Nigeria singer/songwriter Vincent Omoko aka Cent Moko has released a new album titled “Solution” in which he sings about some of the problems faced by Nigerians.
He describes his music as Afro hip hop and also plays reggae music.
He hails from the Delta region of Nigeria and believes only peace, love and unity can bring some stability in Nigeria, now described by some analysts as “the troubled giant of Africa.”
He is a graduate and holds an Advanced Diploma in Business Management. Presently, he is Secretary of Performing Musicians/Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Abuja chapter.
FRANK GARRIBA has been talking to him.
Q Which is your latest release and what is it all about?
My latest album is titled Solution, a clarion call to all Nigerians to find a lasting solution to the country’s myriad problems, encouraging them to have faith in Nigeria and giving them hope that no problem is unique to Nigeria, which is insurmountable; in fact, we can solve any problem we are facing in this great triangle called Nigeria.
In Solution, I also remind Nigerians that there once was a time when the naira was stronger than the dollar, and that if our abundant natural resources are properly harnessed, we can move the country to greater heights.
The album includes tracks like Shake Your Bom Bom, Oghene Vo, Give a Little Help, Religious Mentality, Onowo Ride and Footsteps.
Q What are the challenges you face as a young artiste?
Just like every occupation faces challenges, we musicians also face our own problems because we do not operate in space; we are part of society. In fact, we are more affected by the problems of other sectors of the human society.
For budding artistes, the problem of getting a good record label and marketing is paramount. Unlike in the past when we used to have record companies in Nigeria like Tabansi, EMI Records, and Premier Records, among others where artistes were recorded, produced, marketed and signed contract deals, what we are experiencing today is nothing to write home about.
The artiste in Nigeria struggles alone to record, promote and get a marketer for his music. This is a herculean task and basically some of the major challenges I and other colleagues face.
Q You paint a very bleak picture of the Nigerian music scene.
Sure enough. All is not well with the music industry in Nigeria because most of the things I have just talked about are still there, staring us in the face. I believe this is all because the foundation of the industry was not properly laid. The industry is just moving like a crawling millipede. The few companies that exist are not helping matters but rather the older artistes manning them are exploiting and feeding fat on the talents of vibrant budding musicians.
Q As a budding artiste yourself, what are some of the areas you would want the government to help improve in the industry?
The government can help in various ways to improve the industry. For instance, it can set up a structures that will empower musical associations to have total control of the industry. There is a lot of interference from various quarters because there is no clear-cut structure or legislation as far as the music industry in Nigeria is concerned.
Government can also make copyright laws in the country viable as a way of eradicating piracy which remains the bane of the industry, and put an embargo on the sale of empty CD’s and tapes in the open market, except in studios.
It is also important for government to create a pension board for artistes so that they can have what to fall back on when they retire. Most artistes in the country who don’t have the opportunity to get enough money during their active years, end up as beggars when they leave music. This should not be the case if the government played its role well.
Q Who are your role models in music, and why?
My role models in music are Mike Okri, a Nigerian, and the legendary Bob Marley. Mike Okri inspired me a lot when I started listening to his music during my secondary and tertiary school days. He instituted a unique style of music when he released time na money, and by the time he signed to advertise Benson and Hedges, he became the first Nigerian (and probably the first African) artiste to win an international award.
Bob on the international scene was a philosophical singer. His lyrics moved me a lot. The passion and feeling he uses in his music makes him different from other Jamaican reggae artistes, which is why his music will remain ever green. So, Mike Okri and Bob Marley are my role models.
Q Do you think that there is a boom in the Nigerian music industry? If yes, what do you think is responsible for it?
I share the opinion that the music industry in Nigeria is experiencing a boom. You can see that there is a greater cordial and mutual relationship among artistes in the country; we can also find lots of collaborations between artistes these days unlike in the past when hatred and jealousy among them were all-time high.
Before now, we had cases of musicians poisoning each other in a battle for supremacy and unnecessary quest for fame, but thank God such an unhealthy atmosphere is gradually getting out of the system. The relationship between us as Nigerians and with foreign artistes is becoming more and more encouraging, which is why the industry has to experience a boom. They say nothing succeeds except in an atmosphere of serenity..
Q Some critics also think that there is a lot of pornography among Nigerian artistes in particular and in Nollywood in general. What is your take on this?
The average Nigerian has a culture and the fear of God even if the outer world sees us as bad people because of the insurgency in the country today. The way we are rated is not a real reflection of what we are; in fact, we are not worse than people of other countries.
Pornography among Nigerian artistes and in Nollywood is not as glaring as what we see in other countries’ movies and music videos. Thank God, we have the censor board that scrutinises movies before they are allowed to be released. And like I said before, it still depends on individual artistes. Lots of things are generalised about Nigeria, which is not fair.
For me, my music is not pornographic because of my style and lyrics. I said earlier that I sing music which can be enjoyed by people in both religious and non-religious circles. So, pornography is out of the question as far as my genre of music is concerned.
Q Some people hold that artistes have the habit of visiting shrines for charms to excel in their trade.
This is strange to me because I don’t get involved in such things. One thing in life is that one’s upbringing affects one both spiritually and morally. If your upbringing has no religious bearing, you can be tempted to use any means, including visiting shrines, to excel.
But those of us who were brought up in a strictly Christian milieu still have the fear of the Almighty God in us and as such we find it difficult to depend on charms to excel. However, I don’t know about others and so can only talk for myself.
Q How easy is it finding producers in Nigeria?
To find a producer in Nigeria is difficult because a producer has to be ready to sponsor the recording and promotion of artistes. We only have good studio engineers who do exactly what you ask them to do. The government is not helping matters because there is no encouragement. The government cannot record and promote artistes.
Q What is the attitude of the public towards artistes?
The Nigerian mentality about artistes is quite different from what obtains in other parts of the world.
Most people in Nigeria see artistes as lazy individuals who don’t want to work. Others see us as riff-raffs because of the poverty state the average Nigerian upcoming musician is subjected to. As such, nobody wants to encourage artistes. Worse still, due to the rate of high piracy, people don’t want to invest in music because they believe that they will not realise any gain from their investment. They can only invest when you have made it yourself.
Q What message do you have for your fans and the general public?
I thank all my fans for their support and urge them to keep the oil burning. To the general public, they should embrace one love, peace and unity because with those values, the country will move forward. Most importantly, they should support the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan, which is signalling the end of the tunnel for Nigerian artistes.
Music is a major instrument for societal development and I, Cent Moko, will play my part to ensure that life is better for all musicians in the country.
Fun facts about Cent Moko
Birthday: April 11, 1973
Star Sign: Aries
Best friend: Jesus
Favourite meal: Rice & beans with stew plus plantain
Unfulfilled dream: To win a Grammy Award
Greatest love: My wife after Jesus
Hobbies: Reading & listening to music
Favourite colour: Blue and silver
Favourite footwear: Flat cover shoes & canvas
Life philosophy: Do the right thing and share your riches with the poor