Legendary singer, Sir Shina Peters, speaks with OLUSHOLA RICKETTS about his music career and his relationship with women, among others
How have you managed to stay relevant for so long?
Some people may say I use charms but I’m just blessed by God. My success is something that I cannot explain. People usually call me a star but we don’t see stars in the afternoon or morning. Perhaps, if I had chosen another career path, I might not be as popular as this. However, this music business is not easy. I am a workaholic and my schedules are always tight. For the past few days, I have not slept well. As I speak with you, I have only had four hours of sleep in the past 24 hours. But nothing can stop me from swimming because I love doing that. Despite all the challenges that come with the profession, I can’t do without it. I didn’t become a musician for money or fame but for the love I have for it. If you don’t have passion for what you do, you would get tired when challenges come your way.
How would you describe your upbringing?
As a child, I loved playing the guitar. Though my parents were not really in support of my decision to do music, I didn’t care. We had a group then called Olushina and his 12 Fantastic Brothers Band. We used sticks to make our own guitar. Instead of focusing on my studies, I was always doing music. On a particular day, I told my parents I was not interested in school anymore and that created a lot of tension at home.
When I left home, I went to Temiogbe Motel in Oshodi, and I started living with a prostitute. However, there was a day the woman accused me of stealing her money. Meanwhile, she forgot that she kept it under her pillow. However, things changed for the better for me when I met Ebenezer Obey. I used to go to his place to clean his clothes and shoes. Whenever he was not at home, I would play his guitar.
How did you later convince your parents to support your career?
There was no parent then that would happily allow his or her child to do music. It is a different story now that everyone wants to sing or act. However, I didn’t wait for their approval before I left the country. When I returned to Nigeria from England in 1970, they had no choice than to accept what I was doing. I didn’t plan to come back home until I was successful and you know success does not have enemies.
At what point did you have your breakthrough?
I considered singing fuji music at some point because it was better accepted than juju. I later looked at the factors that made Fuji more appealing to people. I discovered that it was the percussion. I paid attention to disco music too and I saw that the fast tempo was its thrill. I then mixed them together and that was how I discovered Afrojuju. As a good composer, you cannot say there is heat during the rainy season; you have to look at the situation surrounding you at that moment. My style of music was not accidental as I wanted something that all the tribes could relate to and which would unite the country at the same time. At a time, the Igbos didn’t like listening to juju music because they didn’t understand the lyrics. The late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti once told me that he loved my style and he advised me to make English or Pidgin English 50 per cent of my music. And that was what I did.
Will it be right to say Fela influenced your music?
Yes, you are right. Once you remove beat from Afrobeat and juju from Afrojuju, you are left with Afro. Fela was a great mentor and he influenced my life hugely. I worked really hard to be who I am today. I always advise young artistes to make good music. Even if all you give is just an album, it should be evergreen. With that, you will be fulfilled. All the songs we hear now have been digitalised.
How did you feel when Fela died?
It seemed like the whole world had collapsed
Why were you seen as a controversial artiste?
In showbiz, there is no way you would be successful without the help of women. It was that particular aspect of my life that people used against me. Other artistes did more than I did and no one crucified them. Anything Shina Peters did became news. At a time, I was regarded as the most controversial artiste after Fela. I was jailed several times because I was always late to court and they used to charge me for contempt. There was a time I had three court cases in a day. I am where I am today by the grace of God. I don’t know who can survive what I have been through in life. However, I think the media is tired of writing about me now. The major controversial aspect of my life is my relationship with women and people have written about it many times. If you write about my controversies with women now, I don’t think people will still find it interesting.
Does this mean that you were promiscuous at a time?
You can call me a ladies’ man but I did things with caution. Do you know that I am the only artiste of my generation who is legally married to only one woman till date? My wife still stays with me. There is no way you would be at the peak of your career without the support of women.
Was there a time you wanted to quit music?
There was no such time. Even when things were tough, I stayed true to my profession. I don’t engage in anything that will distract me from my goals. I am a focused person. I select my target audience carefully and I know what they want. Even in terms of fashion, I try to follow trends. Now, I get more jobs from corporate bodies because I am used to closing the gap between the old and the young. I enjoy my career more than ever now.
The profession has a spiritual element that nobody can explain. Today, you could be up there and tomorrow, you would be nobody. The secret of success for every celebrity is humility. It brings you more followers and long life. However, most of the younger generation artistes are not humble.
Have you ever been disrespected by a younger artiste?
No, I have not experienced such and I don’t see them as threats to my existence either. I give them kudos but I wish they would work on their lyrics; though there was a time my lyrics were vulgar too. I later saw the need to educate the younger generation with my songs. Artistes are seen as role models and the younger ones look up to us a lot. I am not against any music, but there are ways by which things can be balanced.
What qualities attracted you to your wife?
Getting married was a miracle. In those days, even before I finished a show, you would see plenty of women literally queuing to meet me. Choosing my wife was destiny; it was not my making or hers. We were destined to be together and I feel everyone has someone destined for him or her. If not for my profession, I would have loved to have a wife and two children. But it turned out that I had children with other women. The temptation in the entertainment industry is too much and you can easily get carried away. I always use spirituality to tackle things. Some women can use love spells on men they like. Do you know how many love spells they might have used on me?
The only thing I have never done in my life is to smoke cigarettes. Though I take alcohol, I am closer to God now. I am now the head of the choir of Cherubim and Seraphim church. I took over the position in July last year.
How do you intend to combine your music with church work?
Who am I to say that I don’t have time to serve God? He is the owner of my life. I was born in the church and it was where they gave birth to my mother too. I do gospel music too if you listen to my songs very well. By the doctrine of the church, we can manage the world and heaven. Everything that is from God is good; humans only like to complicate things.
Do you have a close relationship with your son, Clarence?
God only used me and his mother (Clarion Chukwura) to bring him into this world. Clarence is a genius and he has all it takes to be a star. I pray for him to have long life and to find a good wife. Whenever he wants to see me, I am usually not available and whenever I want to see him, he is somewhere shooting. But we make sure that we see at least once in a month. There was a time he called me and was panicking. After setting up for a video shoot, the owner of the store he wanted to use appeared and started shouting at him. He called me and the man wanted to know who I was. The man happened to be the owner of Elizade Motors. When I introduced myself and told him Clarence was my son, the was issue settled automatically.
Clarence is big, Shina is bigger. All I do now is to pray for him and the rest of my children. I can fast for 90 days straight; I will just take banana and water. Even when I have events, I still fast.
Why are you yet to shoot a music video with Clarence?
We have never discussed that before. I don’t think he will be comfortable pushing me around on set. I am his father and he respects me a lot.
How many children do you have?
In Yorubaland, it is believed that they don’t count children for parents, but my first child is 45-year-old.
What are your plans for the year?
I have many things that I plan to do. In April, I am travelling to the United States and I still have so much on my desk. As artistes, we don’t like to say no to people. Sometimes, you would have to be at three different places in a day and you must give your best. I don’t want people to think I am a proud person.
Are you now on good terms with your musician brother, Yomi?
Have you ever heard me talking about him? There is no way I will discuss him on the pages of newspapers. We have no issues; he just wanted my attention. Towards the end of last year, he came to my house and apologised for all he had said. He is the last born of our family and I started paying his school fees from primary school. There was no one that played music in our family before me; I started it and I transferred it to him. So, there is no way he would offend me and I would be angry; he is my brother. I will always wish him well. If he wants something from me, I will help him out.
Do you plan to work with younger musicians?
As a father, if Olamide, Wizkid and Davido come to me for collaborations, I will gladly do that, provided I am available. I believe that is the only thing I can give out to support or encourage them.
How much money have you made from music?
Music is not money and that is the mistake most people make. If you go into music because of money, you will be disappointed. Forget the glamour you see, there is always a bad side to business. When things are not going well, it is your love for the business that will sustain you.
Why do you live in the Fagba area of Lagos when you can afford a house in the highbrow areas like Lekki or Ikoyi?
People find it hard to understand why I still stay in Fagba. I have properties in different places but I am seen as a man of the people and I choose to be closer to them. If I am not here, this neighbourhood will lack basic amenities. If there is any problem with the power supply, who can resolve it? How I wish you can visit my house at 6am and see how people come with different problems. If I am not here, who will help them?
Are you not worried about insecurity?
I feel more secure in Fagba than in any other place. I have lived here for years. The people are good to me because I am good to them.
How do you usually spend your day?
My day is always busy. At times, I find it hard to pick calls. I am sure that before you leave here, you will see other visitors come in.
Do you have a favourite out of all your songs?
How I wish could turn back the hands of time. My albums came out almost at the same time and these have made people to mix them up. It was the fault of my record company, Sony Music. They (officials) were supposed to give five-year intervals between the albums. I feel bad when people say they only know Ijo Shina. People find it hard to differentiate my albums and songs. I released many albums under Sony Music.
Are you signed to any label now?
For the past 25 years, I have been a solo artiste. Technology has made things easier now. I don’t need to be under anyone to do music. With the help of social media, your music will travel far and wide.
When was the last time you released a new song?
I thank God that you were at Omotola’s birthday celebration. Did my music sound old? The question should be: why is my music still relevant till date? That is why artistes must learn how to do proper research if they want to be in the business for a long time.
Do you plan to release new music soon?
My son, Clarence, and I are working on something.
Don’t you see a need to set up a record company to help young talents?
I have encouraged many artistes in my own little way and I backed them up with money too. Do you know how many Afrojuju artistes that we have in the country? I don’t need to sign artistes to a record company before I can be of help. I see that as slavery and it should be discouraged. If you think an artiste has potential, invest in him or her and take a percentage. I don’t understand why you are interested in controlling another person’s life.
Did you have an ugly experience with any record company?
I signed a 10-year contract with Sony Music when I was very young. When I got tired and wanted to leave, I was moved from one court to another. In a week, I could have three cases in court.
Weren’t you aware of the consequence before signing the contract?
If I were your child, would you have advised me to sign a 10-year contract? I was naive when I signed the contract with Sony Music. I signed at the age of 16 and I was still a minor then. Though my father was my witness, he wanted me to be a doctor.
Don’t you think you would have had a better life if you had become a doctor?
I don’t like seeing the blood of chickens, not to talk of that of humans. How do I become a successful doctor if I don’t like to see blood?
What is your favourite food?
It depends on my mood. However, I like local food a lot. When I visited Malaysia last year, they searched for an African store to get me local food.