Paul Play Dairo is one of the sons of the Nigerian music legend, the late I.K. Dairo MBE who was honoured in the ‘60s by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his musical skill. Paul started his musical career in 1999 after a two-year stint with Shell Petroleum Development Company as an engineer. He soon became a household name in the music industry as a producer, artist, record label owner and talent judge. He recorded many big hits like Mo S’orire, Millennium Dance, Bus Stop, Mo Wa Dupe, You and Me, Promised Land, Angel of My Life and Forever. He started his company, Playground Entertainment, in 2001.
Let’s briefly re-live the old times. Regale us with tales from the early days…
I started singing at the age of 11 as a member of a choir group called Calvary Singers in my father’s church. At 17, I cut my first demo as a member of a musical group “Le Griffe” which I formed with my older brother and my cousin (both deceased). We were in-house performers at the famous nightclub, Niteshift, (in) those days, and we performed alongside musicians like Sunny Neji, Felyxx and Mozzyx, Tunde and Wumi Obe and others. We were the only group singing RnB at that time, and we didn’t get much love, but we kept our focus.
I started producing at 19 when I wasn’t pleased about what producers were coming up with. I got a Casio 100 keyboard and started practising using (a) piano tutor my brother bought. Soon people started falling in love with my production, and I started getting jobs. I was advised by one of my friends to remix Mo S’orire, and I did. Then I had already cut a jingle for Kenny Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye of Kennis Music fame for their show AIT Jams. My popularity soared after my jingle for AIT. I was approached by the sponsors of a group called Oxygen to produce some tracks and (was) later persuaded to join the group. I brought in my friends (with) whom I already formed “Deklan”, a three-man group to join Oxygen. While at Oxygen, we were offered a deal by a South African company, but it didn’t go through because our manager wanted more money. We were upset. Soon after that, I got an offer from Mr Kenny Ogungbe after he played Mo S’oriredemo on air. He was excited after I produced the entire tracks on Tony Tetuila’s album and he offered me a deal. I dropped my “Project 1“, and the brand Paul Play was born.
Talking about pals. Where are they now? Who and what do you still keep in touch with?
I’m still in touch with most of my friends: Slam and Swave (whom we formed Deklan together). Tony Tetuila, Azadus, Ruff Rugged and Raw, Dr Fresh, 2 Face and I hardly see but we (are) still cool. I lost a couple of friends along the way; OJB and Nomoreloss, Rugged Man and I still keep in touch. I’ve got so many friends that we started together who I still call up.
Let’s talk about your progenitor, a towering colossus. How do you manage the whole image around being an IK Dairo (MBE)’s scion?
Doors fly open wherever I go because of my father’s legacy and the love old folks have for him. It’s really a privilege, but I am also grateful that he raised us to be humble and diligent at what we do.
What are your fondest memories of Baba Aladura?
My dad was a strict churchman. He loved his faith more than his children. You are going to get spanked if you miss church. That was one rule in my house no one wants to break. My dad would write a song in Yoruba and ask me to translate into English for him because he didn’t go to school. I’m always excited when I’m asked to work with him. I’ve played the Tom Tom drum at one of his performances in Ondo State. I have also played Tom Tom drum on one of his albums.
How many albums/singles have you released to date? And of productions (roughly how many?)
I have released five albums till date, but have released about seven singles some of which will be on my next album. I can’t really give the actual figure on my productions. I’ve produced artists like Mike Okri, Uche Ibeto, Rugged Man, Slam, Tony Tetuila, Kenny St Brown, Azadus, Dr Fresh, Ruff Rugged and Raw, Omotola Jalade, Nomoreloss and others I can’t recall at the moment.
If you are inclined to moan, berate the music industry and/or its abusers in 75 strong words…
I think the wealth and value of the music industry are not fully tapped. The industry depends on corporate influence for its revenue. The phone companies virtually own online music marketing and other digital platforms. They endorse artiste thereby making the business more lucrative. Nigerian music industry cannot survive as a stand-alone industry because its primary source of revenue lacks good marketing and distribution structure.
Tell us the most favourable concert(s) that you have done and why do this/these stand out?
The most memorable one was my performance for President Olusegun Obasanjo in Aso Rock. (This was in) October 2000 to celebrate Nigeria’s 40th anniversary. That performance opened doors for me within the ruling class circle, and I became favourites of governors and ministers in the country. My performance at the Benson & Hedges Golden Tones was also phenomenal; it stood as a proof to my critics than I’m not just a recording artist because I got a lot of respect from critics and entertainment journalists. Lekki Sunsplash was massive because I watched a sea of heads go into a frenzy when I got on stage. That feeling is unmatchable. (The) concert in Ireland had 75 per cent ladies from other African countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa. I was amazed at how far my music had gone. My concerts in Manchester and London made me feel loved and appreciated by Nigerians in the Diaspora. I’ve performed in most of the Nigerian universities, but the most memorable one was my performance in Unilag where I almost got raped by female fans who took over the stage.
Most influential factor/personality in your life/career?
Most influential personality is more than one, my dad who taught me how to love God and humanity. Teddy Riley inspired me to start production and songwriting. Miss Grace Egbagbe who introduced me to Dr Mike Adenuga at the peak of my career. Dr Mike Adenuga who is a godfather to me and finally the God factor that made everything possible.
To what do you owe your clean-cut image? Baba Aladura again?
Hmm. I wouldn’t attribute all that to my dad’s mode of parenting. I am the calmest in my family and very shy. I think that helped me to stay out of trouble. All the same, I’m not a saint. (lol)
Copyright issues and impropriety with artists’ financial rewards continue to present recurring challenges in the entertainment industry not only in Nigeria but the whole of Africa. How much have we achieved, and how far (behind) are we compared to the western world?
The entertainment industry has suffered (the) dearth of entertainment lawyers and competent managers. This is the reason we have been experiencing endless scandals between record labels and artists. Another issue is the mentality of aspiring musicians who don’t take their time to read between the lines or contact a lawyer before signing. I gathered considerable experience reading through some of my dad’s contracts, and closeness to entertainment lawyers has helped me to sail smoothly in that terrain. I have a court case currently on infringement of my copyright, and that has spurred many Nigerians artistes to start fighting for their intellectual property rights. Many Nigerian musicians are ignorant of the laws and rights that guide the business and some elements in the industry are cashing in on that ignorance to do their dirty bid. We are light years away from how copyright business run in the western world. There is no room for comparison. Copyright issues in Nigeria is a long story and, in my opinion, deserves a full interview on its own.
As a producer, how would you rate the home industry, compared to overseas, having had a stint either way?
I already explained how this industry depends on corporate Nigeria to survive. Again, there is no room for comparison. The wealth of the music industry as we speak is passing through a few departments. The structure of the US music industry has enabled every stakeholder to be financially rewarded. The producer, sound engineer, songwriter, instrumentalists (and) lyricists have their share of the cake. In Nigeria, (the) juiciest returns go to artists alone. That’s why producers, DJs, sound engineers and songwriters have decided to start singing and releasing singles to get a piece of the pie. And also, Nigerian musicians have a problem of chasing the money before the talent. There is always a bandwagon effect. If Davido releases a song today, the following week you will hear many released songs sounding just like that song. Creativity and uniqueness have significantly reduced.
A future in politics? Or would you rather be inclined to lead a religious flock (like Papa again, God rests his soul)?
I don’t have any plans to go into politics, but I can’t rule out political appointment. As far as my faith is concerned, I have plans to start a gospel music movement that will serve the Kingdom.
Most prized possession… God-given talent
Favourite relaxation… Movies and games
Favourite food /drink… Fried snail/cranberry juice
Silliest purchase…Controversial land property
Architectural landscape… None
Pet name… Sweetie
Plans for retirement… No intention to retire from the music profession
Watch Paul Play Dairo’s Mo So Rire
Paul Play Dairo – Angel Of My Life
Interview arranged by Jimi Akinniyi (aka DJ Jimi the Baldheaded Guy)
Feferity (c) 2019