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Monday, 6 August 2018


TEE MAC ( Ex- PMAN President)

* Also speaks on how a partner stalled his business with Michael Jackson's family...

Ex-PMAN President Tee Mac Omatshola Iseli was born lucky to a Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria who married an Itsekiri Princess. But life played an unfair one at him when his father was assassinated in Lagos. His smart mother however opened another door to him as he sent him to his father's wealthy family in Switzerland along with his two sisters.

But Tee Mac as he is popular known did not forget Nigeria, he returned and today tells us a success story as he weaves through a wide landscape of business, entertainment and a rich lifestyle which included running the Surulere nite club in Lagos. He spoke to Paul Ukpabio.

You have been a foremost musician, ex President of PMAN and a businessman. How do you describe yourself?

I am first a concert Flutist, then a philharmonic composer, then a performer with a tight live band, then a business man, then a Unionist. As you can see the PMAN thing was actually the last on my list.

Who really decided that you should be a musician, was it your desire
or your parents or other outside influence?

After my Swiss father Theo Manfred Iseli (Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria) was assassinated in 1951 in Lagos, my mother Susana Grey, Fregene, Omateye (Itsekiri Princess) sent me and my two sisters to Switzerland where my wealthy Swiss family took us in. I had the best education money can buy. I had to study business to have a solid background but I was also allowed to study music. I wanted to be a Flutist since I was a small boy. I think in a previous life I already played the flute, and as a small boy I remembered (laughs).

Many years after your Presidency at PMAN, can you say that PMAN is now
more united than ever?

Whenever you have two Nigerians together you have two opinions, two political parties or two musician unions. I had the unfortunate situation that I inherited a very negative splitter group from the Charly Boy’s time and only after their leader ended up in Ikoyi prison, we got a bit of peace of that negative group; but then three other fractions came up. Now there is peace. We had a great election in January 2017 in Abuja, endorsed and supervised by the Ministry of Labour, the Trade Union Secretary and the Labour Congress in attendance. PMAN needs to raise money to re-organize and then it will be the shiny Union again. Please note that PMAN is the largest black Musician Union in the world!

What were the challenges of being a PMAN president for you?

Too many negative people there; ready to destroy. Most have not yet realized that in unity is a great deal of power. I was able to get the Immigration to work with me together to implement the laws that foreign artists need a visa with temporary work permission, the tax
(FIRS) to implement that foreign artists have to pay tax at source. This created many enemies for me, especially with Churches who are importing Gospel artists and preachers without temporary work permission visas for their yearly big Revival Festivals at the Tafawa
Balewa Square. I hope they are implementing it now because the new PMAN will continue to arrest them with the Immigration services.

What inspires you as a musician and then as an entertainer?

I am a creator and love to create good music. I do commercial music but my level is high and not always understood in Nigeria. Here ‘’skelewoo “and Baby-i-o music is reigning. Music must have for me good lyrics, logic cords or harmonies and a good lead melody line.
Solid and not too noisy percussion (rhythm’s).

In the late 80s and early 90s favourite American bands were coming to
Nigeria for shows that sometimes lasted days, why is such thing not
rampant now?

I think it is good they are not coming again. They were mostly the international commercial bands imported to Nigeria and suddenly the young people did not go to the shows of Nigeria’s best artists anymore. It had to be Lakeside, or Shalamar or whatever they did bring to Nigeria. But honestly Nigerians could not gain anything of those shows. Then came the Thisday shows where actually good bands came to Nigeria on a regular bases and the young crowed could listen to good modern music and compare. Now because Nigeria is broke and foreign currency is hard to come by, those shows have stopped. The more the
economy is down, the more the Entertainment Industry is down. Music is a reflection of the health of any economy! When the country is broke, the Entertainment Industry will be broke too.

As an icon in the music industry, what can you say about young
musicians who are finding wealth in music, is it because the problem
of piracy is no more there?

No, piracy is still there but less. Now the main problem is illegal down loading and young people blue-tooth songs to each other which ism against the law. Some of the young musicians make money through ring tone, some have Yahoo boy brothers who pay for their videos and support them with their illegal money. I can tell you with authority that the income from legal record sales is very minimal at the moment in Nigeria and there are few shows. Most are just stories for the tabloids and Instagram on how rich they are and how much money they are making!

Somehow you seem to have married music with business a thing that most
have not been able to do. How did you create the difference?

I made good money in music and film-music and invested it (unfortunately not always wisely in Nigeria). I invested millions of Dollars into businesses like a Quarry business, Solid Minerals Company with 15 major mining sites. What a waste of time, no infrastructure,
shifting government policies (OBJ cancelled everybody’s license for 2 years. He did not care that we had supply contracts and most of our machinery rusted during this period)

What other businesses are you into outside music?

I registered Tee Mac Petroleum Ltd in 1985 and became a local partner first to the Falcon Refining Company Corpus Christy, then to HEMLA Gas and Oil Norway and James Bay Energy Canada. I am also the Chairman of Allied Minerals Ltd. Cass Cotan Mining and Processing Co. Ltd. and Tee Mac Productions,a promotion company.

Tee Mac's Gold Convention group 

What was growing up like for you? Your childhood memories?

I was blessed to grow up in Switzerland!  Great schools, great and honest society with a high moral code; wonderful years playing the flute in a youth orchestra; having a wonderful home on a hill looking down the lake of Zurich; Chauffeur driven to school; four great years
in St. Gallen, the prime University for Economics; then briefly worked in my uncle's company (he had factories producing car spare parts) and had my first band in 1969 in Lausanne where I was studying flute and voice, performed all around Switzerland before returning to Nigeria in 1970.

How did your early life influence the person that you are today?

It made me appreciate that hard work pays; made me realize that there is no short cut to make it in music, because educated people cannot be fooled with trash music. I learned at a young age that one is here on this earth to make the best out of the time given, nothing worse than to grow old and to look back at a wasted life time!

Who influenced you most, your dad or mom?

My father was assassinated when I was three years old but I still remember him well, my mother was not with me because she married again and had 3 more daughters in Nigeria. Many influenced me. First my uncle J.J. Derendinger, the owner of the spar part factory, he was very educated, gentle and a hundred millionaire who did not show off. I would work during holidays in his company to learn and appreciated him how gentle he was directing his empire! Never shouting! No show offs, just a few expensive cars, a wonderful house with Swimming pool and a Stainway piano (more than 100,000 Dollars in those days). My aunty was a great lady too. A bit too strict for my liking, but she loved us. My first flute teacher Mrs. Isler, my school teachers and of course Mr. Jean Pierre Rampal, the greatest Flute player in history who I was studying with for my master degree.

If you were not a musician, what else do you think you would have been?

A gold smith (I love beautiful things) or a health adviser.

Apart from music, you also seem to have interest in culture and we see
that in some of your clothes. What does culture mean to you and how do
you relate to it in Nigeria?

One has to be careful with ’Culture’! It is great to remember ones culture but it can also be a handicap delaying development. There must be a careful evaluation on what is good to maintain and what is shear wasted sentimental addiction. I love African culture but it must
develop and there must be evolution in it. I have designed all my native clothes since 1971. Not that I am a great designer but I wear what I want and like, I am not  Gucci or Nike guy and all that latest stuff. To me it is brain washing, part of the commercial industry to
make money from you.

You were also involved with the cultural expedition to Badagry with
Michael Jackson's brother Marlon, can you tell us about it, what was
it meant to achieve?

Marlon Jackson, Tito and Jermain, 3 Majors and myself had a company called: “ Motherland Projects” and we were planning a tourist centre in Badagry. We had a bit of a setback when one of the partners took 7 million USD from the 1.2 billion USD investment, claiming it is his compensation for his architectural designs. I had to inform the investors and they cancelled their support. We have raised additional money at the moment.

Were you able to accomplish the mission, what was working with Marlon like?

Marlon Jackson has been a great friend, so also his brothers and we are at the moment working on 10 shows, from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Macau to Beijing and the opening of the Hainan Island resorts and tax free zone. We have signed the contracts and the shows
will start October 2018. My band Tee Mac’s Gold Convention will be part of all the shows. I had met the Jacksons first time in 1974 when my Manager Jimi Bishop, owner of Philly sounds signed the Jacksons for concerts.

You are a popular personality, have you thought of going into politics?

I do not want to participate in politics in Nigeria. This is for jobless, hungry people who want to enrich themselves, most have no shame and no good name to keep. I am totally disappointed with our political scene and could cry about the opportunities Nigeria has lost
over the last 50 years. We could be a world power, more advanced than Singapore, Dubai or Malaysia. Instead our politicians have become billionaires, they have looted the treasury and stocked the money into foreign bank accounts. Why would I join this kind of people?

Unlike your counterparts in the movie industry who have in recent
times made an in-road into politics, what do you think is limiting
musicians from doing same?

Money! How many musicians have money to waste to buy a Senator-ship or a Governor seat! In Music you become popular when you are good and have hits, in politics you became popular if you have money to dash away. I call this money bag politics!

Which do you do more these days, business or music?

I play about 3 hours flute every day and spend about 3-5 hours in my office working on my paperwork, my letters, my trading contracts. I also spend time with the Entertainment Foundation, the Entertainment Cooperative Multipurpose Society of Nigeria and the Entertainment Data base. I am working to put up with some partners a solid structure for
the Entertainment Industry to attract local and foreign investors. The Entertainment Industry in Nigeria cannot rely on government, because government doesn’t understand the industry, and the private industry has not yet understood that the Entertainment Industry all over the world is  the fastest money maker.

There is contention about when a musician should retire, what is your
view about this and when do you look up to retirement from music?

You retire in music the day you die! How can you stop something you love, something you live for? If you work as a civil servant or in a bank, yes then you are happy to retire at 65 and you thank God, that it is over. But they have used you so much that after a few years you are dead!

Lets talk about your work as a musician, what career memories do you
have that has refused to go away?

I have great memories of touring the world; seeing all the countries outside Nigeria; playing for hundred thousands of people and making them happy; making them dance. I get the biggest kick out of life when after a successful concert I look down at the crowed and see them shouting for more. There was a concert in China when after 3 encore songs I was in my limousine going to the hotel and my manager Jimmy Chan called me a half an hour later that they are still clapping in the concert hall! There were times in the 70s were I could not go out into the public without body guards shielding me, super markets had to
be closed for me and my band Silver Convention to shop for one hour, because the place would be in a chaos. I love the memories of concerts for Kings, Presidents, Prisoners, school children and just anybody. Seeing the love in their eyes because they have understood that we tried our best to make them happy. To be a musician is hard work, but there is great benefit and pay offs for it.

His dogs
There was a time that there was a rumour that you were the richest
musician around? Was that true and do you think that Nigerian
musicians should be judged by the material things they have been able
to accumulate?

I think taking my general record sales and royalty income over the last 50 years into consideration, I may be the wealthier musician in Nigeria, but that is actually irrelevant. I am more proud that all of my old records have been released again because 30 or 40 years later people started to actually listen to my songs and music again and even we did not have the recording technology of today, we were well rehearsed and the arrangements were water tight. Just last week a European company was doing a disco re-mix for the summer season of my old song: “Talk to me, I am listening”: (google it and listen to the song). The remix is fresh with added percussion making it a bit hallucinating, but that’s what young people love when they are stoned out of their minds in a discotheque. Nigerian musicians should not concentrate on the material side of show business, it comes when one is good. It comes when one has sang and produced dozens of songs and one of them becomes an international hit. The regular money comes from international radio play and the copy rights of compositions, not so much from live performances which are actually more promotional.

Some say you are not married if true are you expecting to marry someday?

I have been married a couple of times and my first wife (mother of my son Victor) is late, the other two are doing well. I have not seen the right one to re-marry, and it is not my priority at the moment.

How about children?

I have three wonderful sons and one daughter I have hardly seen. I do not put my family live into the news because it is personal to me.

We know you have special love for dogs, did it come about from
childhood and which breed do you keep?

I had my first dog at the age of 14. It was a bull terrier, but in the last 30 years I had over one hundred Alsatian dogs. They are loyal, lovable and they have become my best friends. I have only five at the

Your memorable holiday?

Yes I fell in love with Thailand when I started my Chinese shows in 2002 and have gone back many times. I normally go for summer holidays to my second home Zurich in Switzerland. There are many beautiful places on this planet earth and I have been to most of them.

What is your idea of fun, relaxation and hobby?

Sitting on the beach with my laptop and working on my latest philharmonic work (Sibelius software). Breathing the fresh air full of Oxone, listening to the waves, seeing my son with his friends playing ball on the beach, then  I am happy and contented.

Any regrets in life?

Yes, I often regretted having come back to Nigeria in 1970s. I have left many times but I guess being born in Nigeria has a karma tic effect on me that I always have to come back. I think my carreer would have been even more internationally successful after Silver Convention if I did not come back for Festac 77 to settle and open the Surulere Night Club. 

I have spent many years trying to do my best to uplift the entertainment Industry from being a part funder of the Classical Music Society (Muson) the Performing Music Association (PMAN), The Jazz Club Nigeria, the Entertainment Foundation of Nigeria and so on. A lot of
work, time and money spent and not much received in return. But I leave that subject to History. I can only hope that History will judge me gently for my time and involvement in Nigeria!

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