By Damilola Fatunmise
Abayomi Ijaware Olatunji is a South Africa-based Nigerian musician, who recently relocated to his fatherland.
Olatunji, whose stage name is Pony Tailah, had his root in the church but now blazing hot as a secular artiste. In this chat, he narrates how it all started. He also talks about the current state and future of Nigerian music. Here are excerpts:
Can you tell us how you started singing?
I am Abayomi Ijaware Olatunji. I’m from Ondo State but based in Lagos. My stage name is Pony Tailah. Music has been a part of me since forever and it’s not a joke. I started music in high school. I did a couple of high school musicals and then moved to gospel. I did that for a couple of years. I was a member of Christ Embassy’s Mass Choir for a long period of time, even throughout my university years till I did my NYSC.
How will you describe your musical journey?
My type of music is Afro fusion. Now, there is a sound called Amapiano. It’s more like Afro fusion with the sound of Amapiano. We can call my music Afro-piano.
For somebody who started from the church, why the transition to Afro fusion?
Music became more than a calling for me. It became my life, and we have different kinds of religion in Nigeria. I didn’t want to sing for a certain set of people. We have the Muslims, the traditionalists etc. I don’t want to restrict my music to just the Christians alone.
A lot of artistes are not conscious about their lyrics. How conscious are you lyrically?
Looking at my foundation in gospel, it gives a form of direction to the present sound. Apparently, to answer your question, I will say there is a consciousness that is affecting the music. I am learned and well educated, and I think that also tells in my music. I am also from the street, I’m street educated.
How long have you been in the industry?
This is not my first body of work. I’ve done music before I traveled out of the country, but I can say this is more like a major comeback.
What are some of the materials you have put out?
I have videos out there. I have projects, a six-track EP out there. I also have singles that I have dropped over the years. I have more than 10 tracks to my name. I am releasing a 12-track album now. The title is ‘Currently International’.
What do you have to say about music then and now?
For me, you only get better with time. Standing the test of time and knowing that it hasn’t been easy, there is progression when it comes to lyrics, sound and when you hear it, you will know. There is growth every year. The music changes yearly. Music is my life; my music represents my personality.
Growing up, did you have a mentor?
When I was in gospel, I had mentors, like the late Sammie Okposo. Now, there are many people before me like David, Wizkid and Burna Boy. I wouldn’t call them mentors, but I’ll call them people that paved the way, people that made us see the reality of what we are doing, and make us believe that it can work. By and large, they are more like motivators. It’s been a good journey but we know there are always ups and downs in the industry. There are the financial aspects where you need some set of people called ‘cabal’. It is better off not doing anything without them. They are the best platforms; they give you the best results.
Everyone wants to do music but tends to forget about the business part of it…
First of all, you should understand that creating a record label is not easy. We have creative arts like the mix machine, the producer and you yourself. It takes a lot of process, and you can’t just walk into a studio and sing and expect the vocal you sing to come out nice; there are ways they mix it and make it sound better. Without those people, it’s not something you can do on your own; it’s a collective effort. I believe you can’t do it alone; you need those people to make your journey a success. It’s a matter of timing, God providing and letting you meet the right people.
Are you signed to any record label?
No. I’m an independent artiste. But I’m open to record labels to sign me, with reasonable deals.
How open are you to collaboration?
In my new project, I collaborated with some up and coming artistes. Top dogs don’t collect change now, so apparently, I’ve featured some new acts such as Osha, Brain. My producers are good. It’s just a matter of time.
Do you have any celebrity female crush?
I have a lot. Even my wife knows. Someone like Nancy Isime. I used to fancy Seyi Shay but not anymore. Tiwa (Savage) is for everybody and I don’t want to drag her. I don’t like competition.
Are your parents in support of your music career?
I have lovely and amazing parents. My father is a contractor and my mother is a teacher, so they were reasonable with me, they never made me feel what I was doing was wrong. I have support from them.
Do you also have the support of your wife?
The fame that comes with being a musician, does it affect your normal life?
It does. Normally, I’m a very calm person. I’m not extravagant and aggressive. My life is easy. I wouldn’t want an overwhelming situation.
Do you have any scandal?
People say scandal is good or bad promo, but at the end, there is the word ‘promo’ behind it. It’s all promotion.
Tell us about your new project.
The project means so much to me. It’s a reflection of myself. It is a collection of materials. I wrote most of the songs myself, excluding the features. Every lyric is talking about me.
How long does it take you to come up with a record?
It depends. The talent is real and it’s not too much efforts. I can come up with a record in an hour, max.
What inspires you?
First of all, there is always a story to talk about before the beat. My music is my life, what is happening around me and what is happening to me. I’m not in a world of fantasy and I’m not a rapper, every note you hear is me telling my own story. It’s not me trying to create fiction in your head; it’s a reality check.
What advice will you give to your fellow artiste on the need to be health conscious?
Health is wealth, so the consciousness should come with the fact that you don’t want to die. I often tell my friends that I don’t want to die, regardless of what I do. For me, it is personal because the government can’t save you, not even your family members.