Olu Maintain Returns With A New Album and A New Sound By Ebele Chizea

Olu Maintain Returns With A New Album and A New Sound

By Ebele Chizea

Published on Mon, May 11 2009 by Ebele Chizea

Olu Maintain, the man behind the 2007 hit song, Yahooze is back after three years with a new album titled, Arab Money.On his current visit to the United States to promote his upcoming album, I had the opportunity to chat with his Manager and Tour Manager Idono Edewor and Moses Edewor respectively at their hotel. They had just had a busy day arranging meetings and interviews. With their assistance, I finally got a chance to meet with the hit-maker. In simple but stylish traditional Nigerian attire, he greeted me with a warm smile as we sat and discussed music, his passions, women and how former US Secretary of State, Collin Powell, changed his career.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to do this. When did you realize you wanted to do music full time, and how did your family react?
I think I always had the need to be the center of attraction, so for me I ended up doing music as a result of an evolution of a lot of things. Cos growing up, I discovered I had this talent to mimic people, so that evolved into me being able to mimic voices from movies and mimic people’s songs. And I was lucky cos my Dad is a Medical Doctor and he plays the guitar, so music has always been a part of him, and so it rubbed off on me. So I had the support. And my parents are very liberal. So I was lucky. I got that support from inception, from scratch.

What has been the most challenging and most rewarding aspect of fame?
I will say living up to the very high standard you set for yourself. Because my greatest competition is me. Because, you see, when you have a hit record or a hit song, it’s an obligation for you to meet and surpass your previous attempt. And me, I believe, a hit record is something that is spiritual. People expect so much from you, you expect so much from yourself. So that’s one of the main tasking things in this industry. And plus it’s very competitive. I mean the Nigerian music industry. What it is now is not what it was five years ago. There is always like one new kid on the block. I have a hit record that is a club anthem. It is challenging but by God’s grace we are still here.

Any rewards [laughs]?
Oh yeah, it’s been so financially rewarding as well as the glamour that comes with it. You see, our industry… of course it’s not compared to the one in America, but it is growing. It is beginning to take its shape .The foundations are being laid. And we started the race, I would say.

You said something about a hit record being a spiritual thing, what did you mean by that?
I mean like you have to connect. I mean, you do a song for hundreds of thousands and even millions of people. To me that is you spiritually connecting with all of them. So when that lands on your table everyday it’s something that takes more than talent. It takes the holy grace for that to happen. That’s what I believe. With all the efforts that we make, unfortunately life is not always that fair. Sometimes you work so hard, and get little results and sometimes you work so hard and you get a lot of results. It’s what I meant by a hit record is so spiritual.

What are your biggest musical influences?
I mean, you will be shocked. I like music from the 50’s. Back then I believe the world was more peaceful . I get a lot of stuff from Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra… I get inspired by that kind of music. For the first time in my music career, in my new album I have the courage and guts to express this side of me. So when you listen to this album, I was kind of selfish and self centered. I wanted to please and satisfy me doing the album. So you could tell were my influences were coming from on the album, definitely. People don’t even know that I like neo-soul and stuff like that. With this album I can now call myself a musician and not just an afro-hip hop mc. I can confidently say yes, this is my art.

So you did take some risks with this album?
Yea, you see cos people are very stiff to change. Unfortunately, if you’ve built your brand with a particular perception, change can’t be so sudden. People still have to see that reflection of the impression they have of you . That would now lure them somewhere else. That’s what I did. The first single from this album is Arab Money. And it just so reminds you of Yahooze. Everyone who listens to the song says it’s good, it’s crazy, it’s going to be as good as Yahooze. But when you begin to listen to the album, you see that okay fine, there’s another twist to it. So I used that as a song to attract people, to attract all my loyal fans all over the world. Plus this album is the best of both worlds. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Kentro boys , that is the group I have been travelling with. So this is more like a two in one album we are recording together . That is why it’s a 20 track album. It’s almost like a twin cd. It’s a project that so much work has been put to it. From the buzz and from the action and the responses, I am confident that it will be very successful.


This is for the ladies. Are you seeing somebody right now?
[laughs] I mean, yea, I am still single. You know, love and happiness is not something you actually force. You allow nature take its natural course. I am not forcing anything. I have a couple of very close friends that I care about, that I have feelings for, but I am not engaged or anything. I don’t have a kid.

So you are just enjoying life?
It’s kind of lonely cos yes, I want to be married and yes, I want to settle down but unfortunately, these are not things you can force. It has to happen naturally. I will say my situation is like someone that is in a boat, it’s the tides that dictate

You seem to believe in destiny.
Because you know my personal life experience has taught me that you can only try so much but you are better of leaving things in God’s hands. There is a higher being that is in control of things. Consider that a blessing and try as much as possible to, you know, leave everything in God’s hands. When things are meant to happen, things will start happening whether you try to be a control freak or not. When things are happening, you might be under the assumption that you are doing something right, but know it was just God’s time for things to start clicking. That’s my belief.

When Collin Powell came on stage at the Africa Rising Concert in London last year, what was the experience like?
[laughs]At the show, a lot of artists had performed. Seal had performed, 2face had performed, we were just the last act before Christina Aguilera. When we were at the red carpet, unfortunately for us, Christina Aguilera was in front and we were at the back. It was all about Christian Aguilera, and we prayed, like we always do, before we went on stage and at the end of the show, that happened. That was nature taking its course. That wasn’t me planning anything. It made news all over the world. It opened so many doors, us getting a visa to come in here for example. So everywhere I go and I mention Collin Powell, people are like: “that was you?” it opened doors. That wasn’t my control. The response was just explosive, it was overwhelming. It wasn’t us performing, it was just God.

What actually happened that day?
It was actually 80% white audience. I watched a lot of people perform; 2face, Usher, so I am like okay, fine. I am the type of artist that has a spontaneous reaction to things. So when I was on stage, I was like, what can I do now that wasn’t planned? I don’t plan anything anyway. I just go with my instincts. So after I had done about two or three songs, I am like, what can be the icing on the cake? That’s when we called him up, and I was like, I am going to teach you a dance, this is the kind of dance that we do when we want to pray to God for prosperity . And he was just a sport. I mean the man is 70 years old. He was just caught in the groove.

Do you have any other interests or hobbies besides music?
I love to read. I like reading stuff like encyclopedias. There’s this new novel I bought at the airport, Angels and Demons. I am going to read that. The movie is coming out on the 16th, so I ‘m reading it before watching it. I am that kind of person, you know. I like History channel, National Geographic, I like wild life. Those are the things that entice me.

Any words for the fans?
[laughs] {in mimic tone} “Just say Arab money “[laughs]. Watch out for the new album. It’s great. It’s a two in one album were we present Kentro World. Bless you, thank you for the patience. It’s been three years after Yahooze.� So, bless you [laughs].

Thank you so much.
Thank you.

I attended a show by him and the Kentro World the night after I conducted this interview, and it was a great performance, as always. You can experience Olu Maintain do his thing at his next appearance at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY on May 23rd. Tickets are available at ABN Music Tour, which can be found at : http://www.ticketmaster.com/event/00004286ED64C0B5?artistid=1316313&majorcatid=10001&minorcatid=3�

Olu Maintain's New Song: Arab Money

Photos� and music courtsey of Olu Maintain


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