As a child, I watched Stevie Wonder play his piano, and sing his soulful music, and I was genuinely perplexed. ‘How can he do this if he is as blind as they say?’ I wondered to myself. Perhaps he opens his eyes behind his very dark shades, and then shuts them again to make us think he is something special!!! Hilarious right? Of course Stevie Wonder is blind, but while he chose to keep his sightless eyes behind his dark shades, Cobhams Asuquo has no such qualms; born blind, the award winning music producer, songwriter and musician is putting his prodigious talent to awesome use, producing and writing for Nigeria’s top musicians like Asa and Darey, nurturing fresh musical talent and expanding the African music scene. Truth is, every Nigerian musician would like some Cobham flavour infused in their mix!
Born in 1981 to a military family of six children, raised in the downside of a military barracks, Cobhams never knew sight, so he never missed it. He was encouraged to be independent by his very patient mother who won the celebrity edition of SuperMom, a reality TV Show centered on Mothers and the sacrifices they undergo to build their homes.
Moving on, Cobhams talent and love for music was palpable from early childhood. As a young teenager, he organised ‘concerts’ in his neighbourhood, while employing his mother’s water barrels as drums. In another place and another time, Cobhams would have been enrolled in a music class, but he wasn’t, and yet!
Popular opinion in Nigeria in the 90’s didn’t give room for too much experimenting, especially with recourse to tertiary education. It had to be a ‘professional’ course or nothing, and so Cobhams was shipped off to study Law in the University, which is amazing in itself because, [I stand to be corrected] how many Universities can provide Law texts in braille? And I never met a blind lawyer either.
Anyways, so persuaded was our Superstar, so passionate was he about making music that he, wait for it…dropped out of school!!! Oh yes he did!!! The truly great ones seem to have no use for structured tertiary schooling!!! [Big chuckle]
Of his foray into the music industry, bereft of his mother’s barrels, Cobhams recalls; “(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. I had to convince people that I could do it — I had sessions that were cancelled 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?”
His persistence and passion paid off, and in 2005, Cobhams signed on with Sony ATV London as a songwriter, moved on from his job as Head of Audio Productions at a local label, Questionmark Entertainment, and set up his own recording facility in 2006, Cobhams Asuquo Music Productions [CAMP], an all-encompassing entertainment company that discovers, nurtures and exposes great talents.
Many successes, awards and years later, Cobhams stands tall on the African music scene. So tall that the World Economic Forum awarded him ‘Young Global Leader’ in 2013. So tall that CNN interviews him, and he is sought after as a Speaker in high and lofty gatherings like the TEDxEuston conferences. I watched him speak [on Youtube] and it was phenomenal!
Cobhams was married in 2010 to a former classmate of mine, Yetunde Olukanni and the union has been blessed with a son.
Cobhams stated in a CNN interview, “Being blind has played an integral role in forming who I am and I think to some extent is responsible for my optimism; 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.”
Cobhams says he is a dreamer; he is not incapacitated or inferior because of his blindness; and he has a swell sense of humour too!
So is he saying that his blindness is a gift? What?!
Have a great week ahead, let those talents shine!!!