Big Slai is an artiste, producer, manager and director because that’s all he told us. A member of the renowned Owerri based group South End that made waves in the last era of music in Owerri about seven years ago.
Otowngist.com crew caught up with him amidst his busy schedule to get this interview where he ran through issues that touched beyond the borders of his music life.
I’m Eneka Aguta aka Big Slai. I’m from Mbaitoli LGA of Imo State.
Why Big Slai
The name has been Slai as a member of the group South End. I was actually a skinny guy then especially way back in my school days. The Big in the name came in after school when I put up a lot of weight. That’s how I became Big Slai.
As an entertainer
I do music as an individual, still as a group South End, I’m a producer, artiste manager and into still video production.
How well is it going?
Before last year, artistes in Owerri did not really understand what they can make from a video, but thanks to a change in mentality, the whole thing is picking up this year. Artistes in places like Port Harcourt understand the importance of a video for their songs but it hasn’t been like that here. Another issue is that those areas have the TV stations to play these videos but here they are just the two stations we know.
Is the old era of bloom back?
There was a time 7 years ago when the likes of Emecx Diddypie, Singaholic, Southend, Malasy, Freewindz, Kelly Hansome and others came up with lots of good music in the town. Suddenly, everything crashed taking us back to where we started.
I can’t say what the problem was, money or lack of support from the media houses in town, but that was then.
But now, I don’t know if I should attribute the new era to the arrival of Hot 99.5 FM but there’s a sudden boost in the industry now and if anyone had wanted to invest in the music industry of Owerri, this is the right time.
Blame the old era artistes
I don’t blame any of the artistes for leaving at all, because they all left for good reasons. Kelly Hansome moved because of his Kennys deal, Freewinds, Singaholic, and Bomboclash also left for the same reason and they were doing well there which is also good for us. The rest of us left behind were waiting for the big push which never came. I believe that was when the problem started.
But they left with noise
Yes, you’re right. Then there were few joints unlike now. There were no Ibari Ogwa, no Orange Groove and places like them. Everything was just done by the government and the moment they withdrew, the whole thing died.
Then with Okey (Bakasi) McAnthony as the Special Adviser to the governor on Entertainment, there were shows going on, although most of them took place without our knowledge. They organized shows with few artistes from Owerri, and when that few left; there was no one to represent the town again. The rest of us couldn’t protest, and the whole thing just died. Therefore, I don’t blame the artistes for the whole thing, but the stakeholders
Relationship between artistes and promoters since then
A new government is here now, although there is no SA on Entertainment per say, but Mr Uche Ogbuagu is doing hiss best as the Chief Comedian of the Government House, trying to cover that area. He will do his best, but his current office still does not have that capacity as the SA on entertainment. Many joints are now trying, putting up shows every night and once in a while, but we still need the push from the government. I always tell the artistes ‘omo Rochas no go do promo for you”, but we still need the platform to showcase our music.
Government can organize awards and carnivals. Port Harcourt did it and artistes from the streets went home with awards, nothing can be as encouraging as that.
How about 2011 Imo Carnival?
I don’t know a thing about it. Guys like you run the press here, so you should know better than I do. We never got any call or invitation, all we saw were adverts, that’s all I know about the carnival.
It was a talent hunt show
You don’t expect artistes like me, BigChance & Cyphatyte, Aifee, Harmony to go for a talent hunt show, we already know our talents.
Plans for 2012
We have requested a meeting with the governor, which has not gone through, although we have met with the Chief of Staff, Prince Eze Madumere, who felt our plight. We just realized that those guys up there don’t even know what we are going through here. Don’t be surprised that when you ask the governor, he’ll say that something has been released for this.
How organized are the artistes?
There’s an association, Imo Performing Acts, which has been existing for a while now and I am the current President.
Any proposal to the government?
That is why we are seeking an audience with the governor; we have all those mapped out and the moment we get that audience, we’ll put everything down before them.
Over to South End
We are there, just that we had a hitch along the way when we signed for a UK based Nigerian Record label, Kaycee Records.
We had things going on well for us, and along the line the record label could not carry all of us because they also had other artistes like Seaflow, Saffin De Coque (son of late Oliver de Coque) and others. But now we are working on our stuffs, waiting for the contract to run out this year.
Who are you working with
Even when I produce, I don’t still do it on my own, I work with other producers like Iceberg and Dj Chet. I’ve recorded with Seaflow, Ebenezer, Pekefamous and I’m planning on working with Aifee soon
Five artistes to sign If own a record label in Owerri
It’ll be so unfair to mention just five, because we have lots of talented artistes here. I’ll be choosing these five not because they are better than the others, but they have actually stood the test of time in Owerri. Cyndy O, BigChance & Cyphatyte, Aifee, Red Loaf and who will be the fifth…
Acharaman I guess
Acharaman is in a class of his own, his ‘Relax’ and other collabos have really changed a lot of things, but I have other artistes who has been around for more than eight years.
He thinks he’s a Hip-hop revolutionist
I’m in good terms with Acharaman and he’s a determined person. Let’s be honest, he started the Hip-hop revolution. After his ‘Relax’, people started believing in Hip-hop again, Aifee and others have been doing their thing, but he was the beginning of it all.
Others have been preaching this revolution, but Acharaman is just like the click that put things on the right track.
How busy is Big Slai
It’s obvious that I have a lot of things going on my life, but it’s all about planning, and that’s why we ought to keep diaries. That’s what I do.
I hang out, watch movies, I used to play soccer but that was years ago, now I play table tennis with my dad when I’m in my family house.
It was initially a tough thing for me, having come from a family where education rules.
The support wasn’t there initially especially in my school day, because my dad is a professor. They believed music was affecting my academics, but now, they’re with me.
What is missing in the Imo State entertainment industry?
Who takes the money?
Money in the system. Shows need money same with awards and the artistes. When the money enters the system, a lot will surely change. This money will make the scene interesting and also attract shows to this town, so that when groups like MTN, GLO and ETISALAT are doing shows, they won’t go to Enugu, jump Owerri for Port Harcourt.
To the artistes, I’ll say don’t blame it on anyone, just do what you have to do.