How I use music to fight insurgency – Morell

When did you start making music?

I started making music professionally since 2009. My first outing was on Rugged Man’s album. I also work with Neato C in the song ‘Bamilo’ before I released ‘Oxygen’ in 2011.

Why music?

Music has always been a medium for me. I say what is on my mind and paint the picture that I want people to see. I studied Creative Art at the University of Maiduguri and I proceeded into music from there. I make all kinds of music because I grew up listening to all types of music but I mostly make R&B songs. I have an album. My debut album was released last year titled ‘Musa Jikan Musa.’

How have you worked with victims of insurgency?

I took some time off last year to come to Maiduguri because I felt the need to be part of the change and the new Borno. We actually have an initiative called the New Borno Initiative which we use to preach peace. This is made possible because I have a very strong following not only in Borno but in the whole North. I have visited IDPs camps, interacted with people and performed in a few places. So far, it’s been great.

What is this New Borno Initiative about and who are you working with on this project?

It is my own outfit which I started last year. I have been working with the UNHCR and I was at a programme they organised last year. There are also other important people who have endorsed it. The government has been doing the rebuilding of the affected areas but mine is mental reconstruction of the people of my State.

Why is it focusing on Borno State alone?

The project is beyond Borno State. A better Borno State means a better Nigeria. It is like a cancer. If it affects the hand and it is quickly taken care of, it won’t go to other parts of the body. If this part is healed, Nigeria is healed.

Do you believe that your music could make any positive impact?

Yes, I believe music can be used as a vehicle for change. There was a song I recorded in 2015, ‘Borno,’ I know what impact it has had and how many people have reached out to me to say the song actually touched them. A school in Paris actually put up a project on the song and made a video from it. That year, I could not release any song but I needed to say something. I was talking to my mum one time on the phone and I heard an explosive sound on the background. When I asked what that was, my little sister replied that it was a bomb blast. She said it was not a big deal because they were used to the sound already. That was why I did the ‘Borno’ song.

What are your targets for this year, 2018?

I am really glad with where Borno is now. Though, it is not completely calm yet but I believe that before the end of 2018, everything will settle. This is what I am looking out for and is my prayer for Borno State. I would not want to say for now what I will be doing this year because we are still checking different areas where we can come in. But I can assure you that we will keep working especially in education and healthcare with other organisations.

What is your message to youths?

My message to them is that, it doesn’t really matter what your religion is. It doesn’t really matter where you are from or language, we have to stand for the same thing and that is, for a peaceful Borno. This is because I grew up here at a time where this place was the most peaceful to live in. You live next to a Yoruba man, an Igbo man and you don’t even know the difference. A typical Borno man is a peaceful man. I’m just trying to take our minds back to those days, through my music.

Would you advise other musicians to toe your path?

I want to tell them to speak out, tell the truth and not be scared to support their people. I am in Borno now and I am not scared about anything happening to me. I am here because I am following my heart and feel like I should be here. I feel I should lend my voice, not from the studio over there in Abuja but here where I connect better with the people. I need them to understand that we share the same pain.

Are you mentoring any youth right now?

Yes, I am. I have been called different titles especially on social media. Some call me Gathan Arewa which means ‘The pride of the North.’ In that, I pride myself because I know I have inspired a couple of young people with my successes.

You talk about peace, what do you think is vital in achieving this?

The vital thing is education, to be honest. This is because people need to understand in order to move on from what has happened. In this whole thing, people still have grudges. We have to teach them to move on from what has happened. Again, we want more of our people to go to school.

You have met victims in the camps, are you planning to tell their stories in your songs?

Definitely. If you watch the ‘Borno’ video, you will realise that we have a bit of that in the video. Right now, I am collecting materials. I have been talking to a couple of people and we have clips that we are putting together. I am going to incorporate all that in my music and the projects I am going to be doing in the future as well.

How do you fund this project?

For now, I am using what I have to fund it. But as time goes on, I am sure people will see the vision and support us.

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