By KATE HALIM
Mention the name, Churchill Sosa Gusto, the response you’ll get is faces staring at you quizzically wondering who the hell you are talking about. But just whisper Rymzo on the street of Lagos, Calabar or Yola and you’ll discover that the name rings a bell in the ears of people, most especially, reggae fans.
Rymzo is still coasting ahead in a music genre which followership in Nigeria is dwindling owing to the prevalent influence of Afropop. Indeed, he has been able to hold his own within the highly competitive industry. The artiste attributes his rising popularity to his fans that have kept faith with him. Although, happily married for almost a decade, the dreadlock-wearing musician admits that he is not insulated from harassment by female fans. Surprisingly, Rymzo who dropped a hit single recently, says free sex is not on his mind.
He spoke to TS Weekend on his career, challenges and what love means to him.
What is your real name and why did you choose the stage name, Rymzo?
My full names are Churchill Sosa Gusto. Rymzo was taken out of my previous music name, Cool Rhymes. I needed to re-arrange my stage name to sound simple and mature. The name also came to be after I began to visualize my future as a professional musician. As band members fondly called me Cool Rhymes, I just created Rymzo out of it. What was your growing up like? Growing up was very tough. I was born to a wealthy man but never had the privilege of my daddy’s presence. I’ve never called anybody ‘daddy’ except the Almighty Jah.
I had to think of ways I could support my mom since my days as a little boy. But I bless Jah for my mom who made sure I had what was needed and necessary to go through life. She’s the best mom ever.
What happened to your dad?
Nothing, just never had a relationship with him. You have a new hit single, what’s the message in it? My new single, Scatter the Party is a dancehall-oriented track that was inspired by my experiences in clubs and parties in Lagos last December. It reveals how the new Afrobeat just left people acting like they’ve gone crazy. So, I felt I should have a song that also meets the demands of these types of fans. I only sang about how the music sent people over the top as their party attitude.
How have you been able to keep your career afloat in the industry?
My style is very rare. It brings a different thing on board whenever I drop a song. So, that has contributed to my space being kept for me even when I take a break before the next album. My records keep my name in the hearts of my fans, making them yearn for more. Do you plan to release an album soon? I’m hoping to finalize the date of release with my partners soon.
For sure, a fresh Rymzo album will be ready anytime from now.
In your opinion, what makes a good music?
Good music to me must have good melody, meaningful lyrics and dexterous delivery.
Going by your explanation, would you say that Nigerian musicians make good music?
Many Nigerian artistes make real, good music. I can name 10 of them in five seconds.
What are some of the things that put you off about lyrics in music?
I’m put off by lewd lyrics, lyrics that are derogatory and without morals. To do music doesn’t give one the right to bombard people’s ears with vulgarity.
As a reggae artiste, who are your influences?
Funny enough, I’m highly influenced by a vast genre of artistes. For example, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Jimmy Hendrix, U-Roy, I-Roy, Bob Marley, Naughty by Nature, Ku Mo Dee, Shabba Ranks, Tiger, Cocoa Tea, Capleton, Joe Higgs, and so on. I’m more like a chameleon in my influences.
Does it pay to be a reggae artiste in Nigeria?
I speak for myself and that’s definitely ‘yes’. It pays me to be a reggae artiste here because I get respect for what I do and retain a top spot no matter how long I’m away. Often times, the genre alone gets you bookings and you don’t have to be the rave of the moment to get booked for shows. Reggae has its ready and steady spot for music survival in Nigeria. I always get paid when the genre is required.
If you could turn back the hands of time, what would you do differently now compared to when you started out?
I used to be very blunt, that I would have wished to be erased.
I told people my feelings about anything even when on air, and I attracted a lot of enemies from inception. Now, I’ve grown older and wiser.
What are some of the challenges you are facing?
I’m my own challenge. I just can’t put up with anything. It must be what I aim at, if not, I will drop the thing however promising and lucrative it appears.
Do you feel like you are missing anything in your life and career?
There are lots of things I feel I’m missing now. A lot, I can’t enjoy my simple, private life any longer unlike before. You could be yourself without anybody taking advantage of you. Now, you have to watch your back, side and front as a public figure. You can’t even walk quietly in your neighbourhood without people coming to you for handouts.
How do you fully unwind?
Now, I have noticed that I enjoy myself more when I’m alone. Most especially, I enjoy life by visiting the beach. I could be reasoning and reading while the cool breeze caresses my dreadlocks, and with a nice keg of palm wine by my side. I could also sit and chat with my little daughter, that’s like ecstasy. It is nice to spend time alone, I recommend quiet moments for other people.
Are there female artistes you would like to work with in the future? Which ones do you like their songs, style and personality?
Nigerian female artistes are hot right now and I’m dreaming of all of them. Soon, I may catch one or two because I really like many of the new females in the industry now.
How do you handle criticisms and disappointments?
Criticisms inspire me to do more as a young man who is learning. Even when I’m sure of how great I’ve just performed, it takes one good critic to make me realize that I’ve got more work to do. As for disappointments, I just call on Jah and leave everything to Him.
That helps me to stay hopeful for a better next time. I’m sure you know how powerful hope is in a man’s life.
How do you keep yourself free from scandals?
I do that through conscious living. I’m a true Rastafarian and I dwell in isolation.
When I appear, it must be for a serious matter. These resolutions help me stay out of trouble and the temptations within our industry and the world at large.
Have you ever dated any of your female fans?
I’m sure I have, but that was before I became famous as Rymzo.
Can you tell us three things about you that fans would be surprised to hear?
I have a phobia for flying; I’m very shy and quiet although my music doesn’t portray me that way. I’m not that bad guy that I’ve been painted to be, owing to my previous indulgencies.
Is Rymzo married?
I have been happily married for nine years. How does your wife feel about your relationship with your female fans? My wife is cool with my female fans because she’s got huge trust for my person and character that I cannot go astray.
What’s the craziest thing a female fan ever did to you?
A female fan stood close to me on stage and watched me sing. As I brought down the microphone to receive some fresh air on my face, I got an unexpected deep, hard tongue-dragging kiss. (Laughs).
What did you do afterwards?
I was caught off balance and fell into a state of perplexity for minutes. I just walked away.
Which of your songs did you think gave you prominence?
Definitely the track, Rock ‘n’ Roll.
How do you handle the temptations of female fans?
Actually, I have this personality that makes my fans perceive me from a deep and conscious perspective at the first encounter.
Most times, my female fans would just reach out to me with that cordial state of mind. I hardly think I’m one of those acts you would add sex to their criteria too. I’m just the Lion. (Laughs)
What does love mean to you and how best do you express love?
Love is a serious and deep thing to me and my ways of expressing it vary from person to person. Generally, love is a headache to me because I can’t take someone I love off my mind. I may become too protective and that sometimes means trouble.
What last words do you have for your fans?
Got to thank my fans for standing by Rymzo this long. Even when I keep them hanging they still give me widely opened arms once I drop a new stuff. I love them all for supporting my music. I promise to always upgrade and make them all proud. God bless them abundantly.