Classical rock musician, Paschal Uche Ejikeme, stage named Etcetera, in this chat with MODUPE AHMED, waxed philosophical about the chemistry between the musician and the audience, his passion for live music, among other issues.
Being one of the distinct rock/alternative singers to have come out of Nigeria, how have you been able to keep up with the pace and still maintain your substance?
Focus is the key; everyone aspiring to get to the top or stay there must take that into cognisance. I happen to be someone who doesn’t easily get distracted and the love I have for what I do is paramount. It is the factor that is still keeping me prominent at a time like this that junk music has infiltrated and now threatening to destroy the Nigerian music industry.
You preach love, unity, peace and injustice. What’s the motivating force that makes you?
I get motivated by everything- my love for this country and how painful it is to see the way things are being handled by those saddled with the responsibility to govern, how it is totally difficult for the youth of today to look at the future with any hope, how my fatherland has been ripped apart by selfish individuals, how there is not a single individual in the whole of Nigeria that is worthy to be called an elder statesman and how my country has degenerated into a land of no hope from being a land flowing with milk and honey. For every creative Nigerian, these are some of the inspirations or motivations that can be found on the faces of the people in the streets.
You don’t need to be too observant to take note of these things. If you listen to your conscience a lot, you should know that a lot of the anomalies by politicians that we see daily are most times the result of the Boko Haram or terrorist issues that are threatening to divide this nation. To think that some people are expecting me to sing about pants and bras or Hennessey when my house is on fire? It’s a trying time for our nation that is why we have to be very careful about the things we say in our music, in order to avoid spreading negative influence to the younger ones.
You are famed for hit songs like ‘Ring the Alarm, Photographs of my thoughts’ and ‘Michelle’ which won you the prestigious hip-hop world awards for the recording of the year.
I don’t crave to be attached to a particular sound or song. Rather, I want to be remembered for the impact it made on the lives of people. Yes, everyone is happy climbing the podium to receive awards for their works. It shows that a certain body or organisation sees you qualified to have their plaques. Sincerely, I don’t pay special attention to plaques or award certificates because they can mostly help to litter your house. Rather, I prefer the awards that I get daily in the streets, when I come across people my works have affected positively.
Your music has this classical standard to it, similar to the likes of Aerosmith, Snow Patrol and Hoobastank . Who are your influences?
The names you mentioned are heavyweights and it feels good to be mentioned in the same sentence with people with such a remarkable achievement in music, but I’m not inspired by anyone in particular. My music is connected to things around me. I sing basically about my experiences and that of other people.
For the Etcetera Live monthly show, are you working with a live band? Tell us more about it?
Asking me if I’m working with a live band is like asking if the Pope is the Primate of the Celestial Church of Christ. I play rock/alternative music and it will be a gargantuan disrespect to the genre to be caught performing with a back-track or what some call miming. My music is played live, both in the studio and on stage. That’s why you can never find Etcetera on the same stage with the likes of a Wizkid or Davido because we are from different planets musically.
Who is Paschal Uche Ejikeme?
Paschal Uche Ejikeme is the son of a prison warder called David Ejikeme, born in Warri, Delta State, but hails from a small village called Amaiyi in Umuaka, Njaba Local Government area in Imo State.
Your songs are very touching, soul-searching and emotional, how do you deal with the opposite sex in the whole drama?
I love drama and I need more drama in my life, because without drama, life will be boring. I love women, I love what they stand for. A woman is just like making a good song. It has to be perfect at every curve and phrase. It has to be emotional and soothing to the heart. It has to have depth and mystery, like a woman. It has to be revealing, yet secretive. It has to be very refreshingly seductive, so as to keep people coming for more. It has to be bitter and sweet at the same time, so as to leave a lingering after-effect. The human nature is dramatic. We were made in a dramatic fashion or would someone explain to me why God, before making man, said ‘let us make man in our own image and likeness?’ Isn’t that dramatising and adding special effects to man’s creation? Most of my fans are ladies and I am so happy singing to them. I can’t imagine what our concerts will be like without the female audience. No disrespect to the male folk, but I think to perform before an all male audience will be extremely boring. Because of my upbringing and orientation, I write songs to inspire and to provoke positive emotions in people.
What are your plans to make your genre of music more visible as one of the greatest Nigerian rock artistes to emerge?
An impeccable art cannot be kept hidden for long. When DaVinci painted the Monalisa, not many people were aware of it or saw it as beautiful. But as time would reveal, it became a case study for artistes worldwide. When it comes to music promotion, there are no sure solutions to making the song or artistes a hit with the audience out there. It’s basically a trial and error approach at every turn. It is more of a gamble that sometimes pays off or flops. But in all, a good song will always stand out and find its way to the hearts of ardent fans.
What is your life philosophy, considering its ups and downs?
Let your heart be your pilot, it will lead you well. We are all in transit and this is just a stop to the next destination. And don’t ask me if there is or where it is, because I don’t know. So, whatever your lust and obsessions are, know that all is vanity.
What is your candid advice for the average Nigerian youth trying very hard to make it?
Your advice lies within you. No one, not even me, can advise you. When it comes to art, only your heart can advise you.