Kenny Ogungbe said in a recent interview with Saturday Punch that his outfit puts food on artiste’s table. How much of Kennis’ food has Tetuila consumed?
“The fact is that without an artiste, a recording company can never be a recording company. That’s what I know. I will continue to respect Kennis music for the promotion they give their artistes. But you can never promote an artiste if he’s not good. There have been artistes they’ve promoted who can’t get nowhere because their stuff is not good. And again, Kennis does not pay artistes upfront, not to talk of sign-on fees. These are the things we’ve been keeping to ourselves. I’ve done three albums with Kenny, Omode Meta Nsere, My Car and E Go Better. They are all hits. But I can’t account for two million naira in royalties for the three albums. These are things you can’t even say out. But I thank God that they tried for the promotion. They really did and I appreciate that. But all they kept saying was piracy, piracy. But I thank God for letting me know them, for giving me an opportunity to do some good works for them, and I thank God for using them to promote the good works that I did. Because they really tried in that regard. But I don’t see why they should say they put food on artistes’ table. All we have is the name, no money. We only make money from shows. Well, God dey! But there’s no food! If I can’t make money from my albums and I have to depend on shows to survive, then they haven’t put food on my table”.
Tony is presently floating a recording label which he says will be mostly devoted to discovering and nurturing new but talented artistes. “Initially it was going to be He’s Alive Records. He’s Alive is our slogan. You know, Jesus is alive, and Tetuila is alive. Then we were pushed away, thinking we couldn’t do it, and now we are doing it big. So Tetuila is alive. That goes with Christ being alive. I am a God-fearing person. I pray a lot because God has been good to me. Without God, I won’t be where I am today. But now we have Tony Tetuila Records and I’m not focusing on my works. I have two young artistes on the label. Tony Robinson and Ketcha. We have producers working on their stuff, and they are featuring in my new album. By the time the videos are out, people will know them.”
Tetuila says he’s modifying his music a bit, adding more percussions to the beat, so the music will be more African. “We can’t keep singing like Americans because we can’t beat these people at their known game. In fact, they will be more interested in your music if it comes in another style. So I’m adding more of hip-life to my music, which is like highlife in Nigeria. That is why I sing in English, pidgin and Yoruba so everybody can have a feel.”
How does he cope with the bevy of ladies swarming around him like ants around a sugar cube? “Well, it’s not been easy. You know it’s meant to happen that way. So long as you are a microphone man, you are a star and you are known, ladies will always be around you. But there’s always a diplomatic way of discouraging them. I don’t let them weigh me down. Women are dangerous. You have to be careful the way you deal with them, because women can lift you up and if you aint careful, they will pull you down.”
There’s a thing Tetuila dearly wishes he had acquired long before becoming a star. “I wish I had gotten my own wife, my real woman,” he says, slowly. “By now, you don’t know who really loves you for who you are or who loves you for what you have. That’s the only thing I wish I had done.” But he says he’s no longer searching for true love. “Now I have found someone I really love and who loves me too. And that’s the lady I’m going to marry.” May we know the lucky lady? “No, no,” laughs Tetuila. “She knows herself.” So when will the wedding be? “Not too long from now, I hope. It’s not planned yet, but very soon, by God’s grace.”
If he wasn’t an artiste, where would he have ended up today? “Maybe as a bank manager somewhere,” he says. “Or maybe as GM of my mum’s business.”
Like many others, Tetuila believes there’s not been any Nigerian musician like Fela, dead or alive. “For now, nobody has ever been like Fela,” he says. “Fela is a legend.” Was his music in any way influenced by Fela? “Oh yes, in some ways. Like singing in pidgin.” And maybe a little bit of marijuana smoking? “Oh no”, Tetuila says. “I don’t even smoke cigarettes. I drink responsibly, but that’s all. I don’t need anything to make me high. That is not my style. Seeing my fans hailing me as I’m coming for a show is enough to make me high.” There are other artistes who Tetuila believes have also done a lot for Nigerian music, people like King Sunny Ade, Femi Kuti, Lagbaja and some others that have carried the Nigerian music into other lands.
In another five years, where does Tetuila hope to be? “By the grace of God, I hope to be the CEO of my recording label, and have several young and talented artistes under me. Then to be at the top of the game in what I do. To keep waxing stronger in the kind of music that I play. And of course, to be a better human being.”