Thursday, February 19, 2015 12:55 pm
The duo of Obumneme Ali (Smash) and Nwachukwu Ozioko (Vast), popularly known as Bracket in the music industry, tell BAYO ADETU that they are back and better, after one of them (Vast) survived a battle with blood cancer
Tell us about your new single, Alive?
Sometime last year, we spoke about launching the Bracket Cancer Foundation, and I’m sure you know why we decided to do that. Vast had cancer and by God’s grace he fought and won the battle against the dreaded ailment. We wouldn’t want anybody to go through such a horrible experience and that is why we are trying as much as possible to get a sponsor. If it works out for us, we will know that at least some people will be saved from the claws of cancer. I have seen a lot of people who died of cancer because they ran out of money to continue treatment. We were in America when the inspiration of the song (Alive) came. Vast brought the idea of the lead chorus, and we were with Flavour that day. Everybody was bringing different ideas, and that was how we arrived at the first verse. After writing that verse and the chorus, we started thinking of the right person to feature on the song. We wanted to work with Davido but he was really busy at that point. When we got back to Nigeria, we just decided to do the song.
From my assessment, it seems Bracket didn’t do much in 2014
You see, when some people say that they haven’t heard much from Bracket after Yori Yori, I laugh because I know that there is a very big competition right now. People pay more attention to the new school; the boys that are just coming up. In 2014, we did a song titled International Baby. We also did Mama Africa. But I will not blame those who said we did not do much. However, you can only feel it is so in Lagos. When we travel outside Nigeria, most of the people that are popular in Lagos cannot measure up to us in terms of performance and popularity. In other African countries, people listen to albums, but in Nigeria, we don’t have the patience to listen to albums. In East Africa and other Francophone countries, we perform up to 20 songs on stage and they still yearn for more because they know all the songs. I remember one day when we performed at a concert in Anambra State. We presented 14 songs to DJ Jimmy Jatt at the event, and he thought it won’t be possible because many of the popular artistes don’t do that. But at the end of that performance, Jimmy Jatt said he turned the number one fan of Bracket because he knows all the songs.
Does that mean you really don’t care about the Lagos market?
Not really. But one thing about the Lagos market is that there is more fame than fortune, and I will rather stick to the fortune. I know certain things we can do that some of the popular artistes cannot do. As a realistic person, I would rather have little media hype and know where I belong, than make all the noise and fail to live up to the expectations. I will rather be in the middle and make more money than be in front and make less. Trust me; we are still very big in other parts of Nigeria and abroad. Show promoters testify to that. For instance, Flavour’s album is very big in the east right now, while its acceptance is rising slowly in Lagos. Above all, we are glad to be where we are today because it is not easy to remain relevant in the Lagos market for six years.
Songs that glorify nudity and sex thrive more in Lagos. Are you planning to join the league?
In as much as we need to follow the trend in the music industry, you won’t see us sing about naked women.
Vast, you were a victim of cancer. Has it been completely cured?
It has been cured, but the medical instruction says I should be seeing the doctor for the next five years. I have done that for about a year and a half now. I go for the check-up every four months. They do what they call pep scan which is quite expensive, but which I have to do. The essence of the scan is to know on time if any tumour is beginning to grow. But if that does not happen after five years, then you are cool.
When you returned to Nigeria after the blood cancer treatments, you said the doctors warned you to desist from sex, are you back to it now?
I have done sperm check. The essence of not having sex is because if you impregnate someone, the person may give birth to an abnormal child. I was asked to abstain for five months, and that has long elapsed, so I’m ready to resume.
Can you describe that period as the most challenging in your career?
Yes, the year 2013 was very difficult, but we thank God today. I thought I would lose all the blood in my body but glory be to God. The first chemotherapy was very difficult because I started having problems due to loss of blood. I had to go to the hospital again for blood transfusion. What made it more challenging was the fact that we had collected money for a lot of concerts outside Nigeria.
During this period, what was on your mind?
I was praying. I was just praying to God and I said I don’t know where these things will end. I don’t know what’s going to happen. After the second treatment, I started feeling better. I started exercising because the doctor said I did not have to wait for the medical to work on its own, and that the exercise would help. It was shortly after the third chemotherapy that I started feeling like a living being because I was dead already.
Did you ask the doctor the cause of the blood cancer?
I asked the doctor, and he said it’s like two black people making love, and making a baby in the process which comes out as an albino. If such people ask you why they are delivered of an albino, there is no way to explain it. I felt relieved when he said this.
What gave you courage during this tough period?
When I was in the hospital, my partner (Smash) was doing a very good job. He called producers and they made beats which were sent to me. The first force that kept me going was God. I saw myself dying, but we got the finance to deal with the situation, which was the hand work of God. Besides, we were lucky to have met a doctor who is a specialist in cancer and lungs treatment. I also got courage from my family, my partner, my C.E.O, and my manager who were all there for me. They all travelled with me and made sure I did what I was supposed to do. They made sure I drank my juice and took my medication. For me, this is the second courage. When my hospital picture leaked, I was stronger because my fans prayed for me. Someone was even saying ‘if this guy dies, I’m going to die,’ and I said ‘oh my God, I have to survive.’ The media also encouraged me.
Considering how expensive it is to treat cancer, how do you intend to help others with your Bracket Cancer Foundation?
First of all, we want to set up a big concert; start from our state, then move the train to Lagos State while others follow, and whatever we raise from these concerts will be spent on the project. Some people’s cancer can be treated with as little as N1million or N2million. Some require between five and seven million naira. I was in a Lagos hospital recently and saw a man with a swollen face and eyes. I asked a nurse what was wrong with him, and she said the man was asked to pay N150,000 but he didn’t have the money. I’m sure by the time we start, people like that will have reasons to smile.