Isah Ayagi is a popular musician that is changing the narrative in the northern Nigeria music industry. In this interview with Daily Trust, he speaks on what attracted him to music, his plans for the future and sundry issues.
How did you start your music career?
I can say my music is more of a gift because I grew up singing. I remember when I was a small boy, we used to sing poems in our Islamic school. And in those days, there was a play we called ‘Tashe’ during Ramadan, where children organize some kinds of plays to display their talent; and people will applaud them and even give them a token in appreciation. I and my friends would always compose poems and sing them to our audience.
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After some years, people started saying I have a special way of passing messages to people whenever I’m talking. So, I realized that as a young boy, I could use my talent of passing messages across to address some societal problems. That was how I opted for music. That was how it started, and today we are still pushing.
I think I started music in our Islamic school in 2000.
Why did you choose music, instead of other means of passing messages?
I told you I liked music from childhood. And I realized it will be easier for me to pass my message through music because many people, irrespective of age, will listen to me.
Who was your master when you were starting up?
As far as music is concerned, I can’t categorically point out one person as my master. Perhaps, I can say my Islamiyya teachers were the ones that encouraged me to keep going after they noticed my talent.
And now that I have grown relatively big in the industry, I give my elder brother who is more knowledgeable and more vast than me to cross-check my lyrics before I go to the studio.
Which of your song is your best and why?
My best song is ‘Mutu ka raba’ and the reason is that it opened many doors for me that seemed to be closed. I sang many songs before ‘Mutu ka raba’ but other musicians claimed them indirectly. I say indirectly because it was the people that listened to my song that gave the applause to others. And to my dismay, when some of my colleagues were approached by people that they had listened to their songs, instead of telling them the truth, they claim the songs. But from ‘Mutu ka raba’ that stopped, and people started knowing the truth and began to appreciate me.
Another thing is that the message in that song is unique. That is the reason I think it is still very relevant. People still play it at events and in houses.
There is your song ‘Ashe da aurenki’, where you pointed out how you fell in love on social media not knowing that the lady is a soldier’s wife, was it a real-life story?
I told you earlier that music is a way of passing message to address societal problems. Something similar to the issue I raised in ‘Ashe da aurenki’ happened, but I added many things to capture the scenario better.
The aim of the music is to address the problem of how nowadays you will see a married woman socializing freely with everybody on social media, and at the end, she may make friends and start chatting with them. Before you know it, they are close friends. And I was surprise, the message was widely received.
Fans are saying they are not hearing from you again, why?
Well, it is partially true. But even the song you talked about ‘Ashe da aurenki’, I released not long ago. My main concern is the message I am passing to the world, not the number of songs I release. That is why I always use my time to compose something special that my people will appreciate. People will agree with me seeing that songs I released many years ago are still relevant because I did the right thing. That is my style. And next year, my fans should expect many special packages.
You are known to be very close to Hamisu Breaker. You sang many songs together such as the blockbuster ‘Bakar Gizo’ that got more than 2 million views on YouTube. Are you still friends?
Yeah. Hamisu Breaker is my friend. We still maintain that professional relationship.
Fans are saying you are somehow very simple among Northern celebrities; Is that true?
Simplicity and humility are traits of our family. I got it directly from my parents. I have that notion that since I was nobody, I have no reason to look down upon anyone now because I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
Which Southern musicians do you want to collaborate with?
I want to collaborate in the nearest future with Davido, Korede Bello and Burna Boy and many others.
But why are your Southern counterparts richer than those of you in the North?
This question is very important. I have been asking myself similar question. I concluded that it is due to lack of proper management. We don’t have managers that manage our affairs, where as in the South, they all have managers. Here, we don’t know that.
Another factor is that our people do not appreciate our talent. If for example there is a wedding here in the North, you will be surprise to see that they’d invite a Southern musician and give him like say N5m for a few minutes’ performance. And if they invited a Northern musician, they will pay him like say N70000 for many hours performance. It is high time we start appreciating our own.
Between CD and YouTube which one is better?
CD is better. But we don’t have option now than to be using the YouTube pending what will happen next.
Any message to your fans?
My main aim is to keep entertaining them with my sweet lyrics, especially the ones that are about love. I believe in love, so I will never fail lovers. They should keep watching, I will never fail them.
Isiyaku Muhammed is a researcher, blogger and a Press Association, London certified Multimedia journalist.