THE ONE-AND-A-HALF HANDED MAN WHO CAN PLAY EVERY MUSIC INSTRUMENT



Behold yet another Steven Wonder, another Beethoven.
Smith Oyowe, 44, was born with mysterious bullets found inside his right hand that rendered him a one-and-half handed man in the era when the media was either for the aristocratic or entirely non-existent. His father, on discovering the bizarre newborn, fled from his wife and the innocent neonate.
Despite being born on the hotplate of life, with limiting physical deformity, Smith possesses a precocious extra DNA that enables him to do with musical instruments what ‘normal’ maestros cannot even attempt.
He has been playing music almost all his life and has been teaching almost all musical instruments for more than half of his life without attending any music school himself. Though, serendipity, rather than karma did its bit and the rejected stone became the chief corner. In a few minutes, he shared history with Famous Oneshioagbe of iCampus Newspaper. Excerpt:
Say something about Smith Oyowe.
I am from Sapele, Delta State. My main occupation is music and for the past twenty to twenty-five years now, I have been in it. Not that I actually learnt it, it’s a gift from almighty God. With it, I have lived all my life, all my achievements and I thank God for it.
‘Not that you learnt, it’s a gift from God’, I don’t believe it. How can?
Do you know what, my family, actually, they love music. In my place in delta, a church was keeping her instruments in our place and it’s like a spirit [was] coming into you and saying, ‘you can do this thing’. When a lot of people see me, they are like ‘iwo ke?’ you cannot do anything but the spirit in me is telling me, you can do it. Like the Bible says, he that is in me is greater than he that is the world. When I looked at myself, I thought I couldn’t but he spirit kept saying I could.
So, how did you begin?
First, I started with the Accordion. Accordion is the type of instrument that is not common now but when a man in my town saw me play, he gave it as a gift to me and I started developing myself without anybody teaching me this or that. But I understood that there is what they call tonic sofas. When you understand tonic sofas very well, you can play any musical instrument. That is the secret.
Which instrument can you play?
I play all kinds. I play any kind of percussion instrument like drum set, Konga etc. I used to play for a lot of popular Nigerian musicians today.
People like…
I played for Ade Wesco, the Nigerian Navy Band, Prince Bode, I have played for many of them that I cannot remember right now.
What happened, how did your hand come to be like this; were you born this way?
Actually, I was born like this. But, my birth is a mystery, according to my mother that when they gave birth to me, they saw a lot of bullets [in my hand]. They removed a lot of bullets from my hand and you know, there were nothing like the media, the television, like you have today.
Since when did you start using the hand and what can you do with it?
Since I was born. I have been using it and I can do almost anything with it. I can write with it, I can play instruments with it, I drive with it and people will be amazed. I used to go to competitions with it when I was in Delta state. I would come out first. I was born in C & S (Cherubim & Seraphim Church) and that is where I first started to play the drums. Then, to the Keggites. When I competed with their champion, I found out that the speed I had, he didn’t have it. The way I made use of my hand, I discovered that he didn’t have it and since then they started rating me as the champion saying, ‘this guy, na witch, na witch’.
So when I came to Lagos, I began to meet people through the talents that I have and when I play in any event, the people would say, ‘oh you are not going today’ and like that they started knowing me and I started going to places.
At what age did you venture into music?
Actually, I was born into music. I have been into music from… let’s say from the day I started knowing that this is A and this is B. while I was in primary school, as small as I was then, maybe 5 or 6 years, I used go to different churches to teach them how to play this local drum, Acuba and they would give me honorarium like N5, N10, and I used to have money when I was small and by then, I used to have bodyguards that were guarding me because of my talent. Anywhere they were holding a crusade you must see me there. I really passed that message of ‘I can do it’. If I had had a helping hand, I would have established a music school for say since 12 to 15 years now. I just need help to have a bigger place because where my school is now is too small and a lot of crowded people there.
Are you married?
I am married with five kids. Three girls, two boys.
Wow! How long have you been married?
Ah… it’s been long. My last born child is about a year now. My eldest daughter is about fifteen years now.
How old are you, sir?
I am in between 44 and 45 years.
How was it growing among your peers; I mean bullies, did they intimate you in any way?
Ah, no. they always appreciate me because of my gift. People make friends with me. They want to know me, they want to know how I manipulate things with my hand and at times when I am driving, people will see and marvel. People see the things I do like playing the keyboard and they are surprised. There is the one I play purposely now and it’s called Hawaiian guitar. It is the type that needs your complete fingers but I don’t know how I started it and it just works.
Have you met Cohbams Asuquo before?
Yes I heard about him and I have seen him but we have not met. We have not talked together. People talk about him a lot.
Do you sing?
Yeah I sing.
Have you thought about waxing an album?
I am not interested in doing an album. I just feel like giving people my talent. I want to impact what is in me because what is in me is very heavy. I have been teaching for quite some time now, my students. I have been teaching for about twenty years.
It means you have taught more than 100 students?
More than that. Most of my students are in London, South Africa, and many other places. One of them, Olamide is in London now, another one, AY is in Ghana now. They saw the talent in me and said, ‘I want to be like this person’.
Did you go for a music school?
No. No. I have not even attended any music school at all. I went to school. I finished my class 5 in 1987 from St. Malachi College, Sapele. Since then, I don’t have any other thing doing than music.
You mean you did not study any of these skills in a music school and you use them with such dexterity?
It’s a natural gift. When you have the spirit of God and discover yourself on time, you will eat. You will not suffer, you will not hunger. What I think God did for me is that, ‘You, you will not beg’. A lot of people in my position now and those not even in my positive with a small cut in their fingers, they turn to the streets to beg but I see that act as that they have not discovered themselves.
Do you think you could have been this relevant if you were born with no irregularities?
Er… what I know is that it is best known to God. Any way you find yourself in this life, whether good or bad, just know that it is best known to God. There is nothing that will happen to a person that God does not know about.
You are a Christian, correct?
Yes, I am a Christian. I have lived all my life as one.
How is the business coming?
Well… the business is growing but right now, we need a bigger space. I have never done anything like advert in my life before and yet, I just see people coming. I have never made an advert before but people will say, ‘go to Facebook, Twitter and all to advertise yourself’ but I have not done any of those.
How are you charges?
My charges are very very low because I look at it as: I find pleasure in doing it. It is not about the money. If it were the money, I wouldn’t be in this area. Most of my senior students have gone to VI (Victoria Island) to establish there and they are doing well.
What is your teaching method like?
The way I teach is different from other people’s own. I am creative in my own way. You know the white men have their method, which is sight-reading and all those things. But there is a kind of way that I teach that even if you are a novice, if you didn’t attend any school at all and you don’t know what is one plus one, you can pick and understand music.
What has this music business done for you?
Ah! I have achieved a lot o. with this business, my kids are in the private schools and they are doing well there. By God’s grace, I am living in my own house and God just blessed me with one small Dodge Caravan car. Just like that. This place I’m using as my office, I am the owner of it. The government has just sold it to us. God has just been doing this for me in convenient ways.
How did you make your first one million naira?
Well… there is no time I have made a million naira. The money I make is very small. I don’t make that much but I know how to save. For instance, if I want to acquire a keyboard of one hundred thousand naira, I know how to save and discipline myself until I have it. That is the way I get money to get things done.
Do you go to perform in shows?
I used to. But I found out that when you do that, people will just make use of you and your talent. They would use me to showcase and get the name and fame but you will just get fame without having money. And if you do that, your family will suffer.
What do you have to say to those who are challenged and those think that God is not good to them or that life has cheated them?
Well, what I will say will be on different angles. The background of everyone is different. To the handicapped: if your parents are not exposed, that person will be a limited person to the society and the family. Because the highest thing they always think is ‘let me be begging’. But if your parents are exposed, they will know that my son or daughter must go to school and from there he/she will meet the people that will say, ‘O boy let’s do something’. Like what I am doing today, if my parents were not exposed… my mother is the one that took care of me throughout my life because when they gave birth to me. I was like this and it caused commotion between my dad and my mum. My dad left my mum because of that but at the end, he regretted it. Because… I am the pride of the family. Even when he died, I am the one who buried him. What I mean to say is that when you are born handicapped, it doesn’t mean you should say, ‘I will be begging. I will be a parasite’. No! Your background will judge that.
Then, if you are the type of person that your parent brought up in  good way, in a godly way, for sure, you will always make it because there is no Christian gathering where an handicapped person comes to perform or to sing that the church will not bless that person. If that person has a focus and say, ‘no, I don’t want to become a liability to anybody’, that person will surely make it.
I used to have a lot of Steve Wonders’ videos and when I watch them, I would say, ‘oh, a person cannot see and he plays the keyboard like this?’ if you look at him today, in the entire world, he is recognized. Imagine if he was to sit and say. ‘I am blind and I cannot do anything’, he would be a liability to everyone around him and the society at large.
Instead of looking at yourself and saying, ‘I am limited, I cannot do’, I say you can do. The sky is your beginning. When you discover yourself on time.


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