Popular singer, Chinedu Okoli, aka Flavour N’abania, speaks to TOFARATI IGE about his career
Can you recall how you started your music career?
I have always loved everything about music from an early age. I actually started out playing drums for a live band at the age of 15. After that, I started playing the keyboard and from there, I began singing. I later got a scholarship to study music and that is how I developed as a musician.
What was the reaction of your parents?
You know parents are usually wary of the entertainment industry because they feel a lot of immoral things happen there. But the music scholarship that I got really helped me. It taught me a lot about the job and how to be a professional. I had a particular director who told me that people usually think that musicians are wayward, irresponsible and ostentatious. He also told me that if I want to make a difference in my career, I have to be responsible, disciplined, and constantly hone my skill. Talent is never enough as one has to put in a lot of work as well.
What was your experience like when you started your career in the eastern part of the country?
It was wonderful and I had a good time then. I used to perform with a live band at different places and people loved it. I was already popular in the East before I decided to relocate to Lagos and start afresh. I had to leave everything behind and start from the scratch in Lagos. I even had a car back then but when I came to Lagos, I arrived with just a bag. It was quite tough in the early stage but because I had made up my mind never to give up until I achieved my dream, I kept working hard at it. I’m thankful that I have become an international star now.
What are the qualities that have been working for you over time?
I would say it’s discipline, hard work and the grace of God. I know that I still have a lot of things ahead of me, so I try to manage myself. I don’t have to give all of myself now when I still have many more years to live. I also have to maintain the standard. Getting there is not the problem; it is about staying there, so I need my discipline game to be 100 per cent. I also ensure I work every day and give the people what they want to hear. Right from the onset, I have always sought to distinguish myself and set myself apart from the rest. I have never compromised on my originality and I always make sure that I am down to earth. If you look at all my albums, you will see that I keep improving. I strive to do better than what I had done before. And I believe that’s the secret to success; if you are original and humble, you will always be reckoned with. Even though the money is good, it is not really about that for me; I care more about the art. I work in the studio virtually every day.
What are you working on at the moment?
I will be releasing my fifth studio album soon.
Would you be having international collaborations on it?
Yes, there are some though I cannot reveal much about that for now.
What do you regard as your selling point as an artiste?
I think it is for the fans to say but I think it’s everything about me, Ijele.
You’re seen as some sort of sex symbol, how does that make you feel?
It feels great and it is a motivation for me to keep working hard on my music and also my body. I visit the gym three times in a week even with my busy schedule. Though it is not easy, it is what I have to do.
Yemi Alade once said she has a crush on you, do you feel the same way about her?
Yemi Alade is a very fantastic talent and she is a hard-working woman as well. I admire her a lot as an artiste.
At a point, you were also quite close to Chidinma; is she someone you can date?
These people you are mentioning are colleagues that I respect a lot. We have had opportunity to work several times in the past and I wouldn’t deny that we have a good chemistry.
What’s your relationship with your baby mamas and children?
I have a wonderful relationship with my children and I love them so much. I am also on good terms with their mothers and everything is fine.
Do you sometimes wish things didn’t actually go that way?
There is no point regretting anything in life. Whatever will be will be. I can only do my best at all times.
What kind of woman does Flavour like?
I love a woman who is not fake; she has to be natural at all times. She has to be someone who knows the difference between Flavour and Chinedu. To cap it all, she must be God-fearing.
What’s the funniest experience you’ve ever had with a fan?
I have had so many crazy experiences with fans. But it’s all good because I know they appreciate me even though they could be crazy about the way they show it sometimes. The way they express it might not be the way one wants it at that moment but at the end of the day, it’s all about love. There have been times I go to some African countries to perform and the stadiums are usually filled up, with some people even crying. That makes me emotional because it shows that there is nobody that cannot make it, despite the background. I appreciate the fans always.
How do you prepare yourself before going on stage?
There’s no special preparation that I do. I always just try to be myself in whatever I’m doing. I just free myself and make sure I give the fans a good time. I have had a lot of performances over the years and I try to get better over the years. And I think I have been able to do well in that regard. I also love to perform with my live band whenever I can.
How do you draw your inspiration?
I get inspiration from the people around me. Right from time, I always relate with people who are older and more experienced than I am. That way, I get to learn a lot of important things. I like original and creative people who I can tap from. I also draw inspiration from the things that happen around me, or from what I read. I am never in a hurry when writing songs; I love to take my time and get it right. If I don’t feel a connection with the lyrics and beat of a song, I wouldn’t release it. I see a song as a piece of art or like when you are cooking a pot of soup. Every ingredient has to be in the right proportion for it to come out well. And that’s what I do.
What has stardom robbed you off?
Stardom has robbed me of a lot of things but I believe that, in life, there is no gain without pain. Ordinarily, I love to lead a simple life but that’s not possible anymore. As human beings, there could also be times that I’m dealing with some personal issues but people wouldn’t want to know. They would expect you to be smiling all the time; and if you don’t, they would accuse you of being proud and snobbish. But the beautiful thing is that I am living my dream.
Do you have plans to bring up new talents like some of your colleagues are doing?
Yes, it is something I have always wanted to do. But the industry is not well set up; the African music scene is still growing. I wouldn’t want to sign deals with people and have issues with them later.
What kind of issues?
It’s common around here to have contract breaches and other things like that. And there really isn’t anything in place to protect your investment.
How do you like to dress?
I always love to appear classy at all times. I also like clothes that show off my muscle because I do a lot of hard work to have bulging biceps.
Apart from music, what other interests do you have?
I love football and if not for music, I’m sure I would have become a footballer.
How do you unwind?
I watch football a lot and I also play video games.