“If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals intercepted by your brain”
When Morpheus uttered those words to Neo in the movie “The Matrix”, one would have been (or will be) tempted to box them in the same category where all make-believe clichés are dropped off once you exit the building—the same box that graciously receives leftovers of popcorn sold at the theatre. One could attach a pseudo-intellectual following to every word, even the oblique references.
But, those words offer- or intentionally belly- an existential question: “What is real and what is not?” We could push that thought further and question our reality; question the beliefs that drive and define reality; question our existence in a cosmos—all these bring us back to what we have seen and continue to see.
There is the talk, buried in Egyptian Mythology, of the Eye of Horus. The philosophical reference to the eye being the window to the soul; the modern quiz of “seeing is believing”; there is also the biblical quip: The eye is the lamp of the body.
What then do we subject reason of reality to? What our physical being dictates. What society constructs. Or, what we know within our consciousness paneled by the divinity we cleave and cling to.
There was a man. Born on January 6, 1981. He was given the variant of the name of a famous British ruler. He grew up in a small environment with big arms of his parents and three siblings wrapped around him. Cobhams Asuquo was born and raised in the military barracks of Jos, like he once said, “I don’t mean the great side of the military barracks but the other side of the military barracks.” His childhood could be likened to that of the average Nigerian kid who goes in the world without care and the accompanying troubles of the world; the constant uncertainty that living in an uncertain cosmos brings to life’s dynamics. He grew up as a normal child would. But, then, he wasn’t fully aware of what the world thought of him out his parents’ two-bedroom apartment.
Being born blind carries of itself a tag of ‘different’ that social hangs around the neck of the visually impaired. From a tender age at Pacelli School for the Blind and Partially Sighted, Cobhams Asuquo was introduced into the thoughts of the world—one seemingly different from the fun-loving one he was used. He was told of a mean world which considered the visually impaired as a target for exploitation and a tool for their jokes.
Cobhams Asuquo heard these ‘warnings’, but didn’t let his expectations of the world diminish. He was a dreamer, and so he has shown. And like every dreamer, Cobhams Asuquo made sure, through the rough, bad and ugly, he kept his dreams alive. He could see his dreams, and it mattered little the state of his physical eyes.
From puffing his cheeks to produce sounds, to locking himself in the dark of the bathroom whistling away, to learning how to play a toy piano, Cobhams Asuquo began to give expression to the dreams he could see; but, at the time, the world couldn’t.
Cobhams Asuquo graduated from the Pacelli School into the prestigious King’s College, Lagos but music kept burning inside him; it was as the biblical Jeremiah with “fire in his bones”—in urban speak, a “fire” track or “hot” song is worthy of praise so this generates the same emotions.
Cobhams Asuquo moved on to the University of Lagos to study Law. But there was another law working in his members; a law that will push him from sleeping from one studio floor to another in search of opportunities. Soon, he would get rejected by not a few studios that felt his blind state was a signal for inability. Soon, he would be told he can’t be trusted with thousand Naira worth of music production equipment. Because, who should trust a blind man anyway? I mean, he can’t see; can’t you see that?
There were times of trial for Cobhams Asuquo. Soon he would leave Law and the desire to be a solicitor for the Federal Republic of Nigeria to become a full-time music producer cum songwriter slash musician.
Cobhams Asuquo’s first taste of success was the 2002-produced “Catch Cold” for the Ibadan-based Pop group, Maintain. Back when Cobhams Asuquo was in his first year at University of Lagos, “Catch Cold” was conceived though he didn’t make money from the hit single—a decision that made his then manager to walk away.
A couple years later, Cobhams will produce the street of Delhi-inspired “Maintain in India” and former Plantashun Boiz member, Faze’s breakout single- Faze Alone. And, then, get signed to Kelvin Luciano’s Questionmark Entertainment as Head of Audio Productions. It was at Questionmark that Cobhams met and produced Asa and Mode 9’s seminal works, “Aşa” and “E Pluribus Unum” respectively.
Neo: Why do my eyes hurt?
Morpheus: You’ve never used them before.
The presence of the eyes in the skull does not equate sight. So, when Cobhams Asuquo quipped on his 2013 TEDxEuston: “Sight, sometimes, is a distraction […] sight is a precious gift. But on your way to your destination, what you see, can also be a big distraction from your goal;” he was connecting the dots between the dreamer’s dream and reality which, in a sense, is not different.
Cobhams Asuquo moved from Questionmark after the international and regional successes of Asa and Mode 9’s works to setting-up Cobhams Asuquo Music Productions (CAMP) in 2006. He has produced songs for award-winning artistes including Darey (Escalade, Not The Girl), Rooftop MCs (Second First Impression, Minority Report), Waje (No Be You), Omawumi (If You Ask Me), Djinee, (Ego), Banky W (Strong Ting, Yes/No), Chidinma (Kedike), Bez (Super Sun), Timi Dakolo (Beautiful Noise, Iyawo Mi).
The creative Cobhams, who lives in a world that associates blindness with weakness and regards the visually impaired as lesser in ability, has been able to jump the hurdles set before him by fate or circumstances. He is one who believes that failures is inexcusable and his seeming ‘disability’ will never be used as a buy-out card. Cobhams, the producer or the songwriter or the singer (sometimes, the rapper) has displayed the sole power of vision; the singularity that both the Eye of Horus and the biblical text do well to reference—the same teachings that Morpheus gave to Neo.
Cobhams Asuquo has gone through the troubles of an up and coming entertainer; and, so, every opportunity he is presented with he makes sure to encourage the up and coming. This encouragement is born out of his philosophy of “focus”. Even when the light shines low on the path to success, Cobhams encourages to focus; to keep moving; to remove all distractions that can impede movement; to stick to developing one’s skill and talent till profit floods one’s path.
He is known for giving. He has offered scholarships to young talents who, by nature, lack the opportunity to exploit themselves and push for something bigger than their present. Cobhams believe giving is a natural response and “the right thing to do”. He gives his direction to the young talents on music shows or meets or privately.
Cobhams Asuquo has produced some of the best (and I dare say, the best) sounding songs and albums released by Nigerian artistes in the last two decades. He is such a genius (for want of word) that he could get inspired will eating his beloved dodo. He has shown that even when life gives you lemons, you don’t squeeze for juice, but find the seeds and make yourself a garden for the world to benefit.
Cobhams Asuquo is The Sheet NG Man of the Week.
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