Music enthusiast and CEO of Evergreen Music, Bimbo Esho, tells BABATUNDE TUGBOBO on his career, his love for music and other issues
You have a degree in anthropology. What interested you in the course?
The decision to study anthropology was not mine. I actually wanted to study medicine, but I ended up studying anthropology. Coincidentally, it turned out to be a course that suited my personality and what I do now in terms of research work.
What prompted you to venture into music?
Music is innate. My father (Femi Esho) was a music enthusiast from his youth. He then evolved with the big stars of the industry like Victor Olaiya. At home we grew up listening to music, so naturally it became a part of me.
Music promotion is seen as a male affair. How did you manage to overcome this obstacle and make a name for yourself?
If anyone knows about music promotion, it will be easy for them to know what they are doing. At Evergreen Music, we focus more on old school music; sounds of yesteryear. Our promotion is geared towards promoting older artists, for posterity’s sake.
For someone who has been in the music promotion business for over 20 years and has witnessed the evolution from cassette tapes to compact discs, and now, the internet age. How have you managed to navigate ever-changing times?
Music keeps evolving. Even the musical genres we listen to today have evolved from what was available at the time; musical instruments have also changed. People naturally gravitate toward things that are easy to access and listen to.
Highlife music seems to be your niche. Was it intentional?
Highlife is actually my dad’s first love, as he calls it. Personally, I like different types of music. I try to promote and preserve our indigenous music like juju, fuji and apala). Highlife is just one of the things my dad became irrevocably interested in. Over the years he has done so much to promote highlife musicians.
Your father, Femi Esho, is a notable person in the entertainment industry. In what ways did he inspire you to follow this career path?
I have always loved music. Student in Anthropology, I chose to write my thesis on the music of yesteryear, especially highlife. Because of my father’s love of music, it was natural for me to appreciate what he was doing. Over time, I became more interested in what he was doing and wondered what it entailed. That’s how I found myself here today, still dedicated to preserving the music of yesteryear.
How do you juggle music and your fashion business?
In my family, we are all creative. I’m not just into fashion; I also manage events. I do a lot of things that involve creativity. I can easily be found doing anything that has to do with creativity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the entertainment industry. How did you manage to keep your head above water all this time?
Music moves a lot of people forward. It is not something that can be stopped, whether before, during or after COVID-19 or any other pandemic. It is even in these uncertain times that people need music the most. For us in the entertainment industry, there is no doubt that COVID-19 has had a major effect. It was really terrible because the artists couldn’t do shows, and that’s where the big money comes from. After the pandemic, industry practitioners, including us, were able to pull through and continue our business. Also, a lot of things are done online these days.
Do you think the industry has found its bearings after the COVID-19 disruption?
I won’t say that it has fully recovered, just as the economy as a whole has not rebounded. People are now finding much easier ways to access and listen to music. Additionally, many companies that thought their staff had to congregate in the office before they could work, have now realized that people can work from the comfort of their homes.
Given your love of entertainment and the fact that your father owns a music company, did you at any point look for a job?
I have always been an independent person. In the secondary school I attended (Mayflower School), the owner, Tai Solarin, taught us to always be self-sufficient. When I finished my studies, I started my own business, especially in printing and fashion. I never had reason to look for a job.
What factors do you consider before organizing or promoting a show?
We consider the concept and reason for the show. We ask, ‘why do we want to do this show’? “What do we want to achieve”? and “Who is the target audience”?
We’ve done a lot of shows over the years. There was a time when we had a program to celebrate and encourage 45 Ghanaian and Nigerian musicians for their creativity. We also did Ariya Eko, which aims to promote indigenous music and preserve what is truly ours.
Over the years, we have promoted different genres of music, ranging from juju, apala, sakara and many more. We brought in musicians from different genres to play. All of our events have themes and reasons behind them, and we adhere to them.
If you hadn’t ventured into the business, what would you have done?
I would probably have become a doctor because I always liked being a caregiver. I love seeing people take care of others. If I wasn’t doing that, that’s probably what I would be doing.
You’ve promoted a number of big names in the industry. How is the experience of working with them?
The older ones have seen it all, so there is hardly anything new for them. If they trust, respect and appreciate what we do, it is easy to work with them.
Of all the musicians you’ve promoted, which one gave you the most trouble?
None of them. We are friends and we know how we interact with each other.
You wrote a moving tribute to Jimi Solanke. How would you rate his contributions to the arts and creative space?
It is not what one can estimate. It’s beyond what I can explain, because he’s a multi-faceted man. He loves music, poetry, theater and academics. So, the question is, “Where does one place such a person?” He is an enigma. Even at 80, he still wants to give more.
Do you think a legend like Jimi Solanke has been properly honored by the country? If not, what do you think should be done?
We don’t honor our people. Until we start recruiting people into government who are serious about our cultural heritage, we are good to go, things will stay as they are.
These days it seems like more attention is being paid to afrobeats music rather than fuji, juju, apala and highlife. How do you feel about that?
The shortage of indigenous record labels is a problem in this area. There are more record labels dedicated to afrobeats, and a lot of money is being spent to promote this particular musical genre. It (afrobeats) has reached the international community and is now accepted worldwide. They (the singers of afrobeats) have managed to redefine their musical genre, and it is widely accepted, especially among young people, who form the bulk of society.
On the other hand, it is quite sad that we are losing our “authentic” music. The “grassroots” native music that appeals to the grassroots seems to be fading. That’s why it seems that we don’t even have an identity. That’s how many of us in this segment of the industry are feeling right now. Afrobeats is not the only music genre we have in Nigeria but unfortunately it has taken over the entire entertainment landscape.
What sets you apart in your job?
I think it’s the fact that I’m one of the first people dedicated to promoting the music of yesteryear. A lot of people seem to like me for that.
How do you relax?
I listen to live music. I like to listen to music in its raw form, not the one that has been modified with different sound effects.
What is your favorite vacation destination?
I really don’t. I just like a place where you have privacy, where you can sing and see wildlife.
How would you describe your personality?
I am an easy going person. I like to do my things at the right time. Whenever I’m in public; as soon as I finish what I came to do, I return to my shell. I also like to move with cerebral people.
What is your favorite food?
Rice with vegetables.
How do you like to dress?
I am my own stylist. I like simple clothes that are comfortable and make me happy with myself.