Morell is no doubt one of the finest artists in Nigeria. His music is making waves in the Nigeria music industry and he has captured many hearts with his scintillating voice. He has assumed the celebrity status within a short period of time and he has an amazing followership and huge number of fans around the globe. In this interview we were able to unveil the beautiful soul behind the dark glasses. His real name is Musa Akilah. He is not only an R&B star but also a rapper and a song writer who is from Maiduguri the North-eastern part of the country. Musa fell in love with music as a child but that didn’t stop him from going to university and graduating with good honours.
Morell was first officially introduced to music lovers in 2007 following collaboration on Rugged Man’s album “Move Something”. A few months later, he partnered on Naeto C’s Bamilo, another song that penciled him down as an artist to watch out for. His album Musa Dan Musa was another break through. In his music journey he has shared stage with some International artist like T-Pain, Sean Kingston, Akon and Kanye West. Morell is set to embark on a nationwide tour titled “Musa is Coming” before the end of the year or early 2018.
Can you briefly tell us about yourself?
My name is Morell real name is Musa Akilah and I am from Borno State. I studied Creative Arts from the University of Maiduguri, I am from the family of six children, 4 girls and 3 boys of which I am the 4th born. I lost one of my siblings some time ago.
Has music always been your passion?
Yes. From when I was a kid in my Primary School days. I fell in love with music because my father always plays music in the house. My elder brother also loves music and he was my source of inspiration. He wrote lyrics by listening to what people are signing from the radio. From there I also developed my talent of writing songs.
How did you come about your stage name?
My stage name was giving to me by my father’s friend. He used to come to our house and he always comes with a cassette and a tape. The cassette is a song collection of an artist named Morell. So, he always asks me if he should play the cassette and I will say yes. So, from there he started calling me Morell and I decided to adopt it as my stage name.
At what age did you realize you want to be a musician?
Immediately after my Secondary School, I spent 1 year being at home, watching the Nigerian music industry grow from Plantashun boiz to Eedris Abdulkareem then to Abuja music industry and they had people like Six Foot Plus and Style Plus among so many others. They were like a building block to me and I knew then I wanted to be a music artist. Although my interest came long before I finished Secondary School.
Were your parents supportive of your chosen career?
My dad was against it but my mum was supportive. My dad always said that education should come first. There was a time I was invited to come and perform at a club opening and that became a very big issue. But that was the night that changed my life because I left the house and I told the policemen at the gate that I will be back a bit late and they should please not tell anyone. When I got back home, lo and behold my dad was at the gate waiting for me.
Why do you have policemen guarding your house?
My dad was a police commissioner. So, I will say the problem is not from my dad but perception of our people. The “Arewa Factor”; people associates music with drugs and waywardness. I guess that were some of his fears. But then I had to explain to him and make him see reason, sometimes I woke him up late in the night around 12:00am or even 1:00am to convince him about how much I really want to be a musician because I love music. Although my parents are both late now, before they died they supported me. My dad gave me his blessings and also told me that I must go to school first before I venture into music.
Who is your role model and what inspire you to go into music?
What inspired me to go into music is my brother like I said earlier. He wanted to be an artist but along the line he changed his mind. He is in Borno State right now and he is a businessman so he has been my source of inspiration. My role model is Jay Z, though he is rapper. People always ask me why him. I also love to rap, infact I started with rapping, singing just took over and if you listen to some of my songs it’s rapping, I still rap. I don’t only like Jay Z because of his raps but his lifestyle and what he has been able to accomplish as a person. He has done so much!
What has been your greatest challenge so far?
I will say my greatest challenge so far in the music industry is getting your music to sell; it’s not just about making the music or the talent. The challenge out there is putting it on the world map and that has always been a big challenge for every artist
How do you handle competition in the industry?
Music is competitive but I don’t see it as a competition so long as no one does exactly what you are doing. Who among your pears do you see as your competitor? I see only myself. To be honest I don’t see anyone because I always try to do better than I did last time. So, my competition is always against myself and the truth there is always going to be competition but I don’t go around concerning myself about it. I just do what I know best.
Your single “Ganga da garaya” is in Hausa, do you plan to continue singing in Hausa?
Ganga da garaya is one of my first Hausa songs and I wrote the songs in Hausa from beginning to the end. My mum actually influenced me to sing in hausa when I was in Lagos and trying to fit in with all the pressure and the crowd there. She called me and she was like I heard some of your songs and its beautiful but I still wonder why you don’t have any song in Hausa and you are from the northern part of Nigeria. So, I wrote the song “ganga da garaya” and it’s a local talking drum and instrument. It’s been beautiful and since then I have been putting Hausa in my songs.
How many albums do you have?
So far “Musa Jikan Musa” is my only album for now. I have a lot of singles because I have been putting them out since 2011.
Among your numerous songs, which can you say is your best?
The thing is I have a lot of songs and it’s actually hard to pick one and say this is my favorite. Personally, for me I listen to my music once in a while not all the time. But when I record a new song it becomes my favorite song. Well let me just say “Aure” stands out from other songs of mine. You know when you release a new song, after a while people don’t really get to enjoy it but for Aure it is something different and people always enjoy it.
What is your niche that is which category of people do you make music for?
For me I make music for everyone so long you understand my story or what I am trying to say; whether you are old or young. I believe we are all the same and we go through almost the same thing. Young or old sometimes you can be sad, sometimes you will be happy, so I sing for
Who are mostly your fans?
The women are mostly my fans.
How do you respond or handle crazy fans?
I don’t think I have come across crazy fans. I think they are just passionate and it is just so much love and energy and I just give them the energy back.
How will you describe your followership?
My followership has really been beautiful because I have a lot of fans who love my songs.
How do you handle your celebrity status?
For me personally it’s hard to tell when I am not wearing glasses or wearing my cap (hula). It’s a conscious disguise for me, like I know when I wear glasses and the cap it’s easy for people to recognize me. Sometimes people look at me and will ask “is this not Morell”? So I think it’s working for me quite well when I disguise myself. It’s not like I am hiding, I just feel sometimes it better when you walk into a place without being notice and have a little privacy.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I see myself in the next 5 years being on top of the African music industry and going international.
What does it take to be an international artist?
So long your music is online for everyone to listen to, you have already gone international and also having more people as your fans.
Have you ever performed alongside any foreign artist and Nigerian artist?
Yes. Coming up I used to work with bigger artist like Naeto C and we travelled a lot, I was like his hype man on stage. On the second question, I shared the same stage with Kanye West, and in Lagos I shared the stage with Sean Kingston Akon. I have also had international collaboration as well, I was featured in a song with Wale and Ice Prince. Narrowing it down to Nigeria, I have worked with so many talented artists such as Naeto C, and even when I was in the University I did a song with Rugged Man, Ice Prince, M.I, Praiz, Flavour and a lot of others.
What was it like working or sharing a stage with the international artist?
It motivates you, because for the first time I was seeing T-Pain few steps away from me and I was just looking at him and I was like wow “I listen to you”. So, it was really a good moment seeing artists that you look up to come to perform on the same stage with you or they performed right after you have performed. It was really inspiring.
Are you Married, engage or do you have a girlfriend?
I am not married and I am single. I see a lot of applications from women but I have not yet tender any. It’s hard to tell who genuinely loves you because of the fame and even after the whole fame I can only relate with a girl who doesn’t know anything about me.
What is your best fashion accessory?
That will be sunglasses, belts, wristwatches and face cap.
What is your message to the youth out there who are aspiring to be like you?
My message to them is to believe in yourself, find yourself and you will make it easy for others to find you. And if you are truly a musician, you will know. You don’t need to force it, let it happen naturally and put some hard work and never stop believing.
Is there any music school in Nigeria?
Yes, there is and all you have to do is just get yourself registered. You can learn how to sing songs, train your voice. I was never born a singer and my mum never said “wow your voice is lovely” is just that I know how to sing. I started with rapping and it happened that I was going to feature one artist, so when he came around they played one of my tracks for him but I went to hide because he was big. I was just waiting for him to give his opinion to my producer and then he said “he is crap and voice is wacked”. If I wasn’t strong, that would have broken me completely but that motivated me the more and I said to myself let me try singing. I listen to songs and I try to sing and my big brother over heard me singing and he said my voice is different that I should work more on it. I trained my voice and I kept writing and years later there is a big difference between myself and that artist that said I can’t sing. I believe everyone can sing as long as you understand the keys and clue.
You have got a big a tour coming up known as “Musa is coming”, would you want to share your plans with us?
We want to bring the music to the people in all part of the country. I see a lot of comment on my Instagram page people asking when I am going to places like Gombe, Taraba and other states. So, we are going to bring the music to their door steps and we are also going to move
down with other artists. We are going to tour 15 or More States and in no particular order we are doing Borno, Kano, Katsina and other states in the country. The whole idea about it is to take the music to our beautiful fans out there hoping to see us that’s why we call it “Musa is Coming”. We will kick the tour off pretty soon maybe before the end of this year or early next year. It will take us maybe 2 to 3 months to go around.
By Pupwaya Timothy Dibal