By Amaechi Agbo
TNC Editor, Amaechi Agbo spoke with the Chairperson, Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria, PMAN, Julietta Ofuyeta (aka Queen Julietta) and she talked about Abuja entertainment industry, challenges facing the FCT music artistes and lots more. Enjoy.
TNC: Let us know your beginning.
Queen Julietta: My name is Julietta Ofuyeta. I am the CEO Diamond Music Entertainment and Jullitta Magazine. Currently I am the PMAN chairperson. My tenure as PMAN chairperson started in August 2015.
I was appointed by the current national PMAN President, Mr Pretty Okafor. That was before he was elected in our recently held election in November last year.
TNC: Why were you appointed the Chairperson Abuja PMAN
Queen Julietta: The reason for my appointment was to put things on ground and register people in our new biometric data. We are doing the new registration to actually factor in the true and original members of PMAN. Every other registration before this one is hereby null and void.
For you to be a bona fide PMAN member, you have to register now with the new biometric card. So, when I came in, I was mandated to register members and then organize election. But because the road has been very rough, we are still at the same pace. We have also been given another appointment letter for the next eight months to get people registered and conduct election for Abuja chapter.
TNC: How has it been like overseeing the affairs of PMAN in the FCT?
Queen Julietta: It has been rough and tough; it has not been rosy. To start with, we are having issues at the national level over the eligibility of the current President. Some argue that he is not a registered PMAN member while others are countering them. There are a whole lot of different kinds of propagandas but we thank God that the election has been concluded and Pretty Okafor is now the substantive PMAN National President. He is going to be there for the next four years.
TNC: What does PMAN mean?
Queen Julietta: PMAN means Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria. PMAN is registered under the trade union. It is a professional union that aims to, first and foremost, protect and promote the interest of our members. PMAN is the only union under whose umbrella, Nigerian musicians gather together as one body. If you are a musician in Nigeria, you must be a member of PMAN. Rightfully, any musician in the country needs to register and identify with PMAN.
TNC: How did you discover your talent as a musician?
Queen Julietta: It was a very long time ago. I picked interest in music as a child. I can’t recall if any of my parents was a musician but I know that my late mother loved music very well. As a child, I have always had interest in music. Even when I was in school, I was always writing and reading poems. I also joined in the music and drama clubs.
Professionally I started my music career in 1992 in Port Harcourt before I came to Abuja and started my own music production in 1996. I started my own entrepreneurship in music and that was when I started Diamond Music Entertainment. I started with live band but today we have a record label.
We engage a lot of youths and upcoming artistes. We give them the platform to discover themselves and be able to realize their full potentials.
Our branch, PMAN Abuja, is in a zone that is not really musically inclined and I am using my office to change that. If you go to the United States of America, you will see artiste from West Coast, East Coast; you see everybody doing well. I don’t see any reason Abuja cannot boast of such a thing that we have our own artistes who are doing well musically just as Lagos artistes are doing well, after all this is the Federal Capital Territory.
TNC: What challenges are PMAN in the FCT facing?
Queen Julietta: The basic challenge we are facing in the FCT is that we don’t have investors or private entities or companies that can sponsor our events. In Lagos, there are investors and private individuals who are ready and willing to come in and do business.
Apart from that, you have already made market for music and other artistic works such as in Alaba International Market and Idumota.
In Lagos too, there are investors who are willing to invest millions of naira on an artiste. For instance, they will come to you with the offer and then you sign an agreement on how they are going to recoup their money.
But that is not the case in Abuja here. If you go and meet somebody here for support or investment, what you hear is ‘nooo, this is not a contract’. So our area defines us and Abuja defines us as contract people because it is the seat of government. So everything is about government and the language is contract. Their priority is contract and they will tell you point blank that that is where their money will go and there is nothing you can do about it.
We have a long way to go. But I feel that what we need in other to push ahead, aside the efforts of the individual artistes, is the media. We need the radio, television stations as well as newspapers cum online news media to support our efforts.
Secondly, we need the government to help us create avenues where we can have an entertainment village; where musicians can go and have their show at a reasonable amount that they can afford. It will serve as a meeting point and promote the entertainment sector in the FCT.
TNC: You said that Diamond Music Entertainment is about discovering talents, how do you go about the talent hunting?
Queen Julietta: From time to time we put up competitions. For instance, recently we had I Rep Diamond competition. We also have other competitions such as the Next Female Artiste in which we focus mainly on the female gender. We also have Street Jam Sections. These are platforms we have created to search for the talents and the upcoming artistes to come and showcase themselves.
During such events, we always do our best to have promoters as well as TV and radio personnel or On Air Personalities, OAP to come and watch the artistes. Sometimes the talents get lucky and they will be signed by the promoters on their record labels.
Apart from that, if we see that an artiste is good, we will record their songs and give them out to OAP to play on their stations as well as promote it on our various blogs.
TNC: You talked about the fact that FCT entertainment industry is not where it should be. As the Chairperson of Abuja PMAN, what efforts are you making to ensure that the entertainment industry in the FCT is where it should be?
Queen Julietta: Our main task now is to register members. To make musicians in the area get their biometric cards. Aside from that, in 2016 we could not do much but by the grace of God, this year, we are reaching out to government parastatals, private individuals, lovers of music and companies. What we need is partnership where we will be able to promote the Abuja music sector.
We have Abuja entertainment sector made up of Abuja resident musicians who make events happen here in the FCT. Over time, people have been criticizing us on why we classify musicians here as Abuja artistes since we are all in the same industry as those in Lagos. But the fact is that Abuja musicians are resident here and our people say that where one lives, there he protects. It is a very sensitive topic but they forget that the musicians in Abuja live here in the FCT, pay their taxes and rent.
So I think something also should be done for them to meet up with the needs and desires of music lovers in the Federal Capital. Thus, we need to promote Abuja musicians to the level we can. We need people to come and invest and promote the entertainment industry in the FCT.
TNC: What is the difference between Abuja and Lagos artistes?
Queen Julietta: Basically, there is really nothing much to separate them. But one cannot rule out geo-graphical incompatibilities and environmental differences. Just as I said earlier, we need to work a little harder.
Last year I had a talk with Rugged Man because I am planning to flag off my campaign for rapid development of the creative industry, 30% or nothing. Some of my colleagues are skeptical, saying that the upcoming artistes need to work hard, that they need to put themselves out there first because you cannot force people to perform. What they are arguing is that the industry should promote itself such that the huge gap between us and Lagos guys is closed.
But I feel their stand is not fair because this is the only way I feel we can encourage them to work harder. We have a lot of good artistes in Abuja but it is surprising that if, for instance, an event is organized, and 100 artistes are invited, you will see that 95 will be from Lagos and just 5 from Abuja. We want to change this scenario. And to do this, we need more encouragement and exposure.
TNC: Discovering a talent is one thing, nurturing it is a different ball game. How do you nurture the talents you discover?
Queen Julietta: We are doing the best we can to nurture the artistes we have discovered. We record their songs and also assign them to promoters and record labels. We also promote them along their songs. We also try our best to showcase them during our events.
At present, we are working on harmonizing and creating Abuja musicians’ directory/data such that anybody coming to Abuja or that has anything to do with Abuja musicians can comfortably check on our directory and get information about any artiste resident in the FCT. The directory would be able to give you all the information you might need about an entertainer or artistes in Abuja. It will be like a one-stop shop where you get whatever you need at the spot for your event. My office is working towards that.
We have instances where somebody is doing an event and then invites a promoter and the promoter would go to the event with his people, who sometimes were not good enough for the show. And by the time the show flops, they will tell you “na Abuja artistes na”.
It is negative occurrences of these natures that we want to prevent totally within the FCT entertainment industry such that any event organizer should be able to know which artistes he is inviting to his event. This kind of action is image damaging and it is time we put a stop to it. Not every artiste or entertainer can be at a particular event.
So these are some of the things we are working on trusting God that they will work out.
TNC: Tell us about your albums and which song you love most.
Queen Julietta: (Laughs) My first album came out in 1999. It was titled What Do I Do and was recorded in Germany. It was produced by a renowned German producer. By the time I came back to Nigeria with the album, people were saying it was too foreign. Apart from the album, I had other things in mind; I wanted to start my won entrepreneurship in the entertainment industry.
My second album in 2002, which was titled Women Must Rise, focused on the female gender. After that, I have been dropping singles, bit-by-bit. By God’s grace, my album will drop this year. It is titled The Queen is Back. In the album, I featured the likes of Alex O, Mike Okri and young up-coming artistes.
I featured up-coming artistes because I am more interested in them.
TNC: You recently launched your reggae band group, what motivated you into this?
Queen Julietta: Reggae music is a soul-healing music and I know people, Nigerians, appreciate reggae music a lot. I also discovered a band group comprising of elderly people and they are doing very well.
The name of the band is Queen Reggae Band. Our aspiration is to host concerts quarterly. Where we can bring in people like Black P, Majek Fashek and old reggae icons and merge them with upcoming reggae artistes. Our major priority now is to get sponsorship and try to get international recognition.
We also want to use the group to export our potentials to the global music industry. We also plan to, God willing, go to Jamaica and do concerts and other musical activities there with the band. There is no way you can talk about reggae without Jamaica. We are crossing our fingers that things will work out well.
TNC: Thank you for your time
Queen Julietta: It is my pleasure.