He came to Lagos to pursue higher academic degrees but found other ventures. His name may not immediately ring a bell, but Stanley Okorie witnessed the birth of Nollywood, and his songs have been featured as soundtracks in over 1000 movies.
Some of his works include the TikTok and Instagram favourites, ‘Billionaire’, ‘Happy Mumu’, ‘Ashawo no be Work’, ‘Fine Mama’ and ‘Iyeme’.
He is also the singer-songwriter behind the international hit song “I go chop your dollar”, the soundtrack to the Nollywood Movie “The MASTER”, which featured Nkem Owoh, who visually performed the song in a KAS-VID video.
His first big Nollywood Soundtrack song was ‘Karishika (Queen of Demons)’ from the 1996 horror movie KARISHIKA.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, he talks about his friendship with the late Sammie Okposo and his music career, among other issues.
PT: Tell us about your foray into Nollywood as a soundtrack producer.
Stanley Okorie: When we started doing movie soundtracks, most people who got into what they got into, now Nollywood, were all hobbyists learning on the job.
I had come to fulfil my father’s wish to get a Master’s in Unilag. My father is a professor and is big on education. He didn’t think anybody could make a living selling plastic (The plastic he was referring to was cassettes).
I didn’t want to do a master’s, but I came to Lagos to fulfil his wish, but I was in Lagos to do my master’s in Mass Communication as I had already gotten a degree from Nsukka in Mass Communication also.
I took some courses in Political Science, and I thought I would be a painter because I was very good at painting, but my late grandmother said, “who goes to school only to become a painter? Other people would build houses, and you would paint them.”
She did not understand what I meant then, but I always wanted to paint. I have yet to get the chance to be a painter.
The painting led me to music because when I was sketching and singing, my friends in school would say Nna, your singing is better than your painting.
That’s how it started. I started falling out with my father when I got a Job at the Federal Ministry of External Affairs in the late 90s, and I didn’t do it; I said I wanted to make music. That was the beginning of my problem with the man.
I am shy, and I don’t go to nightclubs. I could do backup singing to get by, but I would stay at the back; I didn’t want to be known.
At some point, the people started requesting to see and hear who was doing the backup. Then I started playing at small shows.
So I ran into a friend called Sammie Okposo when I was in Lagos. I lived with Sammie for some months. Sammie was my everything; I had just come to Lagos and let school slide for some time. I registered for the programme and sent the proof of registration to my dad, but I wasn’t attending lectures; instead, I followed Sammie to record at the studio.
PT: Was that Klint Studios?
Stanley Okorie: Yes, it was Klint studios mainly, then there was this guy called Johnson Davidson of Midtown and a lot of people. Sammie was a fantastic keyboardist and producer. His production skills were just as good as my writing skills.
We did some jobs which I liked then in the South. When I started working on my first album, the ‘Jesus I Love You’ records, Sammie was still doing the soundtrack.
PT: Between live music and studio recordings, which do you prefer?
Stanley Okorie: I wouldn’t say I like live music. Live music sounds noisy. I love studio music. Studio music can be fine-tuned.
Sammie was a live music man. I wouldn’t say I liked live bands, but he and I would go to the motherland and do backup. We were pretty close until some years after I left Nigeria for Canada. We lost contact, but we now re-established contact when I came back.
Sammie played a significant role in my music career. Sometimes we would come to a place together, and he would make music and ask me to put words.
I concentrated more on writing for Sammie, who produced my first soundtrack.
PT: Can you recall your first movie soundtrack?
Stanley Okorie: I think it was ‘Compromise’. That was my very first soundtrack. Sammie had done a lot of soundtracks, and I was writing and producing. As his friend, sometimes there would be complete and partial payments, but I didn’t bother.
Later, he started doing his own thing, and I started doing my own thing. I was given a bottle of Sprite as payment for my first movie soundtrack.
PT: Tell us more about your relationship with Sammie.
Stanley Okorie: I was new in Lagos, and with Sammie’s influence, I could get some things done in the studio. Sammie and I started clashes because he felt I was concentrating on my jobs and ignoring his own.
So I said, okay, Sammie, you know what would happen; I would write for you, and you would play for me.
We agreed, but then on another occasion, Sammie was now saying he would play for me, but I would write for him and sing for him.
I said ahh, I would be doing two things. I said okay if I’m going to sing for you, you would have to find me something. This was an argument among friends, but I liked working with Sammie.
We trashed it, so We noticed that he often got into several things, so I got into soundtracking.
PT: Were you making soundtracks alongside your gospel music career?
Stanley Okorie: Yes, I was making soundtracks, I was working in an advert agency, and I was working at Sonny Irabor’s Ruyi Communications. At the same time, I was also doing some freelance jingle productions for so many people.
I was singing backup, and I was also printing, and I was practically doing anything that would bring money.
If I had to cough for a living, I would come and cough, and you would pay me.
PT: What was it like coming up with those concepts?
Stanley Okorie: When Nollywood started, there was no format for anything. Sammie had become a significant player in soundtrack production long before I came.
You are given the script most time, and you are asked to come up with music.
They give you a hand, and you make music that would interpret it. There is a uniqueness in making music in the Nollywood industry. It is different from making music for Hollywood or Bollywood.
Making music for Nollywood is different, and it’s interpretative, and you are almost interpreting the story. Some people tell the story in music, but that doesn’t happen. After the scene has happened, you may now solve it. But the editor may even play the song before the scene happens.
That’s what happens. I recall that the thing used to piss Sammie off a lot because many editors didn’t know much about playing music.
If there is a death scene you don’t play a dirge before the character dies. You wait and let the man die first. But sometimes, these editors would start playing the dirge and thereby telling the viewer that the character would soon die.
PT: Let’s talk about some of your memorable works, like the one making waves now, ‘Billionaire.’
Stanley Okorie: My first soundtrack was ‘Compromise’ for Emalex Productions. My second soundtrack was ‘Atrocity’ for Amako Investment.
My first big one was ‘Evil Genius. Then there was ‘Karishika’ (Queen of Demons)’ from the 1996 horror movie KARISHIKA.
I recorded ‘Billionaire’ for a friend of mine, Osi King, who made a film for Aki and Paw Paw. My friend told me there was already a song for the movie, but he wanted me to do something better, a sing-song that would talk about money, not too much English but something streetwise.
For something to make sense to me, it had to be simple. I am not so into complicated stuff.
Before ‘Billionaire’ went viral, there was ‘Happy Mumu’. I can’t remember what movie it was from, but I know it was for Ossy Affason.
PT: You recorded your songs between the late 90s to early 2000s?
Stanley Okorie: It has to be the early 2000s.
I have worked with everybody. My music has made a lot of prominent billionaires; some got the titles of their films from my music.
PT: Did you stop at just making soundtracks, and were you ever tempted to act?
Stanley Okorie: No, no, I’m more of a studio person. I’m too shy to act. But I used to be a gospel artiste. I’m primarily a producer, singer, and songwriter; that is primarily what I am.
PT: In your gospel music career, did you release albums, or did you have just a collection of tracks?
Stanley Okorie: I had just two music albums, including the famous ‘Jesus I love You’.1.The Goodness of God album released in 1997/1998 (as ‘Stanley Kaosi and the Grace Band’) remains a Nigerian Gospel Classic and still influences a lot of Nigerian gospel to the present day. I won multiple awards for that album which remains one of the most popular Christian albums in Africa.
READ ALSO: King of Thieves’, ‘Anikulapo’, other outstanding Nollywood films of 2022
The complete version of The Goodness of God, Vol. 1 and 2, was released on digital streaming platforms on 17 April 2022.
I was the singer-songwriter behind the international hit song “I go chop your dollar”, the soundtrack to the Nollywood Movie “The MASTER”, which featured Nkem Owoh, who visually performed the song in a KAS-VID video.
I also produced ‘National Moi Moi’ for Mama G. I have almost 800 songs on Spotify, Youtube, Audiomack and others.
PT: So you are making a lot from royalties.
Stanley Okorie: Well, we thank God for doing this, but it can be better
PT: Your assessment of Nollywood?
Stanley Okorie: You know, Nollywood is improving in one way and retrogressing in some places, like the quality of personnel.
Many people with no training jump in and start without having anyone to control them.
The quality of what we do has stayed the same. Then we were not doing it for the money; we were doing it with passion and showcasing our gifts.
But now it has to be for money, and it’s more challenging now, unlike before, to make a living from soundtracking.
It’ll be costly if they ask me to make a soundtrack.
Nollywood should go back to telling stories our way. Another thing that needs to be corrected is the personnel training. There is a lot of mediocrity in it. The exposure certainly has become more comprehensive.
If we keep exploring foreign concepts, it will keep us second best, but if we study and put out films about our ancestry and culture, it will improve us. Our music would be unique. A lot of copying is happening, and many people have gone away with the offence.
PT: Are you an independent artiste?
Stanley Okorie: Way before I started, there were DMI, Premiere Recordings and others, but they had all died off.
At a time, music moved to Iweka Road, Upper Iweka and Idumota, Ebimpejo Lane. You, as the musician, had to write, sing, record, produce and hawk the masters around, hoping to find a marketer, and then it was either Confidence or Osi Aphason.
I had to finance my album and work by getting a job to record it and then sell it to a label that then sells and pays me my royalties.
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