Remember Hycentto Jnr., the music maestro whose debut Mamagrooves made waves in the 1990s? He was a force to reckon with during the reign of music masters like Jide Obi, Felix Liberty, and Tony Okoroji, to mention a few. But Hycentto went into hibernation for over two decades after Mamagrooves, and his fans and lovers of good music must have been wondering where the music master has been all this while.
Hycentto has finally reappeared and, in this interview with Cornerstone News, the artist says he is fully back to the business he knows how to do best. He speaks on why he went underground and his new exploits in music.
Where have you been all these years?
I have been underground for almost two decades. My first debut was in 1985, titled “Last Night,” produced by Tabansi Records. The record did not sell as I expected. So, in 1991, I did another record that brought me to the limelight, Mamagrooves. You know, there was no money than in music. We were only looking for fame. I had fame but there was no money in the bank.
I am from Nnewi, in Anambra State. You know that we are famous for our exploits in the spare-parts business. I saw my mates building houses, driving cars and doing very well, taking care of their families, while I was just enjoying fame without money. One day, I just thought that I might end up wretched; that was why I temporarily stepped outside the music world and decided to go into business. But business is not easy; I had to learn the trade for a while. After that, I set up my own business, but it also takes time before settling down.
Have you been able to achieve what your mates have done?
I have been able to put a roof over my head, which is one of the most important things in life. I am married and I have been taking care of my responsibilities. I am not wealthy like a typical Nnewi businessman, but I thank God that my family can have three square meals a day.
Why did you make a comeback to music?
Music is inborn. While I was doing business and suspended my music, the spirit of music was still troubling me. I was restless for many years. I felt unfulfilled. Second, my fans that I run into occasionally would ask me some embarrassing questions. I knew I had to go back to music. Third, the hand of God, the All-knowing and All-seeing brought me back to music. I told you that I went underground. I just forgot about my two albums. One day, I got a message from Paris, France, that “Mamagrooves,” my hit, which was not appreciated in Nigeria, was spreading like wildlife over there. I thought it was a scam until the Lorm Ipsum, France, contacted me and told me how good my music was. The company invested in the record and brought me back to the limelight.
What surprised me was France is not an English-speaking country, yet the people love Mamagroovses, I logged on to Youtube and I saw how it was selling and I said the hand of God was upon it. I am so happy about what is happening to me now.
Have you started making money from the France deal?
Not really but very soon, I will start collecting royalty. The company invested in the music, they have to recoup the money they spent. I know where your mind is going. Well, they were the ones who looked for me and got me. They were the ones who packaged the music and sent the cassette, plate recorder and other things to me. They resuscitated the music and briefed me of all they were doing. Lorm Ipsum is a big name. I am praying that they will accomplish all that they promised to do for me. You can google Hycentto and Mamagrooves and see what I am saying. Mamagrooves was produced by Nkono Tellex in London. Joe Best Okoye, John Asoegwu, Emma Eziokwu, and so on, assisted me then.
What do you mean when you say you are back?
I am back to music. Apart from Mamagrooves, I have two tracks that are making waves in Nigeria and abroad, Rikosia and Eletoda. Radio stations are playing music. Many may not know I am the artist, but I assure you that my fans will not be disappointed.
How do you rate music in Nigeria these days?
Musicians these days are smiling to the bank; during our time in the ’80s and ’90s, we were just making a name, thinking of fame. Today, artists are earning money and fame at the same time.
However, the difference is clear. We were singing meaningful songs and there was no money in our pockets; today, the more meaningless your songs are, the more money you make. It is an irony of life. And the implication of most of the songs of today is that they are not going to stand the test of time. For instance, my music is being appreciated in France today because it has meaningful content. Today, if you come across the music of Sonny Okosun, Ebenezer Obey, Ras kimono, Sunny Ade, etcetera, you will still enjoy it. That is evergreen music.
What is your advice to upcoming musicians and youths?
Upcoming musicians should know that music is good, but it can be a gateway to hellfire. Through music, you get to stardom and once you get the fame and you don’t know how to control your fame you become proud. God detests the proud. For instance, women will always flock around any famous musician.
They should not go into drugs. Drugs do nothing to our body but destroy it. Your body is the holy temple of God, so it must not be defiled with drugs. You must not go into alcoholism. Some musicians claim they get inspiration by drinking and smoking. That is a false belief. Music is inborn, and it does not come through Dutch courage.
I know that some musicians have problems in facing a crowd. For some, it is a psychological malady that can only be controlled through drinking and smoking. Don’t do drugs, learn from the story of those that were doomed by drugs.
What is your advice to the government of the day?
The government should invest seriously in entertainment, especially music. Through music, the economy of the country will boom. The government can fight the problems of unemployment through music. Music can transform Nigeria’s economy. The government should include music as a degree course at the university. When Nigeria’s music industry is well packaged, many young graduates would be employed and the problems of joblessness and crime would reduce. Again, our government should look into the issue of piracy. The government should help us to fight piracy. Piracy is killing our business