Lexy Mueka can be likened to the Port Harcourt and Nigeria’s version of Alexi Murdoch. He is a singer, an instrumentalist and also an activist. In this interview with the editor of theportcitynews, he bares his mind on several issues in Rivers State, especially on what should be done for the entertainment industry in Port Harcourt to grow. Enjoy….
TPCN: How long have you been in the entertainment industry?
Lexy M: As long as I can remember. I started singing and entertaining people when I was 13 but I became more professional when I was 17; started doing real life shows for better audiences. As far back as 1991, I was already Lexy M. I was in school, SS1 and my boss then will come to our school and seek permission for me to go and perform.
TPCN: So, how has it been since then?
Lexy M: It has been fun. One thing about me is that I try to not let the celebrity status get into my head. I try be as simple as possible, be common, do the things people don’t think I should do, go places people don’t think I should go.
TPCN: You are more into high life. What informed your decision to follow that genre?
Lexy M: I tend to sing for men not for boys, to keep the dreams of our forefathers alive even though I want to stick to my thing. It makes me remember that I have a root.
TPCN: So why do you hate us the boys?
Lexy M: (Laughs) No, it is not that I hate the boys but the boys are not paying the bills the way the men are paying bills. The boys only dance to the music.
TPCN: It is all about the money…
Lexy M: No money, no show biz.
TPCN: If you hadn’t been an entertainer, what would you have been?
Lexy M: It would have been a terrible situation. My father wanted me to study law. I was already headed towards that direction and I saw music. It kept coming and coming and I was like ‘waste five years studying law?’. Five years in music is a lot of time for me and I just went towards that direction.
TPCN: So, your parents didn’t object to your going into music?
Lexy M: It was a problem. My father disowned me for doing music. In fact, I don’t blame him. Musicians of those years didn’t live their lives in a way that was worth emulating. Some of them were very discouraging. So parents saw it that once you a musician, oh, Indian Hemp has come, irresponsibility has started and that challenge kept me alive because I told myself that I won’t do things that will taint me. But at last, we made peace. We made peace in such a way that he didn’t believe I was the one. He was a Shell contractor and they had this end of year party and I was billed to perform. I was not born Lexy. I was born Alex and he never knew I was being called Lexy. So on that day, I was to perform at two different occasions. The whole place was waiting for Lexy to come including him. When I stepped into the arena, he asked one of the organisers “Is that the Lexy?”. The person replied “oh, yes. That’s him, wonderful chap” and he was like “that’s my son”. The person asked him “who is your son? That boy is not Ogoni, he is a Kalabari youth”. He said: “that’s my son”. Well, the organiser walked up to me and asked: “how are you Lexy?”. I said: “I am fine”. He asked: “where are you from?”. I said “Rivers”. He said: “I know you are from Rivers State but which part of Rivers?”. I said “Ogoni”. He couldn’t believe it. He now asked: “is that your father?”. I turned and saw him but I couldn’t go to him because we were beefing. My father came closer and that was how we made peace but unfortunately, he did not stay long after that passed on. I really wish he was alive to see all it is about now.
TPCN: You are married?
Also read:60 minutes with Kobaba
Lexy M: Of course, I have been taken.
TPCN: You have also delved into activism as regards the Ogoni struggle. What led you into that?
Lexy M: What led me into that was because of the embarrassment I faced and still face, especially some of us who are public figures. You go to a place as a celebrity and you pull a crowd and everyone was like “wow, this guy is great. Where is he from?” and they mention Ogoni. You and I know what Ogoni is about right now. Each passing day, you hear how boys are killing themselves and I get very embarrassed with it. Besides that, God has blessed me a little. I went back home and invested. It was deliberate. The whole idea was to see how entertainers in the area can meet and expose their own talents to the world because there is no nightlife in Bori. People are scared to come out. It is killing that dream and many others who would have been like me in Ogoni land are in prison due to the situation in Ogoni land. So I took to campaigning for peace. It is so bad that even when they are shooting, I am entering and God has been so protective that when they see me, they will be like “Uncle Lexy” and it dies down somehow. I don’t feel happy that this is happening where I come from.
TPCN: Do you see an end to all that is happening in that area?
Lexy M: From all the prayers that have been done by serious men of God, I pray peace should come soon. I pray that it happens fast.
TPCN: In one of your videos I watched, you were calling on the government to do something urgent about the environmental degradation in Ogoni, and for government to implement the UNEP report. Some people are saying that the clean-up is being politicized for election purposes. Do you think that government is sincere with the clean-up of Ogoni land?
Lexy M: Everything in Nigeria is being politicized for one reason or the other. Even when they build a school in your place, they build the school because they want to get something from you, not because they are meant to do so but I thought the UNEP report would be different. It takes them a whole lot of time to implement one thing, they go back to sleep and after several months they come and tell us another story and then go back to sleep. It is not very good for us and I have done things; I have done campaigns, done songs to bring the attention of the world to what is happening in Ogoni land. The truth is people are dying of what they don’t know about.
TPCN: The other day, MOSOP’s publicity secretary, Fegalo Nsuke, said that over 100 persons die weekly from drinking contaminated water in Gokana coastal communities….
Lexy M: The Ogoni issue is a very terrible one. I believe that if all of us come out with one voice and speak against this evil, we will achieve remarkable results. The problem is that some persons capitalize on these things to earn a living. And for those of them who understand that that is what is happening, they use to pamper those ones with money. It did not take time to implement amnesty because the boys were shooting. If we as a people sincerely demand; sincerely request and sincerely speak, they will give it to us. The problem is that some people speak in order to get pampered and once Mr A gets pampered, Mr B will like to also get pampered and it goes on and on. So due to the fact that petrodollars is flowing, they give money to people who would not say the real thing happening in Ogoni land and it goes on and on. People are dying, it is not a joke. If it was an Igbo man that carried out the UNEP report, we will say that they added politics to it but Oyibos carried out the report of what is happening in Ogoni land and that is what is happening up till tomorrow. So those who want to earn a living from the suffering of the people should also realize that their mothers and relatives in the villages are equally dying and that is the real problem.
TPCN: So the Ogonis have not come out as a unit to say that this is what we want?
Lexy M: Yes. One thing with demanding is that when it becomes two-sided, it becomes a problem. Unfortunately, Rivers State is divided into two political structures; PDP and APC. No matter what the senator representing Rivers South-East does, it is seen as an APC affair by the those in PDP. If it was back in the days that the state was under one political party, we would have gone far with this. The Ogonis have to fight this battle. Even the Rivers State government has a part to play in this because Ogoni is in Rivers State.
TPCN: But the state government said that the clean-up by HYPREP is a fraud. Do you subscribe to that?
Lexy M: We should all stop playing politics and say things the way they are because at the end of the day, we all will meet somewhere.
TPCN: Back to music. In Rivers state, not many people do the kind of thing that you do. Do you think that young people are running away from live performance due to the fact that it entails too much work?
Lexy M: Most young people do not know. If they know, they will harness it. The truth of the matter is that a lot of people came into the industry not because they were meant to be there but because there were no jobs. And entertainment is one easy environment that is wide and spread and you see people do small thing and they are everywhere and people start seeing you as an entertainer. The industry is porous. Back in the years, people will see you and admire you and want to encourage you and push you, so you are guided. These days, there is no guidance, no mentorship, they just want to jump into the system and make money.
I was telling some boys the other day and I said look, even if you are very rich and you decide to buy a vehicle and take it to the road and start doing taxi with it, you will be arrested by authorities, they will call you to order. Why is the industry not like that? I believe strongly that anybody who wants to do anything must be inspired by something or somebody. How have you tried to reach that or the person who inspired you, to know why he is where he is? They don’t do it.
TPCN: So you are saying that the reason the industry in Port Harcourt is the way it is because young people have failed to subject themselves for mentorship?
Also read:Gospel Gang: Why Kobaba needs help
Lexy M: They don’t even need to subject themselves, that is the way to go. Doctors go to school. They don’t just jump up and start injecting people here and there. They go learn how to even fix-in the needle. There is a course called music in the university and if you don’t have the advantage of going to the university, there are people who are very knowledgeable, who can also impact it on you. Music is a professional career. But now, with the help of computerised studios, everyone wants to sing. You go to the studio, drop your voice and the engineer tells you not to worry that he will make it wok for you and so they apply all the logic, edit your voice and the pitches. That is why most of them can’t perform live because they didn’t get it right in the studio, so they won’t get it right on stage. It is different from that chorister who attended choir practice, who understands notes and sofas, who understands quotations, who understands that she can sing flat, she can sing on a major or minor key, who understands all the tricks. All she needs to do is to get good lyrics and how to infuse melody into it. In our days, we went to the study with a song for them to do beat for that song. These days you go to the studio without a song and they do beat for you to put a song. You see people sing songs without refrains, without breaches, without solos. Once it starts, it runs straight till it ends and it is called party songs. In our days, we had party songs that made hits and till tomorrow, even them refer to those songs as old school and classics. I told them the other day that I am still waiting to see an happy birthday song that will beat Evi Edna Ogholi’s happy birthday song. They should knock it off let’s see.
TPCN: What do you think should be done by upcoming acts to infuse standards in what they are doing?
Lexy M: It is very simple. The new bees should kill this dream of ‘we want to take over. It is killing everything in the industry. I have told people over time that you can’t take over. You can only add to what has been there because the most beautiful singers are not yet born. It is that spirit of taking over that is causing beef in the state, because instead of seeing the older ones as points of contacts, as mentors, they see them as problems, they just wish they were out of the way for them to take over. These guys are not the problem. The problem is you who has refused to understand that these guys exist. And some of them are not even done singing. They are still making hits. I am still singing. You can log-on to Itunes and see my hits. I am still making sales. If they themselves keep referring to how it was before, then how was it before that it was so nice? Why don’t they go to people who were there before and ask them how they did it, how they can carry it from here, and what they should do and add to what has been done? You don’t just wake one morning a begin to erase all you met on ground in a bid to start all over again without realizing that some persons have left some landmarks. You see them calling for seminars, calling for meetings. These are wonderful ideas but who is talking to who? Who is teaching who?
TPCN: There have also been claims that entertainment in Port Harcourt is heavily politicized. Do you subscribe to that?
Lexy M: There is no doubt that it is. It is still the same spirit of people who don’t know it. They have not differentiated between those who are politically inclined and those into show business. I was PMAN chairman 2010/2011. I was the musician playing inside government house and I was fighting Rivers State government in the morning and I will be singing in the evening. I didn’t take because I was singing in the government house, I will then remain loyal and kill the dreams of thousands of persons that I was leading. No. I was making my voice and those of the musicians in Rivers State heard against the government and I will meet the governor in the evening and he will be like “Lexy come here. What is your problem? What is going on?” And I will explain to him what the problems were. He would ask the then commissioner to talk to me and then we will solve the problems and move ahead with a better PMAN the next day. Today, because a lot of them seek favour in that place called Government house, they are ready to kill the dreams of thousands of others and when a few of the thousands of other begin to say it shouldn’t be so, you become the problem.
TPCN: So, the government has not in a way tried to put structures in place that will enable the growth of the industry?
Lexy M: We were supposed to put the structures in place and involve the government.
TPCN: Have you put the structures in place and the government failed to comply?
Lexy M: Let me tell you a story that will shock you. In 2015 when governor Wike came to power, there was this permanent secretary of culture and tourism. I spoke with Mr Fred Ndigbara, the director of culture then. I spoke to him about building an industry in Rivers State, have a means of telling ourselves that which is right and wrong and make policies so that there will be DOs and Don’ts and then get government involved. He said the idea was great. We summoned a meeting. We had people from AGN, PMAN. It was a heavily attended meeting. We had the permanent secretary who represented the Rivers State Government. The meeting held at the hotel presidential. Issues were raised, communiqués were written and the plan was for all to go back and study the communique and extract valuables from it and present one communique that all will sign and then take it to the state house of assembly and make it a bill that will be turned into law in Rivers State. Just when that was about to happen, the governor appointed a commissioner for culture and tourism and the permanent secretary was changed and a new one put in place and that was the end of the whole thing.
TPCN: The new one did not buy into the idea?
Lexy M: I wasn’t aware they were aware that such things took place. Now see what happened; in 2016 December, we got a letter from the ministry of culture and tourism stating that for any event or show to happen, you must first go and seek permission from the ministry and there are certain areas and event centres that events must not take place in the state and all that. I was like what the hell? I started my campaign against it and others joined, a lot of stakeholders keyed-in and kicked against it. That protest led to a meeting with the commissioner and she said she was not even aware of the communique and she apologized to us on radio. I was like, you don’t own a house but you are telling those who have built houses that they can’t build it like this or like that? It is not going to work
TPCN: Apart from government investing in entertainment in Rivers State, has private individuals done their bits to encourage the industry? Port Harcourt as an oil city has many billionaires. Why haven’t they seen entertainment as something worth their time?
Lexy M: The difference between Rivers State and Lagos or Enugu is simple. The Rivers State populace have not been able to see the business aspect of entertainment. They are seeing the show aspect but not the business aspect. That is why it is called show business and you don’t blame them, you blame us for that. Because we have not been able to discipline ourselves enough to make them see that there is money in entertainment. Check out the shows being done in Rivers State. Very few can be tagged ‘excellent’. Plenty are like trial lucks and you don’t blame the men who see the trial lucks you are doing and refuse to put money in them. Let me tell you what happened to me in Lagos. I did my first performance at a place called the Old School at Surulere. I went to a man and I told him that I want to perform here. They didn’t know me in Lagos. He gave me a date and I worked through the management. I knew that once I do that show, it is over because I saw the calibre of persons that visit there. We did not agree for a few but I decided to do that show to show me to the people because I saw the bands playing there and they weren’t up to par. When I did that show, it was like who the hell is this? From that point, people who owned pubs in Lagos came and we got talking business and the kind of figures they were mentioning to my ears, I never bargained for that from the one free that I did. They have seen the business aspect of using me in their places. The Port Harcourt audience have not seen that part of it and you know why? Because a lot of the people who invaded the industry, don’t have a standard for what they do. So the people who use you for such programs think they are doing you a favour. They don’t think they need you to boom their business. The Phyno fest makes it that the entire South-East and Enugu look forward to Phyno Fest because it was done so well. Those who are selling see the platform as an avenue to make money. Those who are dancing see it as a platform to sell their arts. So anything you tell them to do, they do. In Port Harcourt, people have decided not to add value to what they do and I have discovered that in Port Harcourt, people hardly say NO to bad offers and that kills the industry. You can’t build a brand without standards. There are over 40 wedding going on in Port Harcourt every weekend. If Mr A tells a client that what I charge for performance is half a million and as performers, we have agreed that our fee for this A-list or B-list is half a million or 300k as the case may be, if they call Mr A and it is half a million, they call Mr B and C and it is the same thing, at the end of the day, one person will get the job. But in in this town, if they call Mr A and it is half a million, they call Mr B and it is 400k, they will cut it until it gets to 8k. and when the one who has the money to pay wants to pay, he will fly Davido into Port Harcourt and pay him 5 million and you begin to envy Davido who has kept a standard? I have been in an event in this town where the band playing next to me was paid 1 tenth of what I was paid and I didn’t do up to 5 songs. It is value, credibility and integrity. That is what the customer will admirer about you. It not what you wear. It is what you are worth.
TPCN: What do you think should be done to reverse the trend of Port Harcourt artists moving to Lagos?
Lexy M: A lot. We need the government to help. When I hear people say we don’t need government to build entertainment industry in Port Harcourt, I laugh at them. In Lagos where I am, there is hardly a month that passes that we don’t meet the Lagos State Government and the question that the commissioner for youths always ask is: “What do we do?” and we begin to suggest and throw in ideas. You think they don’t know what they are doing by meeting with entertainers in Lagos? They understand the economic importance of entertainment. In Rivers State, even when they are planning major events, they don’t meet entertainers in Rivers State. We just had NAFEST come and go. There was never a meeting. If we had had CARNIRIV, there would also not be a meeting. The governor had a night out with Port Harcourt people and most of the performers were from Lagos. There was never a meeting with the government to also see what we can do.
TPCN: So, the government itself does not believe in the abilities of Port Harcourt artistes?
Lexy M: They are not seeing value. So people who want to be serious carry themselves to an established environment which is Lagos. Let me provoke you; Daniel Wilson was in Port Harcourt back in the years. He did Land of my birth as his first album and no one heard about it. He went to Lagos and he was celebrated. Hilda Dokubo was in this town but no one sent her. She went to Lagos and started face of Nollywood. Francis Duru was in this town. He left for Lagos. Burna Boy was in this town, left for Lagos. Timaya was in this town. He left for Lagos. Is that not enough proof? The problem is that there is no industry, no standards, no Dos and Don’ts. It is just individual struggle, no collective effort and even those who are being collective in what they do are not doing the way it should be done and they are not consulting widely, hence you see the attacks on social media. Sometimes you see some of them insulting me for telling them what they should not do.
TPCN: Some of you that have branched out to Lagos, what are you doing to impact on the industry at home?
Lexy M: You must have enough to eat before giving to others.
TPCN: Yes but people like Timaya and Ducan Mighty have made it but they don’t bring Port Harcourt artists out.
Lexy M: You don’t bring people out. They come to you. The truth of the matter is that a lot of these boys don’t want to be mentored. 70 percent of boys doing one-man band in Port Harcourt and even Bayelsa either learnt through me or they learnt through someone who learnt through me. They were mentored. A few who wanted to be mentored came to me and learnt and are some of the popular musicians that you know. I don’t want to mention names. One is even a gospel rave of the moment and is doing very well. That one, the mother gave him to me. You don’t expect Timaya at the level he is now, after what he has been through to come to Port Harcourt and beg you to put you on the limelight. You will walk to him in humility.
TPCN: So, the young artists are not respectful of those who have been there?
Lexy M: A lot of them. Are you not seeing their comments on facebook? The moment they shoot videos and put it on social media, they are stars already. They don’t even have a name known to all the boys on their streets but they are superstars with the videos that they just shot. You don’t come to somebody’s territory and don’t ask questions. You will fail. Some of them need to differentiate between their personal lives and their musical lives. They carry their bad habits to their music lives and it kills and cripples it. Most of these ones coming up have refused to dig deep into what should make them who they are supposed to be. I have been home sometimes and I receive text messages for certain meetings and when you see who sent the message, you will shake your head. If I want to call a meeting of the old and younger musicians, the older ones, I will go to their houses and explain to them why I want to hold the meeting and beg them to try and come. The younger ones, I will send them SMS. I am in Lagos and I see how the made musicians, the Tuface, the Sunny Nneji, Ruggedman etc, I see how the Davido, Wizkid etc go to them in humility even with their present status. In Port Harcourt, everyone is too big to reason together. The government is enjoying the disparity because they understand that we are not united to ask for what we should ask for as a people.
TPCN: Mr Lexy, what projects are you currently working on?
Lexy M: My album project. I was supposed to launch it this year. I had to hold it till next year for reasons best known to me. I am working on an album and I am working on a tour; a five cities’ tour. I am doing Port Harcourt, I am doing Lagos, I am doing Asaba, I am doing Cross River State. The whole idea is taking the music to the people. The Port Harcourt own is going to be a launch and a concert while the rest will be musical concerts. When I am done with these, I will come back and push my pet project “Fish Them Out”. Fish them out is a talent hunt project I did in 2013. I had to slow it down because I want to do it in a bigger way this time. I want to do it as it should be done. I want to do it with the same standard as the West African Idol. I need to build my image, rekindle my relationship with every other person that I need to rekindle with and move.
TPCN: What are we expecting from your upcoming album?
Lexy M: Bomb
TPCN: Did you feature any international act?
Lexy M: It will feature two very senior musicians whose names I will withheld for now.
TPCN: Why are you withholding their name?
Lexy M: It is going to be a surprise. People will be thinking like ‘how come, how did you get to these guy’? I don’t believe in collabo. A lot of people don’t do collabo because the music needs to be collaborated. They do it in order to use people’s platforms to blow. I believe in doing collaboes when it is needed. The song is an instrument. If you do a song and somewhere in the song needs the voice of Don Williams, get him to put it there. It adds beauty to it.
TPCN: The political atmosphere in the state, especially the insecurity tag being given to the state, how is it affecting the industry?
Lexy M: Well, it is everywhere but we are concerned with Rivers State because as entertainers, it is affecting what we are doing. Most of our events fall in the evenings. People want to finish from work and attend shows and laugh and be happy but people are scared to come out these days because terrible things happen for political reasons. We want to also beg our elders who are in politics to play politics with love. It is just a competition that will end when the results are mentioned. The problem with Rivers State is that even when the results are mentioned, the fight continues. We are begging the elders to take it easy on themselves. We also want to specifically beg the youths to abstain from being used. If the youths tell the elders “we will not fight for you”, it will stop. The youths don’t play politics with the elders, they play survival because they need means to survive. So they throw money to them to act, but you can collect their money and do no such thing for them. By the time you collect once, twice, thrice and nothing happens, they will stop giving. It is the responsibilities of the youths to say NO to violence. Most protests by the youths in Rivers State are sponsored by politicians. The one that touched the most was the one that happened recently. There was a 7-storey building collapse and we were still trying to get people out from the rubble. Families were bereaved. People were still trying to see what could be done yet there was a political rally. What was that for? Your fellow youths were under somewhere dying and you were in the streets jumping up? We should be able to know when to play politics and when to act politics.
TPCN: So there should be a massive awareness for the youths in that regard?
Lexy M: Somebody is already doing that. Ledum Miite, the former MOSOP president is running a campaign that sensitize people on the need to vote individuals and not political parties.
TPCN: Looking at our present political structure, won’t that be hard to achieve?
Lexy M: It is very simple. Thank God they have all done first tenures. Don’t tell me to vote for PDP or APC. Vote for people based on their capabilities.
TPCN: Do you think that youths participation in the state is increasing?
Lexy M: No. the youths are still in the minority in Rivers Politics. We have been short-changed. The commissioners in the present government, how many youths are there? When was the last time you heard the commissioner for youths addressing youths-related issues in the state? We don’t even have an SA on youths to the governor. So who speaks for the youths? They just use the youths and dump them and they dump them to us who will become their victims (laughs)