I used to cut grass for people – Zlatan Ibile
Singer, Omoniyi Raphael, popularly known as Zlatan Ibile, speaks with OLAJIDE SAMUEL on his music career, new album, stardom and other issues
How would you describe your style of music?
When I released the song, This Year, people complained that I had changed my style, that I should have stuck to the ‘zanku’ style. I just want people to know that ‘zanku’ is not the only music style I can do as an artiste. I believe that there are no limitations. Anything is possible if one believes in oneself.
What inspired your album title, ‘Zanku: Zlatan Abeg No Kill Us?’
I gave it that title because when I started out, I created a dance step called ‘kuzo’ but a particular artiste hijacked it from me. When I created the ‘zanku’ dance, I decided to name it after myself, so if anybody wants to steal it, they would have to steal me with it.
Also, whenever I release a new song, my fans always tell me to take it easy, saying things along the line of, ‘Abeg no kill us (Please, don’t kill us)’. Everybody knows that I deliver my songs in Yoruba which limits my audience in a way. But despite that, I have been able to make songs people can relate to anywhere in the world. I have taken ‘zanku’ to Cyprus, Kenya, US and other countries. Basically, that is why the album has that title.
When you started your career, did you expect to get this far as an artiste?
There are so many artistes, such as Olamide, who started from the scratch and have proved that one can achieve whatever one desires. I thank God for bringing me to where I am today. I never thought I would get here. By this time last year, I had no house or car. But God has showered His blessings on me this year. However, I don’t feel I am that big yet. I believe I would be bigger by this time next year.
When I won a car at a music competition in Ogun State sponsored by Airtel in 2013, I was not given any money. I recall that the competition was organised for students of all the higher institutions in Ogun State. Then, I had just two shirts, one trouser and one pair of shoes. It was even like they added to my problem because people kept asking me for money. I ended up converting the car to a cab, carrying passengers from Sagamu (in Ogun State) to other places. That was the only way I could survive. The car became like a burden to me. When I finished my education, I didn’t go back home because I knew it was going to affect my music career.
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Do you have plans for international collaborations?
All my life, I have never forced things to happen. We may have plans but God’s will transcends all. I am not going to force it (international collaboration) to happen. If it is meant to be, it would happen.
Beyond music, do you have plans to venture into other areas of entertainment?
I don’t know (for now). You may see me in an American movie tomorrow. I can play football too. I may decide to play football on weekends and record in the studio on weekdays. Also, I have ‘zanku’ merchandise.
Is Naira Marley featured on the new album?
No, he isn’t featured on the album. Everybody knows Naira Marley is my good friend and we have been making music together from the beginning of this year. He wasn’t featured on the album because there was no reason for it; it is not really about what people would have to say. Though we are friends, I have my ways and my own preferences. It has nothing to do with our friendship. Besides, we have a joint album coming out in 2020.
What inspired the song, ‘Bolanle Pepper Them’?
It’s a song dedicated to ladies for them to know that they are important to us. There is nothing really serious about the song. It shines the light on men who don’t treat their women well.
Having grown up in Ikorodu (Lagos), what plans do you have to give back to the people of that area?
Coming out from Ikorodu means I am a symbol of hope to a lot of people. Back then, I used to cut grass for people who wanted to lay foundation for their buildings. Some of my acquaintances back then even ended up as motorcycle riders and cab drivers. I wouldn’t hurt myself because I want to help others. One cannot drag others up when one is not balanced. However, I have plans and I pray to God to help me achieve them.
What would you regard as the sacrifices you have made for music?
There were days I had sleepless nights– that should be one of the greatest prices I have paid for my music.
How do you react to negative social media comments?
Things like that don’t bother me because life has bashed me so many times. I have experienced such things from the beginning of my career. Life has treated me so badly. There were days I had nothing to wear or eat. I don’t allow it get to me because there are people who love me despite the bashings.
What’s the most unforgettable criticism you’ve ever got?
The worst bashing I got was when I was trying to help a boy called Segun Wire and I was beaten in the open, in broad daylight. The mother of the boy said I was making money off him. She stripped herself and lied that I had beaten her. Unfortunately, I got mobbed by some guys right there. I actually thought that would be the end of my career. Luckily for me, it was a blessing in disguise.
Some people felt you mocked Tacha when you recorded a freestyle song shortly after she was disqualified?
I have nothing to say about that. I am cool with Tacha and I’m making music. I get inspired by everything around me. That freestyle was nothing serious. It’s all showbiz. I didn’t intend to release the song; it’s just part of what we do as entertainers.
Why did cultists attack you after your performances in some schools?
That is normal, every other musician faces that. When one goes to higher institutions, they (students) always want to collect money. We (artistes) regard it as part of the hazards of our job.
What’s the story behind your slang, ‘Kapaichumarimarichopaco’?
It’s a spiritual slang that only I understand. When the time comes, I will let the world know the meaning.
Which Nigerian artistes do you admire?
I admire Adekunle Gold, Wizkid and some others. I don’t have problems with anyone.
What has changed about you since you became famous?
Nothing has changed. I am still who I am. I met most of the people that work with me online. I give opportunities to people because people gave me opportunities too. People like Davido and Burna Boy helped me along the way. I believe we rise by lifting others.
What’s your opinion on the Federal Government’s intention to monitor what people post on social media?
I don’t have any business with the Federal Government .They should do whatever they want to. The Federal Government isn’t helping us in this country. We are the ones helping ourselves.
You featured Tiwa Savage on one of your songs. How was your experience working with her?
The day I recorded Wake Up, I actually wanted to record Shotan with Tiwa Savage. At the beginning of this year, Tiwa Savage blocked me on Instagram. I am a very shy person when it comes to talking to ladies. My manager was the one who settled the scores between us. He was the one who organised the studio session for the song. Tiwa is a very nice and cool person. After then, she unblocked me and has been checking up on me.