Idongesit Ekpenyong, popularly known as Upper-X, the CEO of Okpo Records, might just be the most popular home based artiste in the present day Calabar. He is one of the few indigenous artistes who has remained consistent in the quality of his productions.
Recently the hit song he did for the campaign of Governor Ben Ayade earned him a ransom reward of N10 million from the governor. The artiste who has been pushing so hard since 2003 has a few things to say about his latest achievement, his meeting with the governor and his love for the street.
Why the name Okpo Record?
Okpo Record is a Calabar ceremonious play that comes out only on the 25th of December and 1st of January. It is a masquerade, but is entirely different from the one that is rooted to tradition that people tend to run away from because it is more of enjoyment and fun. Usually, they wear mask, carry their radio then go from house to house and dance for people to give them money. Since it is linked to music, we just have to brand and make it our record label.
Is Upper-X your real name?
Upper-X is a nickname that was given to me in secondary School. Then it was just ‘Upper’ and I was given the name then because of my inquisitive nature.
We were in JS3 then and our teachers used to make notes on the chalk board for us to copy and most of them then were very bad at handwriting and usually when I don’t understand what is on the chalk board, I will always bring back my teachers attention to a particular word that I need clarification on, since the teacher is always the one close to the board he touches any one he assume I am talking about, then I will say no sir ‘the upper one.’
I was unconsciously doing it until the class noticed it and they started calling me the “one upper” that’s how I got the name upper. I just added X to it because I was a fan of DMX then, I used to listen a lot to his music.
I made my first recording in 2013, then I just finished WAEC and was preparing for the university. My real name is Idongesit. My Dad is from Akwa Ibom while my mom is from Calabar.
You recently received N10 million from the governor. What can you say about that?
A whole lot. First, the governor gave us N10 million and that is a very huge achievement to start with, we have been able to build a formidable football team that has been playing in competitions. We have our own movie department and we have produced a movie of our own, we have a team of trained dancers training people how to dance. We have bloggers working with us and most importantly to me is that we have been able to create jobs for people. All of these we have achieved with the money we received from the governor of Cross River State, Prof Ben Ayade.
Was your meeting with the governor planned or it just happened?
It is grace because it is not all the artistes that will have such opportunity. Before now, we had a lot of songs both the bad and the good because everyone gets to hear them. After and during the governor’s first four years in office, we were still doing our thing since we don’t have anyone pushing us until it got to the governor’s hearing.
After the election, the governor called and said he has heard everything we have done. We campaigned for him even when nobody sent us and we did a campaign song for him and as God will have it, he was returned as governor of the state and of all the people that campaigned for him, it is us that he didn’t even send that he chose to honour.
What inspires your style of music?
We have the good and the bad, but you know that anything that is raw tends to spread faster because everybody wants to like” hey, Okpo Record don sing nonsense again oh, mbok(please) send give me make I hear” and before you know it, the song will be everywhere and that is why we do those songs because the more people talk about you, the more others will get to be aware of you.
Your latest single titled “avoid me” is trending already. Let’s take this title to where you are based. Do you think Calabar south should be avoided owing to the rate of crime going on there?
Calabar south is not the problem, the problem is the people living in Calabar south. Basically, the challenge with the people of Calabar South is joblessness. Indigenes of Calabar are either working in the beach as loaders, fishermen and petty traders; they don’t have meaningful jobs to help them survive, let alone live. If you are a child born into a family that your parents cannot afford money to send you to school or take care of your needs, you will surely go astray. If there were job opportunities for the youths of Calabar South, some of the crimes that go on there will not be.
Government needs to sensitize the area. We need street light in the south, the security measures in the south is zero. It is easier to walk in municipal even around 12am because of the streetlights but it is different here in the south and I believe that if government can put street lights in Calabar South, it will go a long way in securing the environment because evil only manifests in darkness.