HE’S ONE OF AFRICA’S BEST VOCALISTS. MIKE OKRI is a multi-talented Nigerian American music superstar-an exceptionally creative and talented producer, director, entertainer and singer. In Hollywood California where he lives, he is regarded as Africa’s Rumba dance King. In this rare interactive session with our hard-working AMERICAN Foreign Editor, GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU, this songster takes us down memory lane into why he migrated Abroad, how his brand of music rules Los Angeles, his unforgettable shows in America, evergreen maiden live performance to a huge crowd in the early 80’s in Nigeria; plans to unveil new music label among other interesting issues
NAIJA: What inspired your relocation from Nigeria to the United States?
I have always wanted to peak my standard in the Entertainment business. Everything else I considered an added value to my success story. Then the internet (social media) hadn’t come to full circle prominence at the time. So going to the United States or Europe to enhance one’s musical career was a big deal. Something our home country Nigeria couldn’t offer us at the time. To nip it in the bud, the issue of music piracy, lack of proper accountability for royalties by record companies and the insensitivity of government support for the creative Industry were paramount issues for my migration. One other major reason could also be attributed to plans by my family members and I to be living in America. NAIJA: What was the experience like to you adjusting your status from being a visitor to becoming a permanent resident?
Hmm it wasn’t easy. It was a long winding and bumpy road that almost ruined my career as a musician. However, it was worth it, because it opened the door of various opportunities I can’t recount here, but would save for my future memoir, if God allows it.
The long winding and bumpy road notwithstanding, there is so much to be grateful to God for being in America eventually and actualizing your dreams and aspirations. Unlike Nigeria you need no godfather to attain your highest dreams. All you need is staying out of trouble and the in-road to success is yours. In fact, you are your own limit when you choose to live right and out of crime.
NAIJA: How were you able to adjust to America’s lifestyle?
By nature I love traveling around the world and I thank God I had the privilege to do so as per my career and love for music. Again, my love for long distance travels to various countries of culture also helped prepare and braze me for whatever my expectations were of America. However, I have also had countless opportunities traveling to America and other countries for events, before settling finally with family in the United States.
NAIJA: We heard you are the African Music King in Los Angeles?
I just tried doing my best being creative, innovative and eventful amongst other competitors whenever the need arises. So sad, you can’t be too popular among your own people (Nigerians) until you venture out of that odious space into a more friendly and competitive one. And I was glad the people of other cultures accepted me for who I am. Then I need not have to be Mike Okri the Rumba Dance King only, but the King who was able to render and master music repertoires of various old school genres of great musicians before me.
NAIJA: Who is Mike Okri in the Entertainment Industry?
I am a humble guy with charisma who, amidst my other contemporaries, have been able to carve a niche for myself in the Nigerian (world class) entertainment industry. I am driven by a clear vision to excel in all I do in terms of creativity, that is being original. I pride myself for full scale development of others professionally without mincing words. Hence, I can be called a songwriter, music producer, movie critic/enthusiast; novelist, and a live performer who have mastered the game of entertainment music business over the years with wealth of experiences. Thanks to God, and I intend to bring on board other young talents to MIKE OKRI ENTERTAINMENT music label unveiling soon.
NAIJA: Can you take us through memory lane on your first music performance on stage?
My first live performance, besides the regular club miming I had in Lagos, was at FARM KITCHEN then Warri Delta State. The very first time I had to see my ardent fans in their highest numbers of 10,000 people, I wept for their show of support and love for my music. That was one day I would never forget. Your first show is like a test of knowing if your songs are going to be famous or not. And as soon as I passed the test of being accepted by my numerous fans as a good performer with numbers of monster hits like:”Time na money” and “Omoge” I knew I was a super star with a humble crown on my head.
NAIJA: Can you list some of the awards you have received in the past?
I have received many awards over the years that I hardly can recount. However, these are but a few notable ones: Nigeria Music Awards 1988, 1989 and 1990 in the category of Best vocalist, Best song and Best music video. Fame Music Awards’ Best vocalist and Best music 1991 and 1992 respectively. Others are: Pan African Music Award in Ghana about the same time and year. Recently I have received various awards in the Legendary capacity as a Music Hall of Famer both in Maryland, Los Angeles, Calgary Canada and Nigeria from a number of people in Industries.