TWO DECADES AGO, several young men took the Nigerian music industry by storm, held it captive and made fans spellbound. Music like never before. With all the looks and hype that go with it, Chris Okotie, Alex Zito, Mike Okri and others ruled the game like it was a monarchy. Few believed they would ever go into oblivion.
Two decades later, the talent and appeal of the stars of the 80’s have shown up again- only, this time, in a hybrid manner. And Zdon Paporella, is one of the leaders of the new school of singers who make others green with envy. Born to an army officer and civil servant, the singer’s early life was shaped by the discipline and forthrightness of his father, Dauda Nimyel who later rose to become a Colonel in the Nigerian Army and later Borno State Military Administrator (1993-1994).
Years later, when the young Nimyel was to select a name for his first musical group, quite naturally, he settled for Century 21 Army. If he cannot wear combats and manipulate battalions, he can at least rock the microphone and command a thousand fans with his talent, which served perfectly well as his weapon.
Finding his feet was however, not an easy task for Zdon – suddenly having to cope with homelessness and dejection when his father bowed to the lure of polygamy, leaving Zdon and his kid brother to fend for themselves. ‘Friends and family deserted me when my father turned his back on me’, he recollects in the emotional song, "No Shaking". Sadly too, the year was 1997, when it was unfashionable to sing pure R&B/ Hip hop and confess it. But Zdon got together with his friends, Paul and Icy, to form the group ZIP, making beautiful pop music, to the chagrin of the dying record labels who had no idea what to do with them and their brand of music.
If the early years of his life were spent discovering and nurturing his art, then the years that followed were spent experimenting - recording endlessly with his group mates, taking myriad voice lessons and fraternizing with fans across the length and breath of their native country, Nigeria. Several hit tracks, rave videos and one album after (Tight, 2003), Zdon, Icy and Paul decided to suspend the ZIP project, to embark on solo careers.
On July 28, 2005, Zdon kicked off his solo career. Then began the making of the artiste who would later join the list of gifted acts who will signpost the future of Nigerian music. Good-looking and gifted, almost to a fault, Zdon has, in the first year of his solo career, secured the loyalty of fans and the Nigerian media, and is constantly warming his way into the heart of concert promoters. In 2005 his debut single, Na U got massive radio airplay and rave reviews from mainstream entertainment media including The Punch, Encomium Weekly and The Sun.
Na U, exemplary of the singer’s style, is a romance song the average Nigerian youth can identify with. "As a young man that has been through a lot emotionally, physically and psychologically, I understand the feelings of a lot of people and my songs speak the mind of the people", he says of the core theme of the tracks on his debut solo album, Experience Da Zee. Released on Culbeed Music, the Fourteen-tracked album reveals Zdon’s eclectic style, flowing effortlessly between Rap, Reggae, and R&B.
This is however not surprising. Long before finding a dwelling place in music, Zdon’s parents had exposed the young Nimyel to the music of Elvis Presley, Micheal Jackson, Ik Dairo, Fela Kuti and Bob Marley. "I’ve been greatly influenced by their music, and I hope to leave a lasting legacy like they did" says the debutant of his idols.
With the coming of MTV base to Africa and continuing exposure on channel O and heavily syndicated shows on Nigerian TV, the possibility of achieving his dream is not in doubt. His first video, Na U is currently jockey’s favourite on MTV base Africa, Channel O and on Nigerian TV stations. The video’s acceptance has not only served to his artistic prowess, but also to his sex symbol image- inducting him into the league hitherto exclusively occupied by the likes of D’Banj, 2face Idibia and P-Square.
But music is the ultimate passion for the gifted singer/Rapper/ songwriter/ producer. Fresh from recording and performing the theme song for Next Movie Star, Nollywood’s pioneer reality TV show, and blackintellect.com, Zdon, already tipped by pundits as one of those that will shape the Nigerian music industry in 2006, spends his time writing and producing for other artistes (including KORA Awards nominee Follu Gee and US- based rappers U.G.O and Rassman), honouring performance engagements and playing basketball.