Nigeria is a country that continues to churn out multiple musical talents every now and then. Jerry Arabian (or Arabian Jerry as he was well known back in his native country, Nigeria) is not new though, he is one of the home baked modern Juju singers currently making waves abroad.
His first musical outing, ‘My Destiny’, seventeen years ago didn’t make the desired impact, although he had registered his presence locking down Lagos high society parties with his unique style called ‘Supple Vibes’. The followup effort, ‘Olopa Yinbon’, became an instant item with Juju music lovers within and outside Lagos. The missing gap then became clear when in 2018 Jerry Arabian moved his band and family to the United States of America.
”It became important for me to relocate in search of more education for myself and international exposure for the Juju brand and my status,” he declared during a press chat. For every new song he releases, he said he has new dance steps to go with it. And his American fans are already familiarized with his uniqueness. In this interview, Jerry Arabian shares his career journey, the current state of Juju music, his personal life and other sundry issues.
What is your honest assessment of Juju music now?
Juju music is growing. No doubt, it is still the number one music in Nigeria today, irrespective of opinions. No social engagement is complete without Juju music. All we need to make it more acceptable is for us to regularly update on style and standard. Even the hip-hop that some people think is taking over the scene is a combination of Juju vibes and foreign tunes. So, Juju music is still ahead.
You are popular on stage as ‘Arabian Jerry’, how did you earn that name?
Well, thanks to God almighty, and thanks to my late boss, Prince Bode Ogundimu a.k.a ‘Swing Pawpaw’ who gave me the brand name, ‘Arabian Jerry’. He is late now. He so named me because of my Arabian look, I suppose, and with the headgear then, I was able to make my waves. But I’m now called ‘Jerry Arabian’ because it was reversed by the business registration body, CAC during the course of my rebranding.
Do you sing pure Juju of old, classical or you have your special brand of Juju music?
I sing pure old juju music, a combination of Gospel, hip-hop, Apala and highlife touch fused with modern vibes that are in tune with my Arabian style, which I call ‘Supple Vibes’. I am a well certified juju musician.
Who mentored you musically and who are your role models in the music industry?
I have names to thank God for who were used to raise me musically. Like I said earlier, after God, it was my boss, the late Prince Bode Ogundimu a.k.a. Swing Pawpaw who really stood by me; then the late Wole Olaniyan a.k.a. ‘O Better’; Prince Dayo Ojo a.k.a. ‘Akerejesu’. These were my mentors.My role models are many. They include Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, King Sunny Ade, Wonder Dayo Kujore, Sir Shina Peters, Dipo Gatos, King Tunde Samson, Dele Taiwo, Wale Thompson, Queen Ayo Balogun, Akanbi GMJ, and others too numerous to mention now.
How would you compare the musical terrain abroad with music standard in Nigeria in particular?
The atmosphere for music in Nigeria is good. But, honestly, the money is not there. Money inspires talents. If you work hard and you’re not appreciated, you get tired and frustrated too soon. It is a different story abroad. In America, for example, when you work little, you earn your worth. But I’m a patriot and realist, I know Nigeria would get to this level too someday.
You left Nigeria for abroad at a time that people believed that Juju music was dying because of the popularity of Fuji music; is that correct?
No. That is not correct. First, I left Nigeria for America with my family to further my education and add more knowledge and further establish my status. Secondly, I left because I wanted more international exposure for Juju music brand. My fathers like Evangelist Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade and co had tried their best in spreading the Gospel of Juju music worldwide. It is left for we their sons and daughters to continue with the mission in tune with modern standards. So, I left to further propagate the gospel of Juju brand abroad. And I’m still very much in tune with developments back at home in Nigeria. Also, Fuji music has never been a threat to Juju music. Juju music stands and still will never die. I am proud to be a Juju musician. I am one of the pioneers of the association of Juju music singers in Nigeria, AJUMN; I was the state secretary general.
Do you write your songs or you write and buy as is the case with most musicians all over the world?
To God be the glory. I write and compose my songs, with the inspiration from God.
Before you left Nigeria for America, did you release any music album, and how many did you release abroad?
My first music album in Nigeria was ‘My Destiny’ in 2003. Then I released ‘Olopa Yinbon’, which brought me to the limelight. In 2011, i released ‘My Time’. I released ‘London/America Faaji’ in 2014. And i released ‘Appreciation’ before I left Nigeria in 2016. When i arrived in America, i released a single album titled ‘Ire’. Then I released two other singles, ‘Blessing Follow Me’, and ‘No Notice’. The next hot single coming up soon is titled ‘If No Be God’.
Do you believe there is unity among Juju musicians?
There is unity. But like every other big union, Juju music body too has its fair share. Among juju musicians we need more love, oneness and support from each other. Having that, the glory remains.
What was your most unforgettable experience since you started singing?
The challenges were so many I can’t remember everything now. We did encounter a lot while coming up. But I’m happy and I thank God I got the breakthrough and transformation.
Would you like to share something about your wife and kids and growing up years?
My family have been very supportive in every aspect of my life and career. I love my family. They are awesome.
What is your best kept secret as a musician?
Honestly, this may sound strange but I don’t have secrets (laughs). Everything about me is in the open for those who really know me. I am a free man.
What is your opinion of Nigerian government and the challenge of local musicians?
We need the government’s support to have really reformed music and copyright unions. We work as musicians in Nigeria but there is nothing to show for the hard work.
What message do you have for your fans home and abroad?
I thank my fans and Juju music lovers in general for their support and consistency. Their love, support, prayers and wishes always ginger us to stay afloat.
Do you have a plan to return to Nigeria anytime soon?
Yes, I look forward to returning soon. Yoruba would say ”Ile la’bo isinmi oko” (home sweet home). I’m going to visit Nigeria after the Covid-19 challenge.