I’VE NOT DUMPED HIGHLIFE MUSIC- PAUL PLAY
When Paul ‘Play’ Babatunde Dairo clocked 35 on March 6, he had cause to celebrate. Over a decade after abandoning a career in engineering for an unlikely future in music, the singer-producer has done well for himself; making hits and making more money, signing autographs and signing cheques. And he would have popped more champagne, if he knew that eleven days away, he would be carting home four major awards, at the second edition of hiphopworld awards. Maybe he would even have invited us for a drink! But seriously, he may like to be called Paul ‘play’, but the gentle crooner doesn’t play with things important to him. Here’s the type of man that creates a playground where it’s all work and no play. That’s why only masterpieces come from his playground studios, where he produced his Hitsville album, cuts off Nomoreloss’ album, and a couple of other fans’ favourites. That’s the same place we laid ambush for him, days after his historic hiphop world win…It was a full house, but the singer was in a mood to talk to Ayeni Adekunle
Congratulations paul did you expect that you were going to scoop all the awards at hiphopworld awards 2007? That was really unexpected. It was really shocking. If you can recall, the other three awards, I had to run to the stage to pick them up. I was just like ok, now that I have the award for RnB, let me just get out of here because I wasn’t expecting to win anything after that. But as the whole thing went down, it was really shocking to me. That really goes a long way to show that my fans out there really appreciate what I’m doing. It’s a good thing and I’m very grateful for what I got.
Do you think that you deserve all the awards that you won?
Well some people may say that I don’t deserve them but I just think that I’ve really worked hard enough. Why I said that some people may think that I don’t deserve them is because when I was releasing that song, a lot of people felt that the album wasn’t going to be a success because it was just R’n’B and Nigerians believe that you only have to do something in pidgin or in your local dialect before you can break barriers or before you can make money in music industry. That album: Hitsville, has proven that idea to be wrong. Out there, I know the numerous calls and texts I receive everyday and I think that if a part of the awards has to do with vote from fans, I think… I’ve been receiving so many calls and texts from my fans that the award is something that is well deserved. So if my fans say yes, I don’t know…I can’t say for myself but all I know is that I’m working hard and I’m still going to work more. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing to make sure that my fans are happy and the industry keeps going forward.
You won awards for best Rnb album, artist of the year, album of the year and record of the year for ‘forever’. What do these awards individually and as a group mean to you and what impact do you expect them to have on your career?
If this were to be in America, I know my bank account would have soared up now and I’ll be smiling to the bank (laughs). But all the same, hiphopworld awards is very big. It was big last year and so was it this year. It’s the biggest music awards in town right now. A lot of people are coming to terms with the fact that we need awards of this calibre to promote and to improve the standard of music in Nigeria. So far, I’ve been receiving calls and I know that it’s going to get me some positive results and I’m going to get so many things because of those awards. A lot of good things are coming my way right now and I’m just grateful to God that an award like that was held for growth and for the exposure of stars in Nigeria and in the industry as a whole.
Did you have a prepared speech?
Funny enough, that day, all my speech was incoherent. If anybody really studied what I was saying… I was anxious because I wasn’t really expecting that. I didn’t really rehearse my speech because I felt that once I just get on stage, I know the people that I worked with on this project and I think at first when I collected the first award, I had to say some things because I remembered what Jaiye (Aboderin) told me in South Africa. The RnB award was really vital because if I didn’t win that it means all those advice would have just gone down the drain. It would have really discouraged me. I had to talk about what Jaiye said and what Efe Omoregbe said about the need to revisit that aspect of my creativity which I did and I was grateful and had to thank them for it. As for other awards, I was just beating around the bush because I was too shocked to believe that it was going to come out that way.
Why didn’t you dedicate any of the awards to your father…
I’ve won so many awards and I’ve dedicated so many to my father. I think this time around, I just need to appreciate the people who were behind me when I was doing this project, who supported me, who believed in what I was doing, those who said well, you’re going against the odds, if you do that kind of music in Nigeria, it wont sell… all through that, I just had to remember them because they are as important as any other award I won that day.
The last time we spoke, you talked about the industry not rewarding your father enough and not recognising his contribution so much. Do you think that posthumously, IK Dairo has received as much recognition for his contribution to the music industry in Nigeria?
I’ll say yes and I’ll say no. I’ll say yes because …people can identify with the kind of music I play and they know that before this RnB album it was an offspring of what IK Dairo used to do and that has sort of brought back his old fans who loved the music and they always wanted me to come around and perform for them. That has brought the name of IK Dairo back into their minds and they’ve gone back to celebrating him and celebrating his music but in terms of national honour, nothing has happened. If the Queen of England honoured somebody in faraway Africa that is about 3000 miles away and in his own country, no honour has been given to him, that’s really appalling. That’s what I was calling for. It’s not about his fans because his fans are there and they enjoy IK Dairo’s son’s music. Although you can say probably it’s not like Ik Dairo but a least you can have a feel of his music. But we are working on so many things. I gave it a try like four five years ago to see what we could do about the foundation but so many people were not interested. We are trying to push it again this year. We are working on a project right now and we are doing AFTER TEN YEARS FOR IK DAIRO. A lot of programmes have been marked out to celebrate him after ten years and maybe this time around, they will listen to us.
Why do you think children of legendary musicians find it hard to find their feet in music? Why is your case different?
I just believe that I’m favoured by God. I believe that God has really lifted me above all my troubles, my trials and all that. I think it’s the handwork of God. Even when I was going to sign my first contract, I grudgingly slotted in ‘Mosorire’ because I didn’t want to put it there. I felt it was like trying to step into IK Dairo’s shoes; trying to do the impossible because my father was a very creative musician, a multi instrumentalist, you have a dad that played four instruments and you can just play one; you need to go back to learn other instruments like the accordion, the talking drum and all that. It wasn’t easy for me but I just believe that I was just lucky. I’m not saying that these other guys have not tried, they must have tried their best. It’s just because maybe their time is not yet here. I know about some of them that have made it particularly Musiliu Haruna Ishola.
If your father were alive and you were to record a song together, what song would it be?
It would still be ‘Mosorire’ because the song celebrates success, it celebrates life, progress and that is a song that people who don’t even speak Yoruba go so far to know what the song is talking about and when they find out, they embrace it more. I think that’s the most powerful song that I’ve ever heard from my dad and that is the song I’m going to choose.
Why do you think that this generation is embracing hiphop and the urban culture more than highlife and juju or fuji? What do you think is responsible and do you think that it’s a trend that should be encouraged?
That’s a rather complicated question. I have not ditched highlife music because highlife music is what fed me and raised me, gave me education and brought me up till I was old enough to know my direction. That part of me that is about continuing with the legacy of I.K. Dairo will continue to exist because I can never do away with that. But you know, one has to follow his dreams because RnB is my dream. I started with RnB, I started producing with RnB and along the line, I knew I was supposed to do something. The Yoruba people have an adage which says ‘ omo ale lo man fi owo osi juwe ile baba e’. So you have to represent your home, the fact that your father is a musician, you have to represent what people love him for.
That was what I was doing for about six years but now, I’ve decided to step into my own shoes but the fact that I’ve done that will not in anyway hinder my interests in doing highlife music and playing IK Dairos’s music. Going to your question now, you know the embrace of urban music was always bound to happen. In our radio stations, we play a lot of foreign songs and urban music. All these things will affect the orientation of young people. How many times have you heard Sunny Ade on radio or heard Obey, or heard Wasiu?
Now, you’ve done highlife/juju songs, you’ve recorded a RnB album, will your next album be a rap album?
No, I won’t mess with rap. I’ll rather call Alabai or other rappers I know… but if I get one of them to write a rap track for me, I could give it a try…
How about the women? What kind of woman do you think an artiste should marry?
A very very patient woman. No artiste can marry an impatient woman. The marriage will break up as fast as it was made.