What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up. Man Like is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to “be a man” from the perspective of the subject of the week.
Today’s Man Like is Saviour “Duktor Sett” Ezeoke, a musical artist and producer. He talks to us about growing up as a sheltered child in Jos during the crisis, escaping through music, working on one of the biggest albums of 2020 and facing his feelings when things get tough.
What was growing up like?
I grew up in a barracks in Jos, Plateau state. I used to think my life was really hard because my dad never allowed us out to play or make friends. I also didn’t have toys or anything, so all I had access to were the musical instruments in my living room. That’s how I got introduced to music.
But as a child you need friends, didn’t this affect that?
To an extent, it did. As an adult, I still don’t have a lot of friends and I feel weird about that. But I took away this confidence that I don’t need anyone but myself. I’m a one-man army.
You mentioned Jos. If you don’t mind me asking, were you there during the crisis? If you were, how did you cope?
I was. It was scary to see people being that violent because of religion. You had to be very cautious about the people around you and the places you visited. We surrounded ourselves with people of the same religion to avoid being attacked. It was particularly scary for me because my university was close to where most of the attacks were taking place.
At a point, you get desensitized. We had seen the violence when we lived in Kaduna, so we were used to all the fighting. You just try to be safe and survive. That’s what my family did.
Looking back at these events, do you think they influenced you in any way?
Yes, they did o. When I moved to Lagos in 2015, I was terrified. I didn’t really talk or go out much, so my first two years in Lagos was hell; I couldn’t keep up with how Lagos worked. But now, I feel like I have a grip on things.
So what would you say Lagos has taught you over the past six years?
I’ve learned that Lagos is a place where you have to be of value to yourself before people can look your way. Like, I have to be the best version of myself before I can attach myself to a unit.
Interesting. When did it hit you that you’ve become a man?
E neva too tey. It was just a few weeks ago. The last time I could remember my age was when I was 21 years old. The gap between both ages is just a blur to me. I recently realised that I’ll turn 30 soon, which made it click that I’m actually a grown-ass man. I was so busy trying to discover myself that I lost track of time.
Do you feel like you’ve finally discovered yourself?
If we’re calculating it using percentage, I’ll say I’m at 60%.
I’m intrigued. What do you need to get to 100%?
I need to grow older. It’s all going to happen in due time.
Fair. So to the music, can you tell me how you got into music production?
I like to say I was born into music. My house always had a live band and there were instruments all around me growing up. When I was 15 years old, my dad connected me to the late MC Loph for lessons on how to make music and my interest in production piqued. Once I was done with secondary school; it was all I wanted to do.
I get bored easily, and production was the only thing that didn’t bore or satisfy me. I have tried my hands at sports and other aspects of music, but nothing stuck. I don’t have to think too much when I’m producing.
I’ve heard artists make music to either connect with their emotions or run far away from them. What does music do for you?
It makes me happy. I enjoy bringing things to life. Music is the only thing I’ve been called to do on this earth. If I don’t do it, I feel like I’m disappointing the universe. I know I get emotional and down sometimes, but music is something that the moment I’m in the zone, nothing else matters.
Talking about music, Basketmouth’s Yabasi was one of the biggest records of last year and you produced the whole thing. How did that happen?
I’ve wanted to work on a highlife project for a long time and randomly Basketmouth reached out to me about collaborating on the same thing. We made the album in like two weeks because everything was seamless and the energy was high.
Honestly, when we made it, I was just having a good time. I didn’t know people were going to fuck with the album this way. I remember I used to jam it in my car because I liked it. I just wanted to share what I was enjoying. But then it came out and everyone got into it, which was insane. I’m happy people like it because I made it during one of my lowest points. I wanted to give up production because all my ideas weren’t working out.
When did this happen?
Just like everyone else, I had made plans for 2020, and then Covid happened and I couldn’t see any of them through. I wasn’t even seeing a future for myself. And then Yabasi came along and changed everything.
That’s wild. I’m curious to know how you navigate your new life in this industry?
Music to me is like working in a bank. It’s my job and not my whole life. I make sure my life and my job don’t clash. My life is about my mum, my sisters, my friends — basically surrounding myself with the people I’ve known and loved for a very long time, just so I never forget who I am.
Talking about building a life outside music, what are some of the things that give you joy?
It’s the simple things for me. I love movies! I could watch movies for a week straight. And then there’s eating good food and just surrounding myself with the people I care about.
Honestly, same for me. In your own words, what is the hardest part about being a man in Nigeria?
Making money. It’s a dog-eat-dog thing where everyone is trying to one-up the other person. No one is helping you, not even the government. Sometimes you just wake up in the morning and you have to ask yourself what you’re doing with your life.
So how do you handle the days when you wake up and have no idea what to do with yourself?
Anytime this happens, I do my best to actually feel it. I don’t run away from it. We all don’t like to feel low, but I think sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to sink into your feelings. The only thing is I do my best not to stay there forever. Also, when I feel this way, I try something new or something I haven’t done in a long time.
It could be trying a new meal or new sounds in the studio. I experiment a lot when I’m in a mental funk.
Maybe I should try that too. As you’ve gotten older, I’d like to know some of the things you’ve had to let go of as a man.
Do you know the “don’t talk back to your elders” thing? I’ve had to shake that off. We were brought up to believe that even when older people are wrong, as a sign of respect, we were to keep our mouths shut. As I got older, I realised it’s important to say exactly what you want to say. My respect for you doesn’t mean I have to be silent.
How about in your relationships?
I’ve learned that women are women, and they’re not men.
What does that mean?
Men like to treat women like they are men, but women are different. They have lives that are unique to them and you must try to understand things from their point of view. And sometimes you just have to do things so that peace will reign. Lol.
Valid point. I’m curious to know if you remember the last time you cried.
Wow! Probably five or six years ago.
I think my sister needed something and the situation made me frustrated, so I cried. Eventually, I stood up to look for a solution. I think it was good for me because it reminded me that I’m actually human. I tend to forget that.
If you could go back in time and advise a young Ducktor Sett, what would you say?
That he was right. Growing up I used to doubt myself a lot, thinking that my ideas were crazy. For instance, I should’ve moved on from formal education as soon as I was done with secondary school. But then again, I like that I did everything I did, including the things I didn’t like. It sort of gave me discipline. But going back to advise yourself might just lead to something worse. Whatever I did then that I felt didn’t make sense probably contributed to my journey.