INTERVIEW: Why I don’t do ‘commercial’ music — Cobhams Asuquo

Cobhams Asuquo
Cobhams Asuquo

Nigerian-born songwriter/music producer/singer, Cobhams Asuquo trained as a lawyer, but veered into music full-time to fulfill a lifelong desire.

Previously signed to Sony/ATV UK publishing as a songwriter, he floated his first music production and label company Cobhams Asuquo Music Production in 2008.

Eight years later, he started Vintage Gray Media an all-encompassing entertainment company based in Lekki. Cobhams’ international acclaim came with the music production of Asa’s eponymous debut album. He wrote, co-wrote several songs on the award-winning album including the hit singles, “Fire on the Mountain”, “Bibanke” and “Jailer”.

PREMIUM TIMES recently spent a day with the talented father-of-one where he opened up about his sound as well as his debut album, which drops on March 12.

PT: Why did it take you this long to release your debut album?

Cobhams: I actually did want to put this album out a long time ago, but I think things had to really align properly before that happens. I feel that if I had put it up earlier than now it wouldn’t have happened the way it is. I believe that timing is a big part of everything and this is the right time now

PT: Tell us more about the album?

Cobhams: The album is titled For You, it has 14 tracks and it will be available on Music+, iTunes while the physical copies will be available a week after the album drops. I am very excited about the album. It is an organic album meaning it is a 100 per cent live album. We recorded in different parts of the world, Nashville, New York, Houston and Lagos and it’s the kind of music I would like to make. It is a reflection of my relationships and most importantly my relationship with God. It is a very strong representation of my thoughts and it is my best attempt at interpreting my representation of music as an artiste.

PT: Was the album delayed because you were busy making music for other artistes?

Cobhams: Yes it was also delayed because I was spending a lot of time with other artistes. I also wanted the project to happen organically and I also didn’t want to hinge it on deadlines. I just wanted to make great music and share it at the right time.

PT: Having produced countless hits for other artistes, where you under pressure to create a masterpiece?

Cobhams: I think I’m under pressure to create music not because I’ve created good music for other people but because I generally I love to create and be the best. I don’t put myself under any kind of pressure or to create an album to meet a certain standard. I am happy with my music because its sincere more than anything else and I am at peace. I say to myself, did I do right and that’s all that matters.

PT: Commercial music is the order of the day in Nigeria. How much of this blend is reflected in your album?

Cobhams: You wont expect or see that mix at all in my album. Like I said, I’m making music that I like; I’m making music that I feel appeals to a silent majority in Nigeria. And I dare to consolidate and appeal to the silent majority to come out and enjoy this project. I’m very confident that this project will do well, and I don’t believe that I have to include any mainstream element to make that happen. I’m creating music in the best way I know how to create music.

PT: How will you describe your music?

Cobhams: I will say it is true.

PT: Ordinary People is one of your most captivating songs ever. What inspired that track?

Cobhams: I first heard the chorus in my dream and after that I started thinking about it. I soon realised that no person from outer space will come and make the world a better place for us. It is up to you and I; the ordinary driver secretary and baker. God don’t make the world and appoint supervisors to us. So, its up to us to make the world what it’s meant to be. All the places we see and admire were not created by super humans but people like you and I.

For You Album Cover
For You Album Cover

PT: How will you relate that to the Nigerian situation?

Cobhams: I think that as a people on many levels we have been wounded and made to feel like we don’t deserve better. We need to repair our system to make it better. I feel like the mind of the average Nigerian can be reoriented. We need a different level and measure of self-worth. We can be better than any other person on this planet because we are a naturally gifted and talented people. We just need to find the need to do better for ourselves.

PT: During our chat earlier on, you hinted that you were away from Nigeria for over three years and many people were unaware of this.

Cobhams: That’s because I flew into the country every month.

PT: Why did you take that decision considering the fact that you are one of the most sought after producer in Nigeria?

Cobhams: Just the simple frustrations of living in Nigeria. You look at your diesel, the lack of power, you look at training and how people say they are this and that and can’t deliver on that level. And how you cant take the average person’s word for it. When they say they are coming this minute and you end up waiting for five hours for them and they don’t show up. You look at the dishonesty, the struggle, how you spend so much time trying to do so much and end up doing so little. I just got to the point when I just needed to breathe and live differently. You go abroad, work and you are appreciated and you feel like you belong there.

PT: At what point did you decide to grow dreadlocks?

Cobhams: I don’t even know if I’m growing dreads. I just refused to comb my hair because I find not having to comb my hair in the morning very convenient. It’s not because I’m looking to achieve a certain style.

PT: Why is your album self-produced? Don’t you have faith in other Nigerian producers?

Cobhams: I do have faith in other Nigerian producers but I did produce the album all by myself because I was travelling and doing so much. So, there was hardly enough time to sit down with anyone produce the album so, that’s why I produced the album at my own convenience.

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