Emmanuel Bezhiwa Idakula is a Nasarawa State born artiste whose style of music is gradually changing the face of Nigerian music industry. Better known as Bez, the Stupid Song crooner in this interview with DOYIN ADEOYE, talked about his style, career, recent engagement to the daughter of the former governor of Oyo State, among other things.
How did music start for you?
I was very much interested in music throughout my childhood and that was because my father played the guitar, while my mum sang in the choir. I remember they used to sit by the recorder, where my dad would play the guitar and sing and my mum would back him up. It was so interesting to grow up in such environment and that influenced my interest in music. By age nine, my dad had taught me the basics in guitar.
And since Jos, where I grew up was a very small family oriented town, almost everybody knew each other and anybody doing music would know someone else into music. So it was an avenue for me to learn from people who had been playing the guitar before me or people that had been into music before me. The likes of Jeremaih Gyang, Darp and Polygap were my earliest influences back in Jos. And I just kept on going. I was a member of the choir both in my secondary school and at the university.
When did you decide to take up music professionally?
It was when I was in the university. Covenant University speaks a lot about discovering one’s purpose and that pushed me a lot. So I read a lot of motivational and spiritual books and I discovered that my purpose in life was to add value to people through music. So, it was during my second or third year in school that I decided to take up music as a career.
Which song would you consider as your first major hit?
That would be Vuciyadaya, which I released in 2009. Vuciyadaya means whole heart and it was part of a project I was into then; the Hennessey artistes’ street series. It was a major hit for me because people really loved it and it opened the doors for me.
The ‘stupid song’ was another major hit and the lyrics were unimaginable, what inspired it?
It was funny. We were in the studio one day when some artistes came around saying they wanted to do a stupid song. And the truth is most of the music that plays in Nigeria these days are often about the beats. Once people can dance to it, it becomes a hit. Nigerians like stupid songs. So Cobhams, who is my producer, thought of another angle towards it, so we went to the studio and put songs from way back together and we created music.
Over the years, what have been the challenges faced in your career?
There have been a lot; finance was one, as it is very paramount to any project. When there is no much finance, you wouldn’t be able to shoot a lot of videos or be able to maximise the media space. We had to push gradually from the bottom to the top. Also when I released my album, there was the problem of distribution, Alaba Market did not distribute it because it was a different sound and they were not sure about it. So the distribution was restricted to shows, gallerias and all.
Do you think your style of music is meant for an average Nigerian?
Well, there are niches and different market segments for everything. And even though I think my music can appeal to a global audience, I as well think that some people may not warm up to my style of music, because it is not what they are familiar with. But I think if they give it a chance or if it were available to them, they would enjoy it.
What memorable moments have you had in your career?
The first memorable one was when I opened for Asa in 2008 with Cobhams. I had been trying to reach Cobhams all to no avail and all of a sudden, he called me and told me he had listened to my song and he then invited me to the studio. So it was two major things for me, first, meeting Cobhams and secondly, opening for Asa. I performed a song and I did that for two days. For me, it was the beginning of my confidence boost.
Which performance would you consider the biggest you’ve had so far?
One of the performances that really struck me and opened a lot of doors, was one I did at the iTunes store in New York, in May 2012. Before we got there, they had put my picture in front of the store and it was open to a hundred people. I do not live in New York, so I intended to reach out to people that I knew there, which were about 10. But the place was filled up and the acceptance was great. I played with a two man band and by the time we finished, we had two standing ovations and that really struck me.
We also went on to perform in other places in New York and I later went back in June to play at the iTunes store in Los Angeles.
Nigerians are used to commercial hits, but you win fans with your lyrics, do you intend to change your style someday?
I don’t think that is possible. I’ve always been wired to stand out and I always wait to be inspired by music. I don’t make songs just for commercial hits because that dies away and by doing that, my lifespan in the music industry would be shortened.
And also, I don’t make music the way other people do. I have a band that I’ve been working with for four years now and also, my music is recorded life. So there is a lot that goes into my music.
Recently, we had to travel to my village in Nassarawa State to look for local drummers for my new album. We recorded about nine tracks in New York in March and they had the soft rock vibe and for me to make it African, I had to look for something original. So I’ll be going to Houston soon to merge the two beats and create something interesting.
What inspires your music?
I write from the music itself. I create the music first before I put the words to it. I get a tune and later attach lyrics to it, thinking of real life situations.
You recently got engaged to Bolatito Ladoja, daughter of the former governor of Oyo State...
To start with, I was shocked it hit the media that fast, because it was a very private proposal. But by the next day, I got a lot of messages on my phone, as it was all over the news. And I guess the reason it was gist for so many people was because I’ve always been private about my relationship. We’ve been dating for three years and people didn’t know about it. I can confirm that I proposed to her, but contrary to rumors that the wedding would come up in June, a day had not been fixed.
When do we get to hear the wedding bells?
I really don’t know yet, as things have not been discussed between both families.
What can’t you do without at any moment?
I can’t do without my glasses. They are recommended, so I have to wear them every time. I’m short sighted. So it’s for my sight, as well as for style.
Any album in sight?
Definitely, the next album would be out later in the year, although I can’t really say when it would be released, but some of the tracks would be released this month.
Tell us something unique about you…
I don’t see anything wrong about being in the kitchen. Sometimes I go the market and get ingredients to make a good meal. I am a very good cook.
I attended Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, before I proceeded to Covenant University in Ota in 2002, where I studied Information and Communication Technology.