Monday, 27 April 2015

My life,music and family Peter Okoye (P-Square)

Multi-talented duo, Peter and Paul Okoye, a.k.a. P-Square, started their rise to fame over a decade ago; starting small, performing on a local scale before making it to the big league. The duo, managed by big brother Jude Okoye, introduced pop into the Nigerian music scene during an era it wasn’t a popular genre.
From street to stage, the limelight took them beyond borders, performing beside the biggest names in the music industry, locally and internationally.The second half of the duo, Peter, shares his story. He speaks on his love for music, life and family.
You and your brother started P-Square during an era when pop culture wasn’t so popular in Nigeria. How did you pull through to create the phenomenon that you are?
For us, it was all about the love of music. Music was something we loved doing. All we wanted was not just for people to listen to P-Square, but for people to start listening to Nigerian music too. And we did this by incorporating it with what the Western world was doing.
At that point, if we started singing like Nigeria’s Osadebe and the other great artistes of the time, our music would have remained local. So, we decided to spice it up with the urban feel, although people weren’t loving us as much, they were getting to know what we were all about.

Twins usually share common traits. What would you say is the one thing you and Paul share as twins brothers aside from music?
I would say we share our line of ideas. Sometimes, when we go out and I want to buy an outfit, if I’m not so confident I’ll try it on Paul; if it looks good on him, it wil l look good on me.
How has your experience been since you began performing on the international platform?
It has been good. I remember when we had our first concert outside Nigeria. It was fantastic because when we were young, we used to see people faint, cry and rush for autographs of Michael Jackson. We thought they were just acting until it started happening to us.
Finally, we knew things have really changed. So, when we witnessed that, I remember it was in Sierra Leone; the stage was built on one side for people to sit one way but instead, the crowd was so much people were sitting all round – up to the point that the backdrop behind us was dropped for the people at the back to have a good view of the stage.
That was a moment of epiphany; we knew that this music is serious business.

Your recent album, “Double Trouble” featured international acts T.I. in ‘Ejeajo’ and Awilo in ‘Enemy Solo’. What inspired these collaborations?
For P-Square, this album was one of the smoothest albums we have produced. We weren’t as stressed, as  usual, in any way. At this point, we know what the people want so we wanted to try something new. Nobody expects us to do an old school funk beat. I call it ‘New Sound’.
‘Ejeajo’, especially, was unexpected. T.I. wasn’t there, initially, when we did the song. I gave him ‘Shekini’ collabo but as soon as he heard ‘Ejeajo’, he was like “That’s the song”. That was how we got that.
The same thing happened with Awilo and Jermaine Jackson. Jermaine had to fly in from Minnesota to do the song in our house and Awilo came in from London to our house as well. It has just been fantastic.
Which international artiste have you been anxious to work with or have you already worked with?
For me, it’s Michael Jackson. When he died years ago, it hurt. I never met him but it would have been a dream come true. This is one of the reasons I wanted to work with the Jacksons. That was why we also did ‘Personally’ amongst some others which were tributes to Michael Jackson. As soon as the video came out, less than three days later, the Jackson family put a call through to us to send their appreciation.
Right now, someone we are looking forward to working with is a secret. We love surprising our fans.

Do you write your songs by yourself or do you have someone who does it for you?
Honestly, we write our songs by ourselves.
For our first, second and third albums, we wrote and produced everything by ourselves. From the fourth album, we started bringing in people; even the last album, apart from about two or three songs that people wrote for us like ‘Ejeajo’ and ‘Shekini’, which were written by V-Tech – the rest were from us.

Peter Okoye and his son
Peter Okoye and his son

Would you say your music has strong sexual references with titles like ‘Do Me’, ‘Roll It’ etc.?
I think it may have a bit but it depends on what the people want to listen to; like nobody knows what ‘Shekini’ means. We try not to overdo things – that would upset a certain sphere of people. So, P-Square has love songs, Christian songs, sexual songs – as you put it – but it all depends on what the people want.
Some of your songs are usually Igbo themed, showing you are still very close to your roots. How would you say this has affected your music and personality?
Sometimes, if we don’t sing in Igbo, our people will crucify us (laughs). If you listen to P-Square, you will hear Igbo, English, Pidgin English; even French we try. For us, English is a universal language and I’m not singing in Igbo to try and please my people but I like to inculcate my culture through music.

How would you describe your personal style?
I’m just me. To be honest, I don’t like people styling me because they never get me. If I’m doing it wrong, let me be. I am at a point that I want to wear what I’m comfortable with; not that they will give me something expensive or labeled and it doesn’t still fit. So, for me, anything that fits me is what I wear.
Would you say that your style ideology goes for P-Square as a group?
My brother is worse (laughs). I can try to accept what I’m styled with but he won’t.

What does ‘Ejeajo’ mean?
‘Ejeajo’ is like saying ‘Ejekajo’ in Yoruba which means ‘come let’s dance’.

How does it feel being married?
It feels great. I won’t say I’m more responsible now because I have been responsible long before getting married. I have two kids. One way marriage has changed me is, I now know what our parents went through in raising us.
For me, I’m now more composed. I try not to worry too much. I’m more focused because I need to work hard to look after my family.

Has your life changed since you became a father and has it, in any way, affected you and your career?
Yes, absolutely! My life has changed but it hasn’t affected my life. I still show my six packs. I still kiss people in the crowd. I still take my semi-nude pictures, travel etc. I’m still me and it’s all still part of the business.
Cool dad and kid
Cool dad and kid

There have been rumours that P-Square is planning to split or has split. Is this accurate?
Not at all. We just had a minor quarrel just like everyone who has siblings would. We fight and make-up; we fought many times last year but we still go on stage and perform and nobody knows. I can’t come out and say Paul and I have never fought.
It’s like a couple who has been married for over 20 years would come out and say they have never fought. It’s impossible; we are humans. It’s a normal thing.

There have also been rumours of your manager and brother, Jude, resigning as your manager. Is this accurate?
It’s the same thing; family quarrels. We argued and made-up. He didn’t resign. We are still working together and, even when we quarrel, we don’t allow it to collide with business. There is a line drawn there.

How do you cope with fame?
Well, sometimes it limits us from doing stuff. I’m kind of an impulse shopper. I see something I like on the road while driving but I can’t stop to buy it. I love akara very much but I can’t even stop to buy it. Most times, its’ like from house to work and vice versa. I can’t take a walk and I’m used to walking with security. Somehow, it doesn’t make me a free person but it’s okay.

There has been talk of tension in the home front between your brother and your wife, Lola Omotayo. Can you comment on that?
Like I said, family fights. But we settle it in-house.

You guys portray an image of living luxurious lives with jets and lavish cars. How has this affected your image in the public eye?
It didn’t affect us. As a matter of fact, it made us even stronger. A lot of people think we are showing off but the truth is if we were not showing off, you would not know what we are worth. If you see me on okada, you won’t pay me ten million to come and do a concert. They say, everything we do – people post it; everything we have, we show off and that we are not Dangote. My dear, Dangote is not in showbiz. Whatever we do, we do because that’s the way it’s supposed to be. What we do is show-business. It’s a show and it’s business so that’s what we do.

What is your daily routine like? When do you go to bed, wake up etc.?
I don’t go to bed; I fall asleep (laughs) – meaning, I don’t have a particular bed time because most of our shows are at night. With the way we travel and time zones changing; with that, anytime sleep hits me, I just switch off my phone and tell them not to disturb me for the next three hours or so. I take my nap.
Secondly, I love picking up my kids from school, dressing them up, even bathing them – all by myself. I have domestic staff at home but I still love doing all that myself.

What’s your diet like and how do you keep fit?
Honestly, I don’t diet. I eat whatever I want to eat. I can wake up in the morning and eat eba. People ask me: ‘how do you keep fit’? I just tell them nothing. I am a workaholic. I don’t visit the gym that much anymore. I do what they call the Chinese work-out, just regular pull ups.
I also play soccer; then I rehearse. I can take eba from morning to night.

How do you relax?
I relax, probably, when we’re going to another country. When we get there, we get a hotel. I immediately find the pool. I love the pool. I just take a cool dip and dive and I’m happy.

Where is your favourite holiday location?
I’m not really the holiday-travelling kind of person. At the moment, the only place in Africa I’ve been to and I love is Senegal. There’s a lovely resort there; but outside Africa, I love St Lucia. It’s in the Caribbean.

How do you shuffle your work life and family time?
It’s difficult to manage. Sometimes, when you leave to work, you keep thinking about the people you left behind and vice versa. People don’t know the risks our job entails. Some people fly once a year and they panic on the plane. We fly two or three times a week with all the plane crashes happening. People don’t see that. All they see is the luxury life. Trying to cope with family is hard but we try and sometimes, I travel with them as well.

What are your plans for the future?
The future is now. For me, the future is what I see now. I lost both my parents a few years ago. To me, my future is what my kids will become. I am okay and I don’t plan to spend so much money buying jewellery and wearing designers. My kids can do that. Some things we weren’t privileged to have then, I want my kids to have now.

Do you think your son has a spark of music? Will he be a P-Square prodigy?
I think he does. He loves dancing, music and soccer. He loves everything I love so, I’m teaching him the reins.
He’s learning how to play instruments like guitar and the piano.

Would you say your music has contributed in the growth of the music industry in Nigeria?
Absolutely! I’m not boasting but I think what Paul and I came up with for the Nigerian industry was dynamic. We were the first to start making money from album sales, we turned it around. Producers go to marketers and say ‘anything you have give me’ but we structured it. You have to pay us to release it; I mean, quite a few of us – Tu-Face, Black Face etc. – my mates at the time. The way things are now, I’m happy we made it work.

Family time….Peter and Cameron

What would you say you owe your success to?
I wish my mum was still alive. She gave us moral support, especially with her prayers. I owe her a lot. She was always there. I’m happy she enjoyed some part of her labour for P-Square.

Any advice for up and coming artistes who look up to you?
What I always tell them is nobody can make you bigger except yourself. If you like, do an album with track one featuring P-Square, track two Michael Jackson and so on, none of that will make you big, You should always do you, be you and stop condemning yourself.
Some come up with their CDs and they’re not in the least bit confident that it’s any good. They will be like: ‘It’s not finished and I know it may not be very good but just tell me what you think’. In my mind, I’m not convinced. What I want is for you to say, ‘Men, Oga P, see this my song eh, e sweet pass all of una songs join!’ That will make me listen to you.

Pamela Echemunor

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