PublicFaces caught up with Ogun State Based Juju Artiste, Wole Papa who shared his background, how he started his musical career by imitating Abass Akande Obesere with fun before carving a niche for himself, he also dwelt on other personal issues.Enjoy..
Who is Wole Papa?
My real name is Oluwole Afolabi born to the family of Oyenola, I am from Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State, but I was born in Lagos. Constitutionally, I am a citizen of Ogun state because I schooled, worked and married a woman from Abeokuta, the state capital. I left Lagos since 1982 when I was 6 years old to settle in Abeokuta. As regards my educational background, before I came to Abeokuta, I attended Odo-Abore Primary School, Mushin, and Lagos State. Due to my relocation, I had to repeat my primary education at Emmanuel African primary school and I attended Ebenezer grammar school for secondary education before proceeding to Government Technical College Idi-Aba in Ogun state where I did a three-year course Electrical Insulation and Maintenances. From that point again, I moved on to Moshood Abiola polytechnic Ogun state where I obtained a National Diploma in Business Administration and a Higher Diploma in Marketing. Due to my age then, I could not go for the NYSC programme, it did hurt me but I never allowed it to take the best out of me because I have been making money right from my school days.
Did you at any point practice what you studied in school?
I never practiced what I studied in school. This is because while I was in school I was doing music. In fact, I was not happy when I couldn’t go for service, and whenever I hear details of youth service, the activities in the camp especially the first three weeks, and seeing them in ‘Ajuwaya’ uniform I usually feel bad. But for me, I left school to focus on my music career and that is fulfilling enough.
Why music and how did it start?
My growing up as I said earlier was not something very easy for me. It was the reality and my bitter experience of life that led me into music. At times, when you face some challenges in life, your brain will think of nothing else than a way out. I started music when I was in Government Technical College and all thanks to the friends I had then because we never took it so serious then. I never knew it was going to take me to this level in life. I usually do freestyle with Obesere’s songs because I was a fan of his and I sounded like him. I got my stage name ‘WolePapa’ through my love for him to the extent that he knows me, and I have performed alongside him on the same stage during events like Benson and Hedges show, Gateway pepper soup carnival and others.
The name got stuck while I was at a live show and a fan shouted “Epe Omo Wole-Papa Yen Ko Wa Fun Wa Lorin’’ meaning call that Wole-Papa boy to perform for us. Officially, I can say I started in 1997, 1998 and that happened in Sagamu.
Can you recall the experience at your first show?
When I got to the venue of my first official show, I was shivering because I was not sure of how to satisfy the audience. but I thank God that I was able to thrill them, and that was how I got my
courage, after then I started consulting bars and joint to perform on Fridays and weekends.
Presently, you don’t sound like Wole Papa again, when and why did you change your style?
When I started then, I got to know that people usually want to listen to me even if I am not the main artiste at event, they will still be begging the organisers to allow me to perform ‘Asakasa’ or ‘Saje’ for them which is Obesere’s style, I later realized that, those people don’t really love me because they don’t call me for their personal events like wedding, naming and other events which made me realise that the style I am copying is too vulgar for them. So, I created my own style. Although, at first, they did not accept it but to the glory of God, a month after people started calling me for their shows. That was how I changed from Fuji to Juju, and from Obesere’s style to my personal style.
Which musical instrument(s) can you play?
I can’t play any instrument. Division of labour is vital in music, I used to tell people that you don’t have to be an instrumentalist to be a musician, being a musician doesn’t mean you must be able to play any musical instrument, if you can do both it is good, but I am a vocalist and I enjoy what I do.
How was music back then when you started?
When I started I was a very lucky enough to raise a band within a short period, and presently in my band, I still have people that we started together, except new people that are joining us now. Then I started with just 5 men and now we are more than 25 including the band and the crew. Let me say I didn’t have too much problem starting up.
Have you ever had any rift with your band members?
We’ve had misunderstanding several times, because if I say we don’t fight that will be an understatement, to keep and manage people from different homes has not been easy but I thank God, I know that I cannot please them, even if I ask them to go share the money that we make from shows among them there will still be grudges. Truly we do have rifts but I thank God we usually settle it before it goes out of hands.
Fuji artistes like Pasuma are crossing over to hip hop, are you also considering this kind of move?
Yes, I usually tell people that my style of music is different from others, I call mine JUFUJI, because I didn’t leave Fuji totally, I only try to modernise it. What I noticed from people of nowadays is that they want classy music coupled with ‘ALUJO’ (dance hall music), so when you listen to my music you will get the feel of Fuji and Juju, and as regards my decision to do Hip-Hop, I am also working on that, in fact I just finished a 5 minutes audio track that is more of hip hop which I am panning the visual soon.
Are you considering featuring any hip hop artiste on the track?
Sigh. The future will tell if I will feature any Hip-Hop artiste. It is not something that is unachievable, in fact anything can happen. So far so good, to the glory of the lord, I have produced ‘Fuji Highlife’, ‘Mr Wolex, ‘Motijelo’ ‘life on the sea’ ‘Alase’ and ‘advice for the nation’.
What are those promotional platforms that you employ to promote your music?
Presently , I am pushing MOTIJELO’s video and ALASE’S audio, the MOTIJELO was shot in four different countries, and I hope by next year we will embark on ALASE’S video, but we are doing a massive media hype both online and offline, in fact we are doing everything humanly possible and using all platforms available to push ALASE AND MOTIJELO’s video.
Which has been your most daunting challenge?
It is the constant robbery attacks on Nigerian Highways. As a musician we travel a lot and mostly at nights, we usually encounter robbery attacks on our way home. There was a time we were attacked on our way from ISEBODE-EKITI. I am always afraid whenever we need to travel at night after performance. The hottest one that happened was on our way from IJEBU-ODE, that I had to sleep in bush all night, the robbers shot into the air and I ran for my dear life into the bush, they drained and drilled my boys. It was a bitter experience that I don’t pray that I experience again in my life.
Who are those people that you can attribute your success to?
First of all there is nothing I can do without God, for where I am coming from and where I am today, though I am not there yet, my parents also tried for me, I don’t want to mention names, I give it to all my lovers for their advice, patronage and love.
Do you believe in moving to Lagos for more fame and fortune?
That is a crazy idea to me, my success in life is not determined by where I reside, look at my Boss Alhaji Sefiu Alao, he was born and bred in Abeokuta, Ogun State and he is making it across the globe. He is so proud of it that he sang about it and he would even prefer to be referred to as ‘OMO OKO’. I get shows from Lagos that means they also recognize us in Lagos, even Lagos is jam-packed already and Ogun State is getting better every day, thanks to our dear Governor Ibikunle Amosun.
Do you do any other business apart from singing?
Yes I do, it is just that even my other business revolve around music. I do events planning, event rentals. I have another project that I am working on now that has required me to travel around the world to bring the needed sophisticated gadgets and equipment to setup a state of the art musical studio. I am a musician so it won’t be bad if I have a studio here in Abeokuta, this will also help me to support up and coming artistes and help them showcase their talents.
Who is Wole Papa as a family man?
I am married to a beautiful and wonderful woman, I have three kids, two boys and a girl. I spend most of my free time at home with my family.
How do you unwind?
I do that at home. I don’t take alcohol, I don’t club so I just chill and have all my fun at home.
Why did you stop playing at Abeokuta Sports club?
It is not only in Sports-Club that I don’t perform again, I used to perform at Status-Ijeja and other places, but I got to this stage I needed to stop all every Friday night shows. So, it is not Sports Club alone that I have stopped performing.
Those are people like SunnyAde and Ebenezer Obe. Those are the people that I want to be like because of their unique presentation and evergreen music, they have been there for long and yet they are still functioning, and their music is still a reference. Our profession has a life span, sooner than later age will tell and sonorous voice will begin to lose its quality, that is why it is good to always produce good music that will be a good reference in the future.
Advice for other up and coming Juju artistes?
I will tell them that there are no fast roads to success, they should take things easy by doing things step by step, and be focused. Prayer is paramount, because it is only with God that they will get there.
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