GT the Guitarman: Mum never believed in my dreams by Deji Aroloye
GT the Guitarman sees music as a platform to use his talent to influence people positively. Recently, he spoke with TS Weekend on his love for music, which started from childhood and how he handles challenges. Enjoy:
How did you come into music? Music for me started when I was a kid. I remember my dad had an album collection of Ebenezer Obey, Shina Peters and the likes, and my sister was a chorister. We would dance and sing together. I later joined a couple of groups, most of them with funny names like Pearls of Gloves, Temple and Excel etc.
Eventually, I met John Akanbi who plays the guitar. That was the first time I would be touching a guitar. When I told him I wanted to learn how to play the guitar, he advised me to start tutorials, and then buy a guitar. I started saving because I didn’t have the money. I starved and was looking so lean that my mummy asked whether I was eating at all. A friend, Samuel Ekpeyong, later gave me his guitar. I did some repair on it and started learning. When I went back to John Akanbi, he was so surprised how fast I was able to progress by merely reading books and also studying on online. That is how music started for me.
Who were the artistes that influenced you at the beginning of your music career? I used to listen to Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade, and Boyz to Men. I could remember that my friend, Wale Orisadare and I would sing Plantazhun Boyz’ songs from A-Z on our way to school.
What was it like when your parents knew that their son was going into music? I only had my mummy to convince because I didn’t grow up with my dad. You know, women are always very scared especially when their son is trying to go into a profession that is ignorantly associated with vices such as Indian hemp smoking, promiscuity etc. But it is about the individual, it is about me trying to show this is not who I am. I only love music and wanted to make a career out of it. It took time to convince her. My mum never believed in my dreams.
How did the name, GT the Guitarman, originate? Dare Art Alade took me to Obi Asika, who asked for my name and I said GT, which stands for Gbemiro Tokunbo. I picked up the guitar and played The Dreamer. He signed me on the spot and said ‘from now on, you would be called GT the Guitarman’. That is how the name stuck.
You were with Storm Records some years ago and you later left. What actually happened? I actually had a three-year contract but ended up staying for two additional years. It was a great experience but I was really dissatisfied with what was happening at some point. There was the vision to be on my own and I had to push it. Eventually we released an album called ‘Truth On The Storm’. I don’t think I would have gotten to where I am if not for the album. I left to start my company, Ember Entertainment, because my contract expired. I have been at it for four years. And it has been challenging but I love it.
How will you describe your kind of music? My kind of music is a fusion of rock, soul, and African rhythms. I play the guitar that gives it the rock feel, and my voice is the soul. It is either I am singing in Pidgin English or Yoruba is infused into it.
As a musician, do you have regrets? I really don’t have regrets. I tell people life is a journey, not a destination. Whatever you are going through right now, there is a reason for it. A woman feels much pain in the labour room. But once the baby is born, there is joy. If I make a wrong decision, I see how I can correct it the next time.
What inspires you to sing everyday? It is out of love from what you do. Being a musician is something I can never regret. I have a voice and I can speak to a whole lot of people through music. It gives me the power to change a lot of things at the strike of a chord, with the melody from voice. For example, take the song, Dreamer, it is amazing how many people connect to that song nine years after I wrote it.
What’s your take on the state of the music industry in Nigeria? Some people will say the young musicians spoil the music industry, but they actually make it work. The industry was dead before they came to revive it. Though, the business model is what you can criticise, they were able to do it even though we killed music. CD sales should be an avenue for musicians to make money but the CDs are sold for peanuts. And to get promotion, it is something you pay for. It used to be that you give the media content and they give you promotion. Music has become a venture where if you don’t have money, you cannot go into it. You have to be able to push yourself on TV or else nobody will see you. I hope things will change some day.
As a musician, is there a connection between the songs you have released all these years and your personal experiences? I released Saved Me and the video was nominated twice at the Nigerian Music Video Awards for Best Video Director and Best R&B Video. Akin Alabi directed the video.
Save Me was written when I was going through a tough time in my relationship. It was a way of telling the babe to save me and not let me walk alone. I also released Your God Sucks, which was directed at the Boko Haram insurgents. If your God needs him to fight for Him, that means he sucks. God is the greatest; I don’t think the almighty will need you to fight for him.
I also released a 16-track album entitled, Baked, and it featured Yemi Alade, General Pype, Patoranking, Ruggedman and Chocolate City’s Price. I also did a song, Nigeria 1960 Till Forever, which says we chose to stay together from 1960 till forever.
Is the title of your recent song, Baked related to food?
The title, Baked is in no way related to food. I called it Baked because when you go through the fire, it either bakes or burns you. When he burns you, you are dead, but when it bakes you, you become better than who you were before. That is the message I am trying to pass across to people. When people thought I was dead, I was busy learning production, how to mix and do other things. Right now, I am ready to strike the industry hard.