Christopher Omenye is an Afro-dancehall artiste from Nigeria. His most notable releases include ‘Anya’, ‘SOS’, ‘Pass the AUX’ and a feature on Major Lazer’s ‘Run Up’ remix.
He spoke to Buzz about why he does not regret quitting medical school to pursue music.
- How did you get into music?
I loved music ever since I was a child, and even my toy was a Palito hand-held radio. That made me know genres like reggae, dancehall, house and high life from a young age.
- How did you begin expressing this passion?
In school I would perform covers of songs at the social events. I would just do it for girls back then.
Do you remember the first song you composed?
It was a rap song called “Ewo” and it was an Igbo song. I hated the song because I was so caught up in the western culture that performing a song that wasn’t in English didn’t feel good. However, everyone else was loving it. It spread to neighbouring towns and that’s how I met MI and Ice Prince.
How did you meet them?
My mum introduced me to our church keyboardist, Michael E, and he took me to the only studio that had the equipment to transfer the beats we had created from diskette to CD, which was in Bauchi State. MI was the studio engineer there. I recorded my first song there and they were impressed by it.
How did you end up in a group?
I met Chopstix, who is my producer, and J.Milla along the way. We loved and had understanding of the same type of music. Sometimes, in order to conquer you need to be a crew. That’s how Grip Music label came up, but we were still doing solo projects even as we identified as Grip Boiz.
How did you get into the Lagos scene?
I dropped out of medicine school to move to Lagos. I couldn’t concentrate in class and I hardly had time for performing and touring. I did a freestyle titled Red Rose as the first song I released in Lagos, but SOS was my breakout song that got me an MTV MAMA music video of the year award nomination.
Why take a breather then?
I became broke after a year in Lagos; it was too expensive compared to just eating from your farm like we did back in Jos. I also was doing music because I loved it and didn’t understand the art of doing records. People thought I was making money and I was being charged for tracks, videos, rent and all other expenses. I went back home and pursued a degree in Accounting at my mum’s behest. I graduated last year.
You released an album which had your mum on it. She’s okay with you in music now?
My mum raised me singlehandedly, she’s very important in my life. Until I gave her that degree, she had only given me permission to do music but not her blessings. She told me I could do anything I please now, and she features on a gospel song in my album.
The album is called Better Late Than Never because it had seemed like this was not going to happen. I believe it has taken off smoothly because of her blessings. I also got signed to Chocolate City which collaborates with my own label Zimm Life.
How long were you working on the album?
Some of the songs like “Nina” and “Superman” had been recorded almost four years ago.
What do fans mean to you?
They are the reason I got here. Before I even got signed, they were pushing my music to radio stations and deejays in clubs to play the songs. They knew dancehall was not a general genre in Nigeria, before Burna Boy, Cynthia Morgan and Patoranking came up, but they stuck with me.
Are you working on collaborations in East Africa?
Yes, with Vanessa Mdee, Harmonize, Joh Makini and Sauti Sol. Sauti Sol will be on the remix of “Nina” and we plan to shoot the video when I return to Kenya.
What do you say about complaints that Nigerian artistes don’t support Kenyan music even in collaborations they feature?
I don’t make music with someone whom we don’t have a connection with. It’s not just about numbers for me, we both have to know that it’s our song. If the labels make that deal or your team just sends the song and pays for the collaboration, then you can’t blame an artiste for just doing his obligation and not promoting it.
- What do you like about Nairobi?
The weather is cool and the people are calm. It reminds me of Jos. Lagos is hectic.
How do you take on criticism?
I receive it but I don’t take it personally. There are albums people trash in the beginning and then call classics a few years down. Only the artiste knows his direction.
What does Zimm Life mean?
Rebirth. I got really sick after graduating. I’m grabbing my second chance.
What do you look for in a collaboration?
Someone that brings spices when I come with the rice; value addition.
Your optimum recording conditions?
I record anywhere I find inspiration.
Biggest lesson you learnt?
Do what makes you happy.
Why are Nigerians successful?
We are loud, proud and more outside Nigeria than in Nigeria (laughs)