Sound Sultan exclusive interview: ‘The problems of Nigeria are Nigerians’

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Sound Sultan, aka Lanre Fasasi, is one of Nigeria’s foremost musicians. He has remained relevant in the industry, with 6-albums and a career spanning over a decade. With hits that include ‘Jagbajantis,’ ‘Motherland,’ ‘Ole,’ and ‘Kokose,’ Sound Sultan has continued to remain in tune with Nigerian audiences, home and away.

In this interview, the singer, writer and composer spoke on his career, family, relationship with Sean Tizzle, his new film, MTN endorsement and record label among other issues.

Earlier this year, the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, invited you to a special dinner at the Buckingham Palace. And shortly after that, the Nigerian Stock Exchange invited you to ring the bell. What do you have to say about these accomplishments?

Firstly, I give thanks to God, for the sustenance of my career and making me stay afloat. God gave me enough years to use as bragging rights and He is the reason behind what I have become today. I also attribute this to hard work and steadfastness; when do the right things and stay on the right course, you get great results, and I believe these are just part of the rewards of hard work.

Most of your songs have been about the situation of the country. What would you say are the problems facing this country and how do you think we can reform Nigeria?

The problems of Nigeria are ‘Nigerians’! We don’t have any other problem other than that. Whenever we point an accusing finger at the government, it points back at the masses. We have a common enemy, which is the government. But we fail to realize that we are part of the government. Even if we at not at the reign of power at the moment, one day we will get there. Even the present individuals in government had pointed accusing fingers at one point in their lives. That’s how the trend continues. The people themselves need to re-evaluate what they stand for, individually. It’s easy to say little drops of water makes a mighty ocean, but if every unit takes proper charge and makes a significant effort towards the betterment of the country, then we will move from this point. So, if we talk about the situation of the country without the people wanting to be part of the rehabilitation, we won’t succeed nor progress. The number of the people in government is minute, compared to the masses. For example, if we are able to fight and conquer this present government and toss the corrupt leaders out of their offices, what’s going to happen when the new ones come in? That is my argument. I am someone that speaks for the masses, but the masses are faceless, [so] I might as well be speaking for a thief. So, I just want individual efforts. Everyone should be prepared to make sacrifices for the betterment of this nation. If we can get the majority of the people thinking in the right manner, then the country will change. You will find a man driving against traffic insulting another driver who is plying the right route. We are losing it in the country.

Naija Ninja - Sound Sultan in 2012 with Yung GreyC, Karma, Blackka and Sean Tizzle. Photo: Instagram
Naija Ninja – Sound Sultan in 2012 with Yung GreyC, Karma, Blackka and Sean Tizzle. Photo: Filed

In 2007, you left Kennis music and in 2008 you started Naija Ninjas with your elder brother. You signed a couple of artistes like Karma Da Rapper and Young GreyC, what happened with these artistes and what is the true story behind the Sean Tizzle saga?

Well, I already laid the Sean Tizzle story to rest; I don’t want to talk about it anymore. It is behind me. As you know, we have a new artist called BlackahYoung GreyC and Karmahave just started their album projects, Young GreyC shot a video and she is in the studio as I speak, she has done about 10 tracks featuring some popular artistes as well. Her album will be released in the first quarter of next year, hopefully. I am really excited about it. Trust me, when she drops it, ‘a lot of people go fear oo’. Young GreyC is one of the greatest voices in Nigeria, ‘Crude Voice’, that’s what I call her. And Karma dropped the video for ‘Aropin’, featuring Sean Tizzle. Sean Tizzle was in the video as well. That’s why I said I have buried the issue. Karma of course is a wonderful rapper and he has been a part of the family for a minute now, so this is the first video for his album. And the new signing, Blackah recently featured Ice Prince on his song, titled ‘Chicks and Drinks’ and a video will be shot very soon. We have been busy working.

You were recently appointed as an MTN ambassador, and despite the fact that you have been in the music industry for much longer, they appointed several new artistes before you, what does this mean to you?

My own clock is very different from everybody. My view of the timing and understanding of timing is really different and I say this with all sincerity. I don’t ever work with other people’s clock, I see myself as a timeless-breed. I don’t even see myself the way people see me, and that makes me take every opportunity with a smile and always appreciate it, because it could be worse. So, for me to be signed on, I’m happy, I’m really excited, regardless of whatever artiste was signed before me. I feel if they signed before me, it’s even better for me, because the money involved now is much more than what they started with, so it’s better this way.

Sound Sultan and wife Farida
Sound Sultan’s wife Farida

Your wife converted to Islam; what would you say inspired this and what part did you play?

Whenever you walk in life with someone, or you want to take someone as a role model, partner or whatever, don’t change because you want to change, the most important thing that should make you emulate that person is their way of life. If someone’s way of life affects me positively and I feel this person is representative of whatever they preach, then I will change for that reason. I think that’s exactly what my wife did. I don’t want to go into too much detail on that, but when people try to convince you into something, but they are not practicing what they preach, then it is a chaotic approach to influence people. I tell people ‘Do your own thing the right way and when they see you, they emulate you’.

Ruggedman, 2face, Sound Sultan, Paul Play Dairo, photo: Filed
Ruggedman, 2face, Sound Sultan, Paul Play Dairo, photo: Filed

Comparing the music industry when you started to this moment, what would you say are the major problems faced and how can they be curbed?

The problem we have here is that we have just evolved in the music business, we haven’t done music for a century. We have really tried for the time we started and developed very quickly in a very short time. It took the U.S a long time to get to where they are right now; they have been doing music for ages with enough players in the game. We are really trying, so I must give kudos to everybody that has been part of the growing music community. I’m sure we can do better than this and improve. This brings me to imploring our musicians to create more ‘content based music.’ Make sure your music lives longer than these short lifespan kind of music we have out there today. 

Sound Sultan - 'Me, My Mouth and Eye' album cover
Sound Sultan – ‘Me, My Mouth and Eye’ album cover

In 2012, you released your last album titled ‘Me, My Mouth and Eye.’ How did it fare?

It humbled me, the reception humbled me and I am still humbled because it is still my recent album, it is my 6th studio album and people made me feel like it was my debut album. The reception was overwhelming. I didn’t drop any single from the album, like I did with ‘Kokose’, but it (the album) thrived on its own. People grabbed it and made it an anthem. Each time I come out with a new joint, people accept it as if I am a new artiste, I thank God for that. The album gave a rebirth to my brand name. I really appreciate that. I tell people, ‘don’t be in rush to release albums after album, what if it flops?’

How many artistes are signed on to Naija Ninjas as we speak?

We are all five, namely; Baba DeeSound Sultan, Karma, Young GreyC and BlackahRanks 

Don T was your manager, how was it working with him?

Don T is a great guy, a very wonderful person, though he isn’t my manager anymore, we are still very good friends. He is a big brother and a very good friend. Working with him was fun and he has [a lot of] experience. I’m glad I worked with him at some stage in my career.

So
Sound Sultan, 2face Idibia on set of ‘Head Gone’

You recently announced popular names involved in your new movie ‘Head Gone.’ How is it going and when is it due for release?

Head Gone is a project we have been working on for 8 years, my brother and I have been going back and forth on it. At first, it was the issue of funds to power the idea, but we gradually built it into what it became over the years, because along the line we would always go back to it, revisit one thing or the other, discuss it, [and] modify the story; this is why it took so long. And now, we have more than enough to set it into motion, so here we are. It was a good thing to start it up. We got partners as well and the rest is history. The movie will be out this year, and when it drops, a lot of people will have a rekindled belief in Nigerian movies. It is a comedy, and comedy in Nigeria might be stereotype to an extent, but this one is detailed and has an interesting story line as well. We have about 16 stars, no disrespect to the others. 16 megastars on this project; it is going to be crazy. We have Papiluwe2face IdibiaAlibabaAkpororoZack Orji, Ik OsakioduwaIkechukwuBasketmouthPa Peter FatomilolaBasorge TariahEniola BadmusSaka, Sound Sultan and many more. All you have to do is get your family, and get to see this movie when it is out. Don’t miss it!

Sound Sultan and his kids - Zara and Mayowa
Sound Sultan and his kids – Zara and Mayowa

Tell us about your family.

I don’t talk about my family that much, I will give little information though; I have 3 kids and a lovely wife, I have 5 siblings that I love and cherish so much, those are my brothers and my sisters. And my uncle and aunts, that’s it.

What advice do you have for new, struggling and established artists on how to take the industry to the next level?

Challenge yourself! Be grateful to God, but never relent on your efforts. Though you might be good and successful at what you do, aspire for more, you can always do better than your best. Aim higher than your last achievement, be grateful to God at all time, but never stop at your best. A creative part of you must always want more. Stay hungry, hunger brings more inspiration; don’t get too jealous of other people’s achievements, because when you eventually attain such a stage, you won’t understand it. When you see someone is in a position you desire, reach out to them and ask how they got there, what it takes to get there, find out the story, rather than being envious. And most importantly, stay original!

Davido recently won an award at the recently held BET awards and Ice Prince performed at the same ceremony, what does this mean to you and what does it mean to the music industry?

I won’t say ‘we have arrived’, because we have arrived, since! It is not about us, it is about them realising that Nigeria has talents, because the world will never carry you on their shoulder if you are not worth it. The world cannot sleep on Nigeria right now, it will be a failure on their part if they sleep on us. Everywhere you go to, you hear and see Nigerians doing great things. Nigerians are all over the world doing good music, big shout out to the Nigerians in the diaspora. They love Nigerians out there and they respect us, they know Africa is the next big thing, with ‘raw materials’. They really need the followership of the Africans, and they got people that matter here and got them endorsed over there.

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