Zeal Onyecheme of the Styl Plus fame in this interview with ORUKPE NELSON spoke about what the group has been up to these past years. He reacted to the music group break-up and what each of the members are doing with their lives outside music. Enjoy…
You performed recently alongside your partner, Shifi, at Hajia Aisha Buhari’s Appreciation Dinner; do you mainly do live shows now?
We’ve always been doing that and we will continue doing it as far as music is concerned. It’s a way for us to reach out to the people.
How did you pull the deal through?
Actually, we were called upon and we obliged since it’s our area of specialisation. We’re very glad to be part of the programme for progress and for change.
Do you channel your craft towards social activism?
We’ve always been a group that preaches positivity; we don’t just do music for the fun of it. We speak about the love of a woman for a man and everything that has to do about goodwill, so this will not be different for us. Our messages have been about love, peace, joy and growth.
When we heard about the programme, it was like a tether for us to come on board and propagate our message to the people the more. So, we’ve always been in this kind of programmes and it’s because people don’t know about it. We actually organised a talent hunt where we rounded up a few young acts – young people who could act, sing, play football and from different walks of life. This platform is a bigger one for us to tap into since it’s a new government that intends to take matters bothering on youth development seriously.
Essentially, you were endeared to many by your music and stage craft, what are you doing with your partner, Shifi, to return to the mainstream music sector?
Actually, a lot of water has passed under the bridge these past years, so many people are asking “what is happening to Styl Plus?” “We want Styl Plus” and it’s been the same reaction on facebook, BBM, Twitter and all over the social media. We’re very sorry, our fans have been unable to hear from us.
We’re at the background working and it’s not that we intend not to come out with new songs. But like the Styl Plus you know, we have to take our time to do music properly for longevity. Our kinds of songs are mostly classical songs that we don’t have to rush.
We’re actually in the studios right now working with a few other acts. Very soon you guys will hear songs with Styl Plus and Faze in collaboration; soon you’d hear works from Styl Plus and Don Jazzy and the Mavin Crew. We’ve been working hard to fulfill our dreams and satisfy our fans than we’ve left for so long. Basically, music is not the only thing happening to us, we have other means of bringing food on the table.
What other things do you do to make ends meet?
Shifi is into Quantity Surveying, that’s what he studied in school. I do football tutoring with my kids.
You do football tutoring with kids; do you have your biological kids already?
I have a little football club with kids, not biological kids o, I’m not married yet. I do some stuff with my dad who is a building contractor and I learn the ropes at the same time from him. There’s quite a lot to be done when we’re not doing music.
What is your current relationship with Tunde, Styl Plus’ former mate?
Like I said, when we’re not doing music, we have our hands on other things. Shifi and I are trying to build a company aside from Styl Plus but I won’t let the cat out of the bag now. It’s just for you to know that we’re working fervently for progress. But the relationship with Tunde is quite good. We talk once in a while despite the misunderstanding that happened in the past. We’re still good friends, it’s just work difference that we have as Tunde is doing gospel right now and he feels good with it.
After Tunde left, many thought Styl Plus might rebrand with another name, why did you retain the name?
We stick to the brand name; Styl Plus because one should ask oneself; why fixed what’s not broken? That a man isn’t with us doesn’t mean the group will not continue. We have moved on and I will let our fans know through this platform that we’re not going to be three in this group; it would just be Shifi and I. We’re good together and that’s how it’s going to be for now.
Younger chaps have come on board to up the ante. You are aware of what Korede Bello, Wizkid, Kiss Daniel and Davido are doing with music now. How does Styl Plus hope to measure up to the new tempo?
First and foremost, we’ve never been away. I will give you instances in the Western world where the old acts like Lionel Richie, Boyz II Men and the rest of these guys are still making waves abroad and it’s because there’s a structure. Back here, we don’t have a structure. Nigerian artists are the most resilient and the most hardworking. What I’m trying to say is that we have old guys abroad who still shine in this age and time. That’s because there’s structure that see to royalty for them. I appreciate the young chaps like Kiss Daniel, Wizkid and Davido; they’re doing an excellent work. It is not going to take anything out of our musical abilities to measure up with them songs for songs, lyrics for lyrics and beats for beats. For us, music is passion; we’re not in it only by the lure of commerce. We’re in this business because we love how the game is played. So, how we’re going to meet up with the younger artists is not going to be a problem.
Tunde is now married, but among the guys in the group, you were perhaps the most patronised by girls. What is Zeal still waiting for to walk down the aisle?
I will not deny the fact that there are ladies everywhere flocking around me/us wanting either business or pleasure. That’s perhaps, because of the kind of job we do. I’m not married yet and that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to get married. I will be married soon; I mean in the nearest future.
Future usually sounds like 15 to 20 years. You and Shifi want to stay this way?
(Chuckles) The truth is that I’ve been able to manage relationship with female fans; it’s not a problem to me and same with Shifi.
Are you in a relationship now?
I’m in a healthy relationship now.
Is it the same with Shifi?
He’s absolutely happy in his relationship too.
Supposed you guys just decide to marry the same day, can you imagine the buzz that will generate?
Don’t worry; it’s going to be a big banger. Just wait and watch the big thing happen.
It is rumoured that you are planning to join Jazzy/Mavin. What exactly are you doing with the crew?
There were speculations that Don Jazzy wanted me on the Mavin team and my manager also pushed me. He asked me if I was interested in the deal and I said it won’t be a bad thing to join the Mavin Crew but I will not abandon ship. I built a brand with my own, why fix it if it’s not broken? There’s no problem with my group. Like I said earlier, there’s going to be collaboration with Don Jazzy and that is how it works.
Were you the one who asked to be brought on the Mavin Crew or Don Jazzy’s request?
Don Jazzy never called actually, but he speculated and I heard. He was just saying that he would love Zeal in the Mavin Crew but it wasn’t as if he called or we spoke officially about it.
How soon should fans expect the works you have in the pipeline?
I can’t tell that right now but next month, you should see Styl Plus and Faze’s video.
There were several versions of the story of Styl Plus’ break-up leading to the exit of ex-member, Tunde. What truly went wrong in the group?
Well, every other person had something he was bottling up and it was time to let it out. And for Tunde, he had to let it out by action. We’re not all brothers and all of us have a level of tolerance. So, in the group, we tried to tolerate each other and we had a fantastic sharing formula when it comes to finances.
We didn’t toy with one another’s emotions when it comes to issues bothering on girlfriends. The separation had to do with work and perhaps some egoistic problems. I’m also trying to figure it out too. I’m okay with Tunde and Shifi, but the tolerance level just shrunk up at a point.