Olowu Bardia Adebola popularly known as IllRymz has been the host of talent show, Nigerian Idol since its inception. He was at his best last weekend as the season 4 of the show rounded off with Zibili Evelyn (Evelle), emerging the winner. After the show, he took time out to speak with ORUKPE NELSON.
How would you describe this season’s Idol?
It is very different. We have brand new set of judges and the show was shorter unlike the precious editions because of the World Cup in Brazil where Nigeria is participating.
So it was really interesting to get the show done quickly and to also maintain the integrity of the show. It was challenging because every single year we get to hear about what is happening to the Idols and what’shappening to the show. We went round the country and we tried our best to bring out top talents. But it got to a stage it was not in our hands anymore since people were voting.
There was no arrangement of any sort or behind the scene thing. People were saying why did the person make it through and we replied that it was their votes. And you could see that the show was transparent and even the judges asked people to vote rightly. So it was very interesting and a very vocal season. None of the judges was sidelined; they were all very opinionated.
Don’t you think the idea to allow the viewers decide is working against the Idol?
Yes, but you need to understand that it is an international show and there is a set format. We do not make up the rules on the show. If you watched American Idol or anyother franchise, we have to follow exactly the same format. The director cannot make a call on the show. If we tamper with it, we mess with the integrity of the show. So you have to look at the standard; you have to look at American Idol and say this is the exact thing that is happening in Nigerian Idol.
We do not make any rule; it is a set format.
What was the new thing you brought into this edition?
It was all a bunch of different people. The show is all about the characters and personalities, so what I brought was how to interact with them. You look back at last season and say what you did differently.
Did you motivate contestants enough? How did you relate with the audience?
My personal aim is to make the audience interact with the show more and listen to what they want. And when I give feedback, it should be the voice of Nigerians. It should be what they want to ask the judges and the contestants.
So what do you think about the contestants at the outset?
It is really dicey. I knew this season was going to be filled with surprises because a lot of the contestants we had were not amazing like the previous editions.
We have so many amazing singers in Nigeria, but a lot of people have a sort of stigma.People do not want to come out on reality show and everybody thinks he/she can make it on his/her own. Since people do not want to utilise the platform, we have people who are just bold enough. We might have 2000 contestants, but we might only have just 10 talents or 10 total packages that can make it through. This is why we are always pleading with Nigerians to vote rightly because we tried to get that quality crop. The reason I do the show is because my whole life is based on Nigerian talents, but we are still not there. We are such a talented people in this country and almost everything we do is recognised, so why don’t we have a real superstar? And this is a platform that is recognised anywhere in the world. If you go outside and say you are an Idol, people will look at you in a different way. We are just not utilising that platform well.
Of all the cities you visited during the regional auditions, which city really got you excited?
I’m not easy to please. What can I say? It is a difficult question because I think all the cities have a very interesting set of people.
One city I think we had a high turnout though I might need to confirm was between Port Harcourt and Calabar. We had a high turnout of quality singers. If you look at this season as well, you will see that even the image side of the show has improved.
The contestants paid much attention to how they looked, dressed or sounded. Everybody was trying to be cool. There was an understanding that it was a show business and the need to bring out that flavour and flair in it. But, generally, we are still improving talent wise. I want a singer that is going to sing and Tiwa Savage is going to be like,‘I am not singing next to this girl’. We have these people, but the media need to urge them to come out. They should come out from their Churches, look the screen and say I have this dream. I know some people might say the money is not that amazing but N7.5 million cash is enough. It is a lot of money to me. You have a brand SUV as well. It should not be the only incentive, but it could set your career in the entertainment industry. A lot of people do not have the N7.5 million to invest in music. It is really a very expensive business. So for anyone who is talented, this is really the show.
What were the challenges?
First, the viewers; we were practically begging them to vote for the right people.
Do you know how hard it is for me to do the dirty job on the show? I looked after these kids and suddenly they get eliminated from the show. It is not easy, especially when I know this person has an amazing talent. As a producer, I know I can bank my money on such person. It is always hard for me to let such a person go. I am a music person, but due to my function and role on the show, I cannot be biased. I cannot be too close to anyone or have a vested interest because it would be unfair. This show is about your psychology as well. Think about how many people who are watching; it is not easy for these kids. I am very proud for every single contestant who comes on our stage. Think about our audience where we have about close to 400 or 500 people looking at you.
You are working with 78 cameras on you, we have like 40-50 light on you and you are probably singing for the first time. It takes a lot and then you know millions of Nigerians are watching. You know we are very vocal in the use of social media. If you mess upon stage, you are finished. So imagine all what these kids are going through, let us stop complaining and start supporting.
How about your show with Nokia Radio Outloud?
It has been amazing. We had a break for a while due to reasons beyond our control. But when you have a good product it speaks for itself. And we thank God for our loyal fans. They still tweet and say they want it back and hopefully we would be back this year before summer.
Things could be hard and I think it is about the politics of business in Nigeria. Sometimes, quality is not exactly what it sells. One person could come, make a different decision and the whole show goes away. They will not listen to what the people really want. But we are getting more vocals. I am not going to sell the show to anyone; I would just ask them to look at the track record, check up people’s views about the show, the quality and what it has inspired. Before the show came up, we had few sponsored shows on radio. How many programmes do Nigerians tune in to listen?
But with Radio Outloud, we achieved a lot and this is what we are selling to clients that they do not want to lose the followership.
Not much has been heard of your music career. How has it gone?
I had released a mixed tape, Licensed to ill. The 17 tracks mixed tape is just to check what Nigerians want. I am still doing research but where I want to take Nigerian music to is there. I want to do proper international R&B and hip-hop, but I think the music that is around in the country right now is noise. We are just making music that will last in a short time. An artiste comes out and within three months you do not hear from him again. All these are happening because we are not taking time; there is no longevity or process.
The mixed tape is just a test. I am going to put on an album this year, but I have to be very delicate because I believe in household name. I have to be careful with what I put out because it can either make or break my career.