Cobhams Asuquo is one of Nigeria's leading music producers, song-writers and musicians
The blind music pioneer has won several awards for his work
He has collaborated with internationally renowned talent such as Asa and Darey
Editor’s Note: Every week CNN International’s African Voices highlights Africa’s most engaging personalities, exploring the lives and passions of people who rarely open themselves up to the camera.
Like his long-time hero Stevie Wonder, Nigerian music pioneer Cobhams Asuquo was born visually-impaired. And again, like the American R&B legend, the lack of sight was never enough to stop Asuquo from realizing his ambitions.
Instead, it only fueled his optimism and desire to achieve success.
“Being blind has played an integral role in forming who I am and I think to some extent is responsible for my optimism,” says Asuquo, an award-winning music producer, song-writer and musician.
“When you feel there’s nothing more to lose – if you want to work towards anything, you probably will want to work towards gaining and I think that’s what being blind has done for me.”
A versatile musical talent, Asuquo has been pushing the boundaries of Nigeria’s contemporary sound. His fresh mixture of different styles and beats has helped the west African country become one the continent’s modern music hotspots.
“I fuse a lot of stuff to create my music” he says. “It varies – it’s jazz, it’s classical, it’s Afro, it’s whatever, it depends on what best interprets the music.”
Possessed of natural talent, the self-taught musician started honing his skills from an early age while growing up in a barracks.
As a young boy, he used to organize concerts in his neighborhood, drumming on his mother’s barrels of water.
“All the kids from the neighboring block would come and we’d hang out and we’d make so much noise. I didn’t realize at the time that I was preparing myself for what would be my life, my career path, my destiny,” Asuquo remembers.
His musical journey, however, seemed to come to a halt a few years later when he entered university to pursue studies in law.
But Asuquo soon realized that he had to follow his musical passion, leaving university to embark on a path that, for a young blind musician in Nigeria, was far from easy to tread.
“(I had to) sleep on studio floors all across Lagos, worked at different studios, worked without pay, I’ve been out on the road, out on the streets, doing my thing,” Asuquo recalls.
“I had to convince people that I could do it – I had sessions that were canceled because they weren’t sure I could deliver either because they thought I was too young or maybe as a blind person, ‘how do we trust our music which is our future and investment?’” he adds.
But it didn’t take long for Asuquo to prove himself as his musical talent soon began to shine. Over the next few years he went on to work closely with internationally-renowned artists such as pop sensation Asa and R&B star Darey and today he is a much-in demand producer operating from his own studio.
He is also a judge on Nigeria’s “Project Fame,” a television musical talent show where he helps young singers achieve their dreams.
“It’s important for me to mentor and inspire fresh talent, to work with fresh talent,” he says.
“I feel there is a lot I’ve learned in my journey as far as music is concerned and I’m in a position to share that knowledge.”
But Asuquo is not only interested in helping out fledgling music stars. He also sees himself as an ambassador for blind young Nigerians who still face many challenges in their daily lives.
“I think it would be meaningless if I can achieve as much as I can achieve and as much as I hope to achieve and I’m not able to affect other blind people,” he says.
“It is time to bring to the fore the needs of people with special needs and just how much they can contribute to growing Nigeria as a nation and the world.”
Teo Kermeliotis contributed to this report.