead with your comment. Thank you for that moment of silence. We really appreciate it.
D’banj: Well as you all know, if you have been following me very well you know that I have not even been in the country [Nigeria] since, well, since this year. I’ve been in London working on the Good Music album with Kanye West. I did “Oliver Twist” video still doing the same thing that I believe that God has called me to do: carry the music, carry the good message across. Change that face that people believe. I believe that the truth is, just like you said I have fans and I have criticisms or critics or a lot of people that want to just say what they want to say. The truth that we all know the truth. And (unintelligible) and why my fans are my fans is because they know the truth. I do what I do because I believe in who I believe in- myself and the almighty God. You understand? So, fuel subsidy, I will not say anything about that matter because I don’t know much about that matter. I was not, unfortunately, I was not in the country when everything was happening. Records can show that. My video is coming out, “Oliver Twist” and I did that video during that whole stuff. By God’s grace, right into the New Year, “Oliver Twist” the song was played at the London [Fireworks 2012] 250,000 people.
Chika: OK, well D’banj you are saying that you were not in the country, which I understand. You’re saying you were in London, I was also not in the country, yet I know what happened and what is still happening in terms of fuel subsidy removal in Nigeria.
D’banj: What is happening?
Chika: So basically they’ve moved it down to N65 [N97]. So my question is do you think Nigeria can afford to pay increased taxes on gas in Nigeria? Why not support them? Why do you want to keep quiet on the issue?
D’banj: See I don’t understand what you are saying. Even at N65 my people, some of us cannot afford it. Do you understand?
D’banj: I was not in the country and I’m not, I don’t think I have the right to talk- (Chika breaks in)
Chika: So did you ever think about attending any of the protests in London? There were a couple of protests organized in London. Did you ever plan on attending any of them?
D’banj: You know your first question that you asked me? I think your second or third question you said how does it feel for me (unintelligible).
Chika: So we’ve lost him on Skype maybe he’ll come back in. So viewers, we’re talking to D’banj, the pop artist of Nigeria. He’s here in New York City to prepare for his concert tomorrow, his debut concert in New York City at Irving Plaza. We’ve been talking to him about affairs in Nigeria, the fuel subsidy removal, his music, Kanye West. So hopefully, he’ll be back on SaharaTV. We’ll go to a quick break while we try to get him back on Skype. Stay tuned with us. We’re talking to D’banj. OK, he’s calling back. So let’s try to get him back on Skype. Hello D’banj can you hear me?
Chika: Yes, we can hear you.
D’banj: I want to see you.
Chika: Well I’m sorry you can’t see me just now.
D’banj: OK so before the connection cut off I was saying that if you understand your third question to me which was I recently got signed to Kanye West and how does it feel for me to be working with him and for me to be called his protégé. I will not lie to you. I’ve been under a lot of pressure working in the UK. Number one, cold. I don’t like cold weather. Everyone who knows me knows I don’t like cold weather. So for me to be in the UK working alongside Big Sean and the likes of John Legend and my other colleagues in Good Music, learning the culture, learning how the music is done, working on the album, I am sorry to say I did not know anything that was happening because I was working on the music and that is what (unintelligible) And right from there I finished my video and I flew straight from there to ATL [Atlanta] worked on (unintelligible) that (unintelligible) couple of songs.
I was supposed to have this interview I think maybe four, five days ago. But I’ve been occupied from the schedules from Good Music. So I would like you to first of all appreciate that I am not, and I’ve told you before, I am not a politician. A lot of people can ask a lot of questions. I’ve told you I don’t have anything to say because I was not in the country when everything was happening. Two, I do not know much to say but I believe what we need and I will tell you this, frankly speaking, the only think is I woke up that morning, one of the mornings that we were working in the studio and I saw a tweet from Kanye West, actually. And I believe that you all can go and check that date during that whole time. And the tweet said that we need scientists, we need professionals, we need, he used so many words to describe what he said that what we need in the world today to come out and help. One man, one person or one government cannot change the face. We need specialists; we need professionals to come out and support and help and together we can move forward. When I saw that tweet and I would like you people, all of you, because me I don’t really go into this thing. I only read what pertains to me. So now that I’m working with Kanye West, I like to understand the kind of things that is happening so when I saw that I was like, “wow.” (unintelligible) Something (unintelligible) in Africa, something is happening around the world.
Chika: So D’banj I just want to cut in. Do you operate your own tweets or do you have specialists do it for you? Are you the one handling your tweets?
D’banj: How many tweets have I sent? It is me handling my tweets but I don’t tweet like you people. I don’t know why people use Twitter. Me, I use Twitter to pass a message when I want to pass it not when you want me to pass it, you understand.
D’banj: That’s what I believe Twitter is for. So I talk when I want to talk. I send a message when I want to send a message. So yes, I operate my Twitter but I read it when I want to and when I have the time to.
Chika: OK. You were saying, I’m sure that you have many friends who are still in Nigeria who were affected by the fuel subsidy removal. So did you not hear what they had to say about it?
D’banj: My mother is in Nigeria. My family is in Nigeria. Are you in Nigeria?
Chika: No, I’m in New York right now but of course I’m full-blooded Nigerian. 100 percent.
D’banj: I live in Nigeria, too and I speak to my people back home and I’ve heard different types of things and right now I don’t even, I can’t even say anything. And I have told you. I don’t know why you are hammering this question all over and over again. That’s why I wish I can see your face, you understand, so I will understand if you are a Kokolette or if you’re actually sent by someone to come and just be asking me question [sic]. Am I a politician? Am I a- (Chika breaks in)
Chika: No, but you obviously have a social responsibility. You said that one of your favorite musicians is Fela Kuti. He obviously blurred the lines between politician and musician. He was very political. One of your favorites, Fela Kuti, correct?
D’banj: Let me tell you the truth. I’ve told you, if you know me very well I speak about what I know. You will not get me to talk about what I do not know. Do you understand?
D’banj: If you’re telling me whether my people are suffering or whether, my people have been suffering for a long time. Even Fela, you said it. Fela has said it; they’ve been suffering. Even me that you’re talking like this, sef [sic]. I’m still suffering in my own little way. Do you understand? But I do not want us to (unintelligible) be asking me why or ‘A’ or if this is a topic because I do not know what to say about that topic, do you understand?
D’banj: But I’ve been trying to read. Since it happened, it has never happened before. (unintelligible) And when I saw that, I’ve been trying to understand. Trying to read about it. And I believe that if only, these questions you are asking me were directed at the right people that can answer you and can answer me and answer the people also and we can all be patient enough and all just sit together and in my own words, I believe that one man does not make an island. One man does not make an island.
Chika: So D’banj, I understand that your father was in the military, correct?
Chika: So would you say that you grew up in a middle class household in Nigeria?
D’banj: Bring your question down now. Your question is, which one is middle class? (unintelligible) comfortable.
Chika: So I’m asking you do you think you grew up, would you consider yourself middle class growing up in Nigeria. Middle class, economically.
D’banj: Middle class, yes.
Chika: Yes, right because my question now is I’m sure you know about the poverty in Nigeria. It’s actually increasing. Why so? What are your thoughts on the increase? The rise of poverty in Nigeria. In 2010, 61 percent living in extreme poverty. 2011 [about] 71 percent. What are your thoughts on that?
D’banj: You see these your political questions are too much. If my publicist had told me this was a political interview I would have laughed. But I can call my economist to come and tell you (unintelligible) to your questions you’re asking me now.
Chika: Well do you think you can relate with the poor people in Nigeria? Can you relate with those people?
D’banj: Now listen. Listen, please. Let me tell you this. All I will tell you is that the reason why you are talking to me right now, Nigeria as a whole, Africa for me, Nigeria where I come from, my field, music, entertainment I would say is the only export that we have and that we’ve been nurturing. So if you speak from my field and you speak, because Nigeria is a big country. Africa is a big continent and so is the world. But my field, entertainment, has increased, in fact, you know what I’m saying, in the last five years that the economy, if we focus on my field, entertainment, will reduce whatever economy percentage you are saying. Because my field don’t need degree [sic]. My field don’t need too many things for you to come and do and I’ve seen a lot of people come from that ground zero or below that zero [sic]. I grew up, you say, middle class. Wande Coal, I don’t think is middle class. So but today Wande Coal is well and so many other people like that. So let us focus on what we have. Why are you hammering on the negativity?
Chika: It’s not negative. I think people just genuinely want to hear your voice on these issues. But you know another question I have for you, in your role as an entertainer, you have embraced the title to be the United Nation Ambassador for Peace, for youth peace or something, right? Youth Ambassador for Peace in Nigeria.
D’banj: I really wish I can see your face because the word you used there, what did you say?
Chika: The United Nations Youth Ambassador for Peace, correct?
D’banj: Rephrase your question please and please ask your question politely.
Chika: Sure. I just want to ask what are you doing in that role as Nigeria’s first United Nations Youth Ambassador for Peace?
D’banj: Do you know when they gave me that appointment?
Chika: Go ahead and explain. We’d like to hear.
D’banj: No, no, no, you’ve asked that question you should have done your research. When they gave me that appointment, since they gave me that appointment- (Chika breaks in)
Chika: You obviously have a youth foundation, so how do the two go hand in hand? You have a youth foundation, how do they go hand in hand.
D’banj: When they gave me an appointment and since they gave me an appointment, you said I have foundation. Go and check the track records of what I’m doing. I’m telling you right now. I believe that I have a major, um, I represent Africa right now. I represent Nigeria. I represent the industry. I have a major concert tomorrow. I’ve been preparing for this. I thought you’d be asking me questions that would make me understand that this is the right thing for us to do tomorrow. This has never been done before. Live Nation said OK let us see what Africa, come out. Let us see how you guys all ball. Let us see how you guys all do, how you guys all entertain. And we’re vouching that entertainment is what we have. Originally saying Africans (unintelligible). So for you to be asking so many questions like this, I believe if you do your research, you would see it. It’s not that hard for you to know what I have been doing whether as United Nations or whether as D’banj or whether as a human being. So please, you understand. I don’t need to blow my trumpet for you now. If you want me to do that, I have someone that handles my foundation that I will call they will give you (unintelligible). It’s not a big deal. (Unintelligible)
Chika: Well thank you so much. We’re going to round this up. D’banj. We’re going to round this up. Thank you so much for joining us. You know, we did want to have, we were hoping to have a well-rounded discussion so that was the point of the variety in questioning. We hope you do well in your concert tomorrow. Thank you for joining us on SaharaTV.
D’banj: Thank you God bless you too.
Chika: Have a good one. Viewers, that was D’banj, the entertainer on SaharaTV. As he said he is preparing and working very hard to make sure he is energetic, he is alert and he is very well prepared for his concert tomorrow here in New York City. This is his debut performance and obviously you all know that he has been signed onto Kanye West’s record label. He specifically said that he is not a politician. He did not give any direct answers in terms of his thoughts about the fuel subsidy removal, poverty in Nigeria, so there you have it. That’s D’banj on SaharaTV. Stay tuned for more. Thank you