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Thursday, 10 September 2015

Photo Speaks: I'm Proud To Be First 'White Nigerian' To Undergo NYSC - Mohammed Jammal, Artiste


For popular musician, Mohammed Jammal better known as White Nigerian, there is no other country as great as Nigeria. Despite his white skin, it is a journey in futility trying to link the Jos-born artiste whose mastery of Hausa and pidgin English is bewildering, to another country. "As far as I am concerned, Nigeria is the only country my family members know. The Nigerian passport is the only passport I have. 

Forget about the colour of our skin", he replied when pushed for the country his family migrated to Nigeria from. Jammal who holds a masters degree from Regent's Business School, London spoke with Abuja Metro on his music, growing up in Jos and why he is proud to be the first white Nigerian to participate in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

What was it like growing up in Jos? People say it's similar to growing up in Europe.
Yes,I really enjoyed growing up in Jos. It's a place that makes you appreciate God's creation. We used to go to Rayfield where we swam in the lake. We also used to go rock climbing and fishing. But when the riots and fights started, we couldn't do these things again. Imagine that we used to go camping, we would sleep in the bush and all. Now, we really can't do something like that.
What is it about Jos that many entertainers have emerged from that town?
The only answer is that we are talented people. God has blessed us. Look at Mikel Obi. He grew up in Jos. When we were growing up in Jos, we used to pay N200 to watch P-Square. Even Tuface has Jos connection. Today, I am in the same industry with them.
Have you tried to connect with any of those that have made it big in the music business for collaboration?
Well, I think there are people I will work with at times goes on. Some of these Jos guys are legends. For now, I am working with my contemporaries. For example, I have done a song with Tekno who started together with me. He is now blowing up.
You schooled in the United Kingdom, why didn't you start your music career there?
I actually got into the music industry by mistake. I went to P-Square's album launch in Lagos as a comedian. I was known as a comedian then. P-Square asked me to come do comedy at their album launch. But I also met JJC who was London based then and he asked that we do a song that is a little different from the norm. He wanted us to do a niche song that would break into the northern market. So we did Takarawa, which launched me into the Hausa speaking market. A number of artistes were doing songs in Yoruba and Igbo, but practically no Hausa songs.
You mean, you actually started as a comedian?
Yes, people felt that I was a comedian because here was a white guy that speaks Hausa and pidgin English. They found it funny. But now I am focused on music because comedy is not the thing for me.
Do you get tired of people being surprised that you speak Hausa and Pidgin English?
Not really. You know its most of my Nigerian fans abroad that always are amazed that oyinbo boy dey speak Pidgin English. They are used to white people speaking with different accents but they are surprised to see a white guy speaking Pidgin English. But this is where I was born and raised. It's just normal for me to speak Hausa and Pidgin English. I never thought there was something special about this until I got to the UK and Nigerians I met would be shocked when I try to chat them up in Pidgin English as their fellow Nigerian.
Where are your parents originally from?
My grandfather, my parents were born in Jos. I was born in Jos and my daughter was born here in Abuja last year.
Okay, which country did your family migrate to Nigeria from?
As far as I am concerned, Nigeria is the only country we know. The Nigerian passport is the only passport I have. Forget about the color of our skin. My daughter was born here to prove a point that Nigeria is great. Some people were asking why I didn't fly my wife abroad to have our child. But I asked them why? I told them we have good hospitals in Nigeria where children are born. I was born in Nigeria, the same thing for my dad and my grandfather. Why can't my child be born here too? In fact, when my wife's parents came to Nigeria after she gave birth, they were impressed with the five-star care she was given. I don't think there is anywhere else in the world that they could have done better.
How would you describe the music you make?
I do a lot of hip-hop. I just did a song Tsun Sani with Di'Ja, Morell and Vector. It's dropping next month. I also have the R&B songs like Takarawa, Dirty Whine and Barawo. I also have recorded a highlife track with J-Martins titled, Very Okay. Really, I think you have to do different genres to be able to appeal to many more people. I want to have at least, 12 songs on my album and I will be working with many big artistes, at the end of the day, I will have somebody like Wizkid or Davido on my album. I also hope to be lucky enough to do a track with Olamide and Phyno. Olamide will do the Yoruba verse, while Phyno does the Igbo verse and I will handle the Hausa verse. That would be really nice.
Are you one of those that wouldn't mind paying for collaborations?
Well, if you are an upcoming artiste, just getting into the industry, you will have to pay for collaborations. Those big artistes you want on your track have worked their way up. I can tell you the Nigerian music industry is a tough one. For me, I haven't paid for collaborations. Sometimes, collaborations are about the relationships you have. Yemi Alade was on my Dirty Whine video when she was unknown. Today, she is huge. Ultimately it's about the relationships you have.
As an artiste weren't you afraid of losing fans when you got married?
Yes some people stopped following me on Twitter and Facebook at some point. But now, fans love me and my family. When I post pictures of my wife and daughter, I get more 'likes'. I even had to create an instagram page just for my baby. But I will also say it's about the music you put out. People don't really care if you are married, single or divorced, they will love your music if you put out something good.
Most artistes say it is tough doing music in Abuja. Is it the same for you?.
Sure it's very difficult. But my niche market is the north. For someone that is trying to break into the Lagos market, it's better to move to Lagos.
Are YOU getting shows from your niche market?
Yes. Most of my shows are in Abuja, Kano, Jos and Nasarawa. I do weddings and I love performing at places like NYSC camps. But I do believe that with time, you have to break into the Lagos market because the big deals like brand endorsement come from Lagos. For me, I also find Abuja to be good for me because I am also into the construction business. Music is part of my hobbies. It is my passion.
So it's not only music that pays your bills?
No. Music doesn't pay my bills. If you want to go into music full time and you don't have huge financial backing like N10 million, it will be tough. Sometimes, it takes years to break into the market. But if you have N10 million and you manage it wisely, you can work till you break through. Also, if you have somebody ready to invest in you, then you can take the risk of making music your sole source of income.
Word has it that you went through the NYSC PROGRAMME. How was your experience? Did you do a lot of explaining?
I am the first white Nigerian to go through the NYSC. And it was one of the best experiences of my life. I served in Nasarawa State. First, camp was great. My back felt the pressure of marching and I had to bear the floggings from the soldiers too. Still, camp was a great experience for me. I was posted to a secondary school in Karu. I taught JSS 1 and 2 students Computer Studies.


What led to picking your stage name?
It's people that gave me this name. It was in London that Nigerians started calling me that name. I associate with Nigerians everywhere. So whenever I saw Nigerians in the UK, I would say, 'guy, how far?" They would be so surprised. Some of them would be speaking "fone' and I would tell them, forget this "fone", I am a Nigerian man like you. Such people will now call their friends, saying, 'see this white Nigerian'.

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