Edaoto: Everything wrong with Nigeria is wrong with the music industry
Edaoto Agbeniyi, popularly known as Edaoto, is a multi-award winning Afrobeat singer, songwriter, performer and the leader of the world renowned Edaoto & the Afrogenius Band, an 11-member ensemble that has graced multiple stages of performance around the world with his afrobeat music. In this interview with TONY OKUYEME, Edaoto – who was also featured in a CNN Anthony Bourdain documentary on Part’s Unknown in 2017 – talks about his latest album, ‘Rock On’, hacking, fake lifestyle, music conscious and of various problems
What makes your group Afrogenius?
Of course, when I wanted to start my band, I think we needed to have a name other than mine. I watched all the greats before we were born, what is the name of their band? What does this have to do with their music? Then my muse introduced me as geniuses, so I said Afrogenius! The beautiful people in my band are geniuses and they are weathering the storms of playing live music with me.
You recently presented your new album ‘Rock On’, describing it as one of the best albums of all time. What makes it different from your previous efforts?
This album is one of the best of all time. Watch lyrics, form, energy, arrangements and more. It’s a far cry from the unsolicited noise that praises our airwaves these days. You know, a lot of people are now confused, they don’t even know which is the real authentic sound of Africa. At some point, what our people hear the most is what they will compare with others. The uniqueness of ‘Rock On’ sets it apart and I’m sure it can be placed on a good footing. There are 11 tireless solid tracks on this album. They discuss different issues of life, from politics to love, from community life to supplication, etc. Despite all the problems inherent in Africa, this album gives hope. While reminding ourselves that our joyful future is in our hands and that all good is achievable. As we continue to fight for a better continent, we will continue to “Rock On!” Much like the lyrics to “Rock On,” “They don’t know who we are. Let them know that we are the descendants of this magnificent race! “Rock On” reminds us that the people before us were great and encourages us to march towards the glory that lies ahead of us as a race.
What is the inspiration behind?
The idea came from the people before us, in the ancient African society, when the war and the struggle for a better life, they still rejoiced in the victory which they were sure would be theirs. We will not stop fighting for a better life, but in this fight we will continue to “Rock On!”
What are your expectations for this album?
Like all good things, I would like it to circulate. I want it to be in every home as a constant reminder that while we fight, we will “Rock On”. I want young and old to listen, dissect and engage.
You and your band took part in the European tour of the prestigious Ancienne Belgique Bruxelles Belgique. Tell us about your experience…
When we were in Europe, we were so proud to have been received. The audience throughout our time there made us feel like royalty. Old Belgium was filled to the brim. We opened for Arsenal Band but the reception was so massive. The band we opened for is a very popular band, the whole show was sold out. Every time we go on stage, they make us feel like our time is too short and always want us to come back.
How was it different from your previous shows?
Before that, most of our tours were in Africa and mostly at festivals that were held outdoors. We couldn’t believe such a large crowd could be in a closed-door concert, the closed-door crowd was huge.
Conscious music, what does it mean to you?
Music plays a central role in nation building. If we had enough conscious music on our airwaves like we have the glorification of vain we have right now, a lot would have changed. Check out our dressings today; check out our today’s discussions between young and old. Fraud is becoming a norm and if you don’t participate in it or glorify it, you will become something of an outcast. Corruption is endemic, very few people sing against it. The same with our films; the worst human characters become role models even in politics. The attitude of the gutter becomes the trend. All of these are contributions to our arts. So if we had as many conscious musicians and artists as we have these veins, it would have rechanneled the energies of our people into positive progressive thoughts.
Do you think that conscious music occupies a prominent place in the Nigerian musical landscape today? Why?
The orientation of our people changed at some point and it changed the direction of our musical thinking. Thus, conscious music has become like a tear in the flesh of musical power brokers in this country. Because almost everyone is part of the rot or plans to help spread the rot. Conscious music is like “a pain in the ass”. You don’t expect this form to get comfortable with the noise it wants to control people with.
Again I ask: What is it about Afrobeat, a genre of music, that has kept you focused and engaged?
Afrobeat called me and I answered that call. It comes with its rigors and challenges, but we are weathering the storm.
Why didn’t you go into highlife music?
Afrobeat and Highlife are distant cousins. Core Afrobeat artists are close to highlife, so I play with them sometimes, mostly to pay homage to some of the greats who were gone. But the most important thing is that Afrobeat called me and I answered; That doesn’t mean that at some point I won’t be playing with his family.
In my last interview with you, you said that if you weren’t a musician you’d probably be a lawyer because growing up you wanted to speak for the people, fight on their behalf. Any regrets about not being a lawyer?
I have no regrets. I wanted to be able to speak up and fight for people including myself, music also gave me that opportunity to do that in a bigger way. In fact, with music, I am able to reach more people and fight more diverse causes. Many good lawyers do it today, which I would have done if I had been a lawyer. The microphone and the stage allow me to reach a wider audience.
How to fight against piracy in the industry?
Everything wrong with Nigeria is wrong with the music industry. If the police are sincere and working to protect lives and property, if they are impartial, diligent, and the justice system really wants to set the record straight, we won’t be talking about hacking and intellectual property theft in this country. To solve this problem is to solve the problem of this country where justice, fairness, fairness and truth will prevail.
Where do you see the Nigerian music industry in the next five years?
New acts will emerge. The direction of the music will also change. Technology will change the cause of things and there will be prosperity in the industry.
What is your opinion on fake lifestyle in general?
Living a fake lifestyle isn’t worth it; it doesn’t pay anything. It’s a matter of inferiority complex; excessive lack of self-esteem. These fake lifestyles are only trying to impress people who originally don’t even know they exist.