Gospel singer Tosin Martins in this interview with the media talked about his style of music as well as what it takes to make music like the legendary afrobeat king Fela. He is known for the hit Olo Mi.
Did you become a gospel singer because of your ties to the church?
Well, being a church boy isn’t something I will deny. It isn’t bad and doesn’t mean you are anti-social or anything of such. But having said that, church has contributed immensely to the growth of many Nigerian artistes and their careers today. Anyone who’s passed through a church knows the contribution is immense. It gives you the basis for a lot of things so when you get to the public stage, all of that helps. So in that sense, I’m a church boy. And of course, because I also do gospel music and of course, I will use the platform I have to promote what I believe in.
What are the challenges you have faced as an artiste?
Well, there are quite a number of them. First, the industry is lean and this is because we have streamlined it entirely to Naija pop. It ought to be well-rounded than it is and if we don’t do that then we don’t have a music industry. For instance, if you get on the platform of the Grammys, they are rewarding various genres and no type of music gets to suffer for that. That same stage is where everyone is recognized and if we start to segment and push one genre above another in Nigeria then we don’t have an industry. When I listen to radio abroad, Ryan Seacrest and the others on mainstream radio, they play every genre of music going from Jay Z straight to John Legend and U2 and more. This ensures that the business angle of things is expanded, more persons are employed, and the industry gets to enjoy more recognition and all of that.
Based on all of this, have you been tempted to switch your sound to fit into the market?
Switch my sound in the sense of lose the core Tosin Martins sound, no. But in terms of experimenting with other sounds, yes. I’m open for modification, change and growth. But if it is to do it just fir the commercial purpose without the music sounding right then it will appear like a forced marriage. And I won’t do that.
What do you think of the Nigerian entertainment industry in the coming years?
It’s bigger prospectively. For everything we have achieved, we are only just scratching the surface of it. Thank God for corporate bodies for stepping into… but guess what, the bigger checques still lie in songs used as soundtracks. The industry still has prospects in those virgin areas which we haven’t touched or tapped into. I’m not talking of taking a song off my album and using as a movie soundtrack. I’m talking about writing music specifically for movies as is done in other advanced industries. The likes of Kunle Afolayan are making movies that are beginning to get international recognition now and there’s the need for music to accompany this sort of expansions. That’s what I’m talking about.
If you could take it back to when you recorded Olo Mi, what would you have done differently?
Nothing. I feel like everything I did on the song was just fitting for that particular piece of music. Okay, speaking of turning back time and doing some things differently, maybe I could have been bolder about certain things.
Do you mean in terms of being more pro-society and anti-government and doing more conscious music?
Right now, I’m already doing conscious music. My music is conscious but I don’t know if I have what is required to do other things. You see, there are certain types of music you do that require certain kind of attitudes. If you don’t have the personality required then don’t do the music. If you don’t have Fela’s type of boldness and truth, then don’t do Fela’s style of music. Fela had the type of personality that was fitting for his genre and style so it made all the sense. You can’t be a calm gentleman like me and say you want to delve into certain styles of music. There’s a certain ‘madness’ that comes with it that you must have offline. So when you are singing ‘God punish so so so and so’ you know you are ready for it. If you are not that kind of person, if you don’t have a stomach for jail then you don’t go on saying this person is mad or crazy. And then if you were to go to court, an evidence or the outcome shows you said what you said without proof then it’s jail. So basically, I don’t have the stomach for trouble. I’m a gentleman. So what’s the point in doing a certain type of music when you aren’t really built for it? Fela said he was not a gentleman, so it pretty much explains his style.