Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima interviewed Aladin the popular Nigerian musician who is based in Austria. Aladin spoke on the reason for his migration, the reception in Austria, his home coming to Nigeria in August,his Bulgarian wife and three children and the release of his new cd.
When you released your first CD, you were already getting some recognition in Nigeria. I mean the radio stations were often playing your songs. So, why did you leave Nigeria?
Answer: I left Nigeria because of the uncertainty of the music business from one angle: there were more shark record labels than there were well meaning ones. The other reason was due to lack of security: I was in Jos September 7th 2001 during the religious/ethnic conflict. I escaped death by a hair’s breath. I left Jos in a group walking hours through the hills and halfway to Abuja on sept.11th. I got to Abuja to hear about the world trade center bombing. I left Nigeria to perform in Paris and Milan and I have stayed.
You kind of music was a fusion of different musical forms, and most of us couldn’t place you very well. Why did you choose to play that kind of fusion of different forms of modern music?
Answer: It gives me joy to experiment with different kinds of sounds & styles. My first album was specially loaded with Northern Nigerian rhythms cos I grew up hearing all kinds of Arewa sounds. This fires up my creativity and this is just the starting point of my Tran global fusion of Arewa sounds.
You were always wearing a turban and dressed like a northern Fulani Muslim. Are you from the Northern region of Nigeria? A Muslim?
Answer: My adopted state is Plateau, which makes me a northerner. I am from Kogi state originally, which makes me a middle belter (if there is any grammar like that) and one of my favourite states (Lagos), which makes me a complete Nigerian. The turban is more for artistic identity in line with the origin of my first name Aladin. I am a Christian.
How did your background influence your music whilst you were still in Nigeria?
Answer: with my father in the army, my early years were spent doing a lot of moving. But my formative years were in Kaduna were I would hang around “Mai shai” joints after school listening to Dan Maraya, Mamman sharta etc. The Northern Arewa sound was everywhere around me and added to that was my experiences at Masquerade festivals in Igalaland where the rootsy sounds of the drums, local horns, chorus arrangements remain indelible in my memory.
Did you make money in Nigeria?
Answer: I would say yes and no. Yes because from 1999 on after years of doing all forms of menial jobs to survive in Lagos, I could finally pay my bills performing live. No because I never got any royalties till date from my album sales on Z-mirage or from P-Wise.
Why did you migrate to Europe and why did you choose to live in Austria?
Answer: Actually, Austria chose me cos I never planned to live here. Infact, I never planned to live in the western world but I guess all that has changed. It`s God’s wish that I must thread this path towards refining me for his own purpose. After 3 years plus, I finally see the point why it had to be this way. I had travelled out to the west before 2001 and never stayed cos I had my plans, but God’s plans has prevailed.
How have you fared since you came to Austria?
Answer: Pretty well thanks. Married with an awesome lady, blessed with 3 kids and having worked with some of the top liners in the Electronic/Alternative music scene, I have every cause to give thanks to God.
How were your first two years? The cold winter and the summer?
Answer: The wide cultural difference between Austria and Nigeria gave me a shock in my first months and it took me a long time to start adjusting. You could actually lose your identity completely. The first time I experienced winter was in London when I first travelled to Europe. I don’t like wintertime at all! Summer time is super! But, a lot of Austrians travel away from Wien and it could be quite empty except for tourists.
How is the music scene in Austria different from the music scene in Nigeria?
Answer: In terms of participation of the State, the Austrian government does a whole lot to promote Classicals & opera. The Nigerian government needs to wake up in this area and realise for example the huge potential in Nollywood and Nigeria Music. When it comes to appreciation of music, I`d say Nigerians are more welcoming to different styles than the average Austrian. Then, there is a distinct underground music scene and mainstream scene in Austria, which doesn’t, really exist in Nigeria: there is no thriving underground music scene in Naija I believe.
How have you been received as a musician in Austria?
Answer: The response especially from the fans has been quite positively tremendous! Then it was a pleasant surprise when I was invited earlier this year by Universal music to take part in the Tsunami relief project called “Austria For Asia”. The only minus is that there is no market ripe in Austria yet for African music.
Are you the only Nigerian or African playing music in Austria?
Answer: No, I’m not. There are a couple of rappers, djs and musicians representing. I’ve collaborated with two of them: Item 7 (who is featured on my new single) and dj 3gga who I’ve featured with.