People Laughed, Called Me ‘Gambari’, ‘Aboki’ When I Started Singing – Zaaki Azzay Speaks


Zaaki Azzay, the veteran singer, recalls that when he first started his music career, producers and sound engineers used to laugh at him and call him names.

In an interview with Saturday Beats, he said, “It was not easy (because) it was very competitive at that time. It was discouraging as most people did not take me seriously because of the part of the country I come from. They did not believe that anyone from that part of the country could do well in entertainment.

“When I needed to contract a producer, pay for a studio session or work with others in the music industry, I got the nonchalant attitude of, ‘let’s go and do anyhow because this man obviously doesn’t know what he is doing’. They laughed at me and called me names such as ‘Gambari’ and ‘Aboki’, asking which kind of music I wanted to sing. When my song, ‘Fatima’, was released, they were shocked by what I was able to do. From there, I started getting respected. At that time, there was no hip hop (music) in Nigeria.”

The Kaduna State-born singer also stated that the conversations he usually had on his TV programme, ‘The True Nigerians (Heroes of our Time)’ made him return to school.

He said, “On the programme, I have interviewed a lot of prominent Nigerians, and sometimes, and we usually talk about Nigeria’s history. That got me interested in going back to school to study Political Science.

“Also, I believe everyone should contribute to (the growth of) Nigeria, irrespective of how bad the situation may be. I also feel that there are questions one cannot (adequately) answer unless one studies Political Science, which exposes one to the history and genesis of practically every issue concerning Nigeria.”

Asked if he would be contesting any position anytime soon since he studied Political Science, Azzay said, “I want to be ready if given the opportunity. When one has a passion for Nigeria, there are times that one would want to do more than one is already doing, whether or not one holds any political position. It is just the way corruption has eaten deep into Nigeria; if not, political office should not be that attractive. It should be of more service than embezzlement or what one can gain through abuse of power.”

On the perception that northern entertainers don’t relate well with their counterparts in the south, the torchlight-wielding singer said, “It used to be like that but not anymore. Northerners have begun to see the importance of the entertainment industry. Some of them have even gone to the extent of encouraging their children to go into industry.

“At that time, people saw musicians as uneducated rascals who were not to be taken seriously. (But) over the years, given the achievements of Nigerian entertainers and the international attention they are currently enjoying, everything has changed. People like us made the sacrifice for those enjoying it now.”

Azzay also lampooned the government for not giving the industry adequate support.

He said, “The entertainment industry should be a source of shame to the government of Nigeria, because without their support, people in the sector have achieved so much.

“I think the only way the Federal Government can curb insecurity and checkmate the issues of unemployment in Nigeria is through the entertainment industry.”

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