From being a child dance sensation to establishing himself as one of the most talented musical artistes of his generation, Oladotun Ogunlabi Michael has had a remarkable journey in the music industry. Known on stage as Dotun Future, the Osun State born singer in this brief interview, opens up about his days as a young performer in church before the stage, his family, show trips abroad and how he broke through, and more. Excerpts…
When was your most interesting moment as a singer?
That was August 2013, the year I got my UK Visa. That was when I can say I was extremely happy in the music business. That was the year I made my first musical trip abroad too.
Tell us about your experience during your first musical tour abroad.
Honestly, I was amazed at how people accepted my music. Everybody loved it. I performed in different places in the United Kingdom like Dagenham, Manchester, Peckham and other places. After three I came back to Nigeria because my Nigerian fans had been longing to have me. I spent one month in Nigeria performing shows and then traveled back to the UK for more shows. Between 2013 and 2014, I traveled four times to the UK to perform.
How is your brand accepted by Juju music fans?
I have a huge fan base both in Nigeria and abroad. My brand is called Tungba Gospel Juju which is danceable. Music fans love any beat that sounds nicely and easily draws them to dance.
What motivates you to bring out new song ideas?
First, I have to let you know that I have an inspiration in God and then my father in the Lord, Primate Elijah Ayodele. I watch him keenly when he preaches in the church and often I get song inspiration from his style of preaching.
At what stage did you take your music from church to the streets?
I was a member of the choir in the church before I started singing. I did choreography dances in the church when the choirmaster sang. Later, I started singing and after some years I decided to stand on my own. That was the year 2000. Before then I used to go and see other musicians’ performances. That year, someone actually spotted my singing talent in the church and advised me to go public. That was how it started with me.
What were the challenges you encountered while coming up as a musician?
I really faced a lot of challenges. People see you today and hail you but they are not aware of what you have passed through before you became known. I’m going to give some examples. When I began singing, there was a place given to me to stay in a bar by the bar owner. I also performed at the bar and when I woke up every morning I would be the one to wash the bar’s water tanks. It was a storey building so I would climb the building to the top to do the washing. I did that because first, I didn’t have anywhere to stay and I didn’t have money to pay for the accommodation or to rent my own apartment. So after performing at the bar, ladies would flock around me and told me they love my music or that I am handsome and all sorts. But the bar owner was not comfortable with this. He didn’t like how the ladies were attracted to me. He would complain that he was the one sheltering me, feeding me and why would the ladies be coming to me. So one night he ordered that the room he gave to me to stay be locked up. I was thrown out of the bar. I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I started sleeping inside an abandoned refrigerator outside the bar. I did that for many months. That happened in 2007. There was also an event where I was invited by a lawyer to perform in Ikorodu, Lagos State. It was during the Badoo cult attacks. The Ikorodu show was to take place on a Saturday and I had a show previously on Friday in Ekiti State. I woke up early on Saturday and together with my band members we left Ekiti for Lagos. But there were heavy traffic jams on the way to Lagos, precisely along the Ife-Ibadan road. We spent between eight and nine hours in that traffic. I felt dejected because I realized soon that there was no way we could meet up with the Ikorodu show. We had our musical systems at the party already and the organizers even used our equipment for the party. But we got there very late. When we got to the venue, the lawyer just told us to turn back and requested that I return his performance fee back to him. He warned me that he would get his money back anytime. One day, I was in an interview at a radio station in Lagos when that man stormed the radio station with policemen. He created a scene which was so embarrassing but I was able to pay him that day. So, these are a few of the challenges I have had to face while coming up.
Why did you call your stage name, Dotun Future?
My name is Oladotun Ogunlabi Michael. I am from Osun State, born and bred in Lagos. The Dotun in the stage name is derived from my birth name, Oladotun. The Future in it came from an experience I had when I was still in the streets. I have had my fair share of street gang stuff. I grew up in Ilashamaja in Lagos. Ilashamaja is one of the ghettos of Lagos and I moved with those you can call Ilasha boys back then. While we did our stuff, one man just told me one day that this boy, I am sure you are going to become an armed robber in the future. The man is deceased now. He was a rich man in our streets in Ilashamaja then. Why he said this was because I went to him one day as a brave area boy and said ‘baba, one day I am going to buy my own jeeps and fleet of cars like you’. And he replied saying you keh, does your father own jeeps? I’m sure you are going to be an armed robber in the future to get your wish.’ I was touched but the future thing got the better part of me and from that day I decided I was going to make it and ride jeeps in the future. Thank God today I own a jeep and other cars. Meanwhile, I am pained that the man is dead now. I actually would have loved to have him live and see my glory.
People call you Primate Ayodele’s son. Are you his biological son?
I would call him my biological father because he has done and is still doing for me what a father should do for his biological son. I have been with him for over 22 years. I met him for the first time when his ministry, INRI, was hosting a harvest. I was invited to play konga drum at the event. I was already singing before then but somehow I got invited to play drum because I am good at handling some musical instruments. After the event, some of us went to him and I had the opportunity to tell him about my singing talent. He didn’t think twice, he just said I should be coming to his church every Sunday to sing at the service and he would be giving me a token for my transport. I was shocked. So I felt happy and I begged him to come and inform my parents that he wanted to adopt me (general laughter). He agreed and sent a woman to see my parents, they discussed and my parents allowed me to go. Ever since then, he has made me his adopted son.
Who among top musical artistes have you featured in your songs and who else are you looking at featuring?
When my mother passed away six years ago, I had a collaboration with Mega ’99 and Segun Nabi in a tribute album I did for her. The next top singer I am looking forward to having a collaboration with is King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal. I love his music and his personality. I like to listen to his lyrics. He knows me and he likes me too. But I’m so thirsty to have him featured with me. He is so nice to me. I believe that one day God will touch his heart on that. I would love to have a collaboration with King Sunny Ade too.
How soon are you planning to return abroad to perform?
I just came back from London this year since I traveled there last year. I have also traveled to perform in South Africa, Ethiopia and Dubai. My next musical trip will be to the US. Samek Entertainment, A showbiz promotion outfit in the US, is handling my next trip. I would be performing in Maryland, New York, Atlanta and other US states. We will be going on the trip before August 2022.
Do you own your style or do you follow any particular musician’s style?
I own my style and composition 100 percent. I am a brand. I want others to see me as a model too. However, people say I and Segun Nabi’s vocal style appear alike. They even say we look alike (laughter). Though, I listen to other singers’ styles, especially Gospel musicians, I don’t copy styles.
Tell us about your wife and kids and how do you find time to attend to them given your busy schedules?
I do have time for my family, especially my darling wife who is a strong pillar behind my musical success. It is not every day I go to shows. So, I create time for them. Besides, I’m a man who likes to be alone so I can think and come out with the best.
Is Juju music really improving?
Yes. 90 percent of events people organize today Juju musicians are invited there to perform. Even the Fuji music is surviving today because elements of Juju music have been infused into it, like tempo, rhythm and others.
How many albums do you have so far and what makes your Juju music style unique?
I am unique because you find all that you want in Juju sounds in my style. I have five musical albums already. I did ‘Helper’, ‘Give Thanks’, ‘Tribute To My Mother’, ‘S’ope’ and ‘Baba Tale Ran Simi