Back in the day, when I used to hang out with the gatekeepers of the “World Music” business in London, I remember attending a concert of one of the many Francophone African bands who were presented as the crème de la crème of African music by that sector. I met a young musician of a similar age to me. He was also of Nigerian heritage and born in the UK. We had an interesting conversation about the ways we aimed to develop our skills and talents.
I told him I had spent time in Lagos and could have been an Afrobeat casualty, going regularly to the Shrine and trying to become a member of the Africa 70 or Egypt 80, but it was of no interest to me. He felt I was speaking out of turn and should have had the humility to see that there was so much I could have learnt from associating with those groups. We ended up agreeing to disagree and I’ve never knowingly met him again since.
The opinion I expressed was based on what my instincts told me to do. I have great respect for the creative output of the Chief Priest, but even as a youngster, I knew that my path was to be different and in some ways diametrically opposite to his artistic journey.
I’ve had several mentors along the way and I spent a long time learning lessons from them. In fact, it was too much of a wrench to extricate myself from being a mentee. Most of my mentors only withdrew their support and guidance due to life changing events. It’s hard to say goodbye, or to reframe the terms of engagement in relationships sometimes.
Now I know what it is like to have mentored several people myself. I feel proud when I hear of their achievements or get to actually see or hear them. I’m also mindful of the fact that mentors should encourage their mentees to be independent as soon as possible.