Chukwuka Echefu Fortune is a Nigerian-born artist whose songs portray ease and reflect lifestyle and standard of living. In this interview with Ikenna Okonkwo, CEF, as it is affectionately known, talks about its musical direction, Nigeria and other issues.
Speaking of Jideofor, et al
CEF’s new album, Jideofor, is soft on the ears but heavy on the mind. Animal husbandry is the African reality. Most notably, it is the Nigerian reality where the pigs are the leaders and the dogs are the forces, and we eat and destroy more than anyone else.
Animal Farm is inspired by the book of the same title by Georg Orwell.
Because I respect Dike Chukwumerije, there was no one else we saw who understood the idea of this song. It also came from a place of understanding that we are part of these animals and we have a responsibility… when you listen to Chuwkuemerije, he is more than pointing numbers. He thinks, looks deep within himself. He was painting a picture of Nigerian real estate. So when we had the opportunity to create, he was the best person for it. I told him a few days before the recording and he came over the weekend and wrote the song all at once. we didn’t have to think much because that’s our reality.
Nature is the perfect teacher. A tree is rooted. It grows and develops and has branches and fruits. I am very Igbo. For me, it is important to root oneself in one’s cultural heritage. Although we are lost somehow, I don’t speak Igbo very well, the culture is so powerful that we haven’t done anything in terms of exploring the beauty, sounds, melody , rhythms, spirituality and the essence of our Culture. We are constantly looking for something very different outside of who we are. And for Genti Music, this is part of our mantra, going back to the roots. It’s like taking a branch and trying to hold it to the ground. But when it comes to rooting, the music is honest. We are very Igbo boys, maybe not in the lingua but in our hearts we are. It is important for us to represent our culture and continue to interact with the world, but to understand where we come from and for that we must be grounded.
I had a conversation once with Sadimas Nwoko, he said, “when you are culturally rooted then you can be universal.” When you understand who you are, then you can go out into the world. You don’t need to constantly change identities. When you find yourself, you bring that identity to the world, and the world cares about that uniqueness. Music is about staying grounded, finding more and digging deeper. When you want to build you dig. The deeper the excavation, the stronger the foundation. This is just the beginning. We haven’t explored anything. We’ll be more Igbo about it.
Why I wear white is because it teaches me patience; It teaches me consistency. it teaches me not to care, but also to care, because I see and cannot hide but be aware of my fears, of my failures. Just like when you get white spots, it’s very obvious. It constantly reminds me of my frailties, my shape, who I am, and the fact that no matter how much cleaners wash, they can’t stay clean. It’s a constant reminder to check yourself, clear your mind, check yourself. White is a spiritual reminder to check me out.
Challenges encountered during the composition of this book
It’s a challenge, even in a creative space, to find the team of people who understand the vision and are able to create it, and so I’m very grateful to the creator for the kind of people I’ve worked with on this project. I say we because there is no individualism here. I did not play with all the equipment. All these small contributions gave birth to this work. It’s a community project, and that’s really what made it easier. That’s what made it what it was. It was all of us. And that’s what made raising a child easy in the past. He was a child for us. It was a community project. I was just one of the people who contributed to the project. What made it less difficult was that a team of people who believed in the idea came together to create this project.
When are we expecting the video album?
We don’t mean never say never. But our style and what we look for in creating live experiences. In terms of official music videos, we are still reviewing the model, but we have already released a lyric video. We have live videos. It is the experience of the 60s and 70s that we are trying to explore. There will be lots of live videos and live experiences, and we’ll be sharing it all.
Cavemen are my brothers, we worked together and did things. But that’s how the spirit leads. But we are definitely open to collaborations. That’s how we build things. Just like the cavemen are my brothers, we already have things in sight and I know it will be very powerful. We all want to come from a place of power. The two people you named cavemen and as are very inspiring. I got my first guitar after listening as, and cavemen are literally my brothers.
It’s like the guitar or the piano, they are so western traditional instruments. For us, identity is key. We must be able to return to our roots. I had a concert in Brazil a few years ago, and I walked into a music store and saw “Udu”. The little ones that you hardly find here anymore. It is used in a few places like Mbaise. But the Brazilians took our instrument and explored it to a greater capacity. in India the percussion companies have taken the instrument to higher levels than what we have here. But we don’t know what we have. It is our pride, our heritage that we will pass on to our generation. We must be able to take these instruments and begin to breathe them into everyday life.
For us, some of the things we want to be able to do is take some of our traditional instruments that are no longer played. The sounds of these instruments are amazing. We want to be able to do that. When we collectively begin to do these things, we begin to find our identity. And with that, keep exploring that and digitizing them. This is what we are doing and we will continue on this path.
Afrobeat is still alternative music for someone who listens to rock in America. There is nothing small in what we do. Because the fact that ships do not sail your sea does not mean that you are small. It is not an alternative. Or it could be, but we’re not small. We put our life, our energy into it, and we will continue to build it. I don’t identify Genti with alternative music. Genti is what he is. We are not going to minimize what we do. There are a lot of people who are already doing what we do but maybe not in exactly the same way. What we do is tell ships to come and sail our seas. As artists, we don’t really create but discover. And sometimes we discover what has been lost. We discovered this path, and cleared the grass and asked people to come on it.
stay true to himself
It’s all in the call. I believe we all have different paths in life. For us, one of the things is to shape cultural and spiritual awareness. We want to go back to basics. When there is a longing deep inside your heart, or your soul, only if you want to deny or pretend, which often leads to frustration. You cannot run away from the call. For us, it’s not really about becoming very famous or being artists. It is the responsibility that weighs on the mind. It is a burden but not a yoke that we cannot bear. It’s like having a child. When you wake up every morning and look at this child, you remember that you have responsibilities, you know that I have to go out and work.
The impact of marriage and family on his job
Family teaches you so much. It teaches you responsibility. He teaches you wisdom. Family is the key. It is the responsibility. It is a yoke you can bear but not a burden. The family continued to teach me responsibility, how to be introspective. Because you’re starting to realize that if I shape my life better, my family will be better. If I shape my family better, my community will be better. If you shape this small community, the nation improves. This is the effect that family has. He teaches you to Jideofor.
Very soon we will be going on tour, towards the end of October, starting here in Abuja. We want to use Abuja as a base and expand to the world there.
On the next elections
I have an interesting perspective on politics and democracy. This whole religious idea of constantly looking for a messiah to come from somewhere and change everything. Politics is much more than that. because change starts from within. In summary, I would say that if you’re trying to have a better life, start from within because it’s easy to point fingers and say, “I’m looking for help out there. If I want my solution from this person. Or that this person will come and change Nigeria. Nigeria is too big for one man to change overnight. Moreover, history shows that people always complain about people in power, even though before he came he came as a messiah.
That same story with Christ. He came as a messiah and the same people he was trying to save killed him.
In the next elections, I will advise Nigerians to make yourself the best candidate. Vote yourself. Vote for responsibility, vote for Jideofor. Vote jideofor for yourself, and when you do that if we want to have a good leader, he’ll know he can’t mess with people who know where they’re going. But if you are ignorant, when you are not grounded or do not know your spiritual orientation, anyone can come and deceive you.