‘Creativity, not commercial value, premise of my music’
The Objective Is To Create Rather Than To Push The Music
Ibeji is the name of an orisha (deity) that represents a pair of twins in Yoruba mythology. But for a new singer, who goes by the moniker, it is a brand name that is adopted based on the circumstances of his birth. The singer, who is barely two years on the music scene, is making waves with his afro-retro style. He recently held a listening party for his latest work, Green-White Dope 005, where he explained to DANIEL ANAZIA his style of music, why it traverses all genres; his passion and the movement he hopes to create with his music.
What is Ibeji all about and why the name?
Ibeji is an artiste that spreads across the music spectrum. We have a five-album project, which is aimed at tackling all those areas of music that people find interesting. Like most Nigerians, I love jazz, afrobeats, R&B, and soul among other music genres. The objective of the Ibeji project is to traverse these genres. So, Green-White-Dupe 001 is an Afro music project, Green-White-Dupe 002 is a world music project, Green-White-Dupe 003 is a dance album, 004 is a jazz album and the last is a local album rich in akpala and juju.
The brand name Ibeji reflects the circumstances of my birth. I was born a twin and this allows me to live on the two different aspects of any personality. We need to live beyond the barriers the society created for us, and explore ourselves. Dream your own dreams and that is what I stand for. I want everyone to break the barriers created by the society that if you are a lawyer or doctor you remain so. No, you have to explore yourself, dream and live your own dreams. Don’t restrain yourself, and don’t restrain your children because we have a start date and a finish date, what matters is what we do in-between the two dates.
How would you describe your brand of music?
One question I get all the time is where do you set? The way I like to describe it is that most of us do not set in any particular locale; in the morning we have a certain taste, in the afternoon another takes over and the evening and night also come with different tastes respectively. So, my musical taste varies from time to time, and the object is to use that variation to drive projects. I do not set in a particular place; I love rock, I love R&B, and I have a great affinity for afrobeats. It is broader than a single taste, there is no preferred music genre and that is what ‘Ibeji’ represents. It is about the full spectrum of music.
What is your style?
My style is Afro retro; that is how we describe it.
At what point did you discover music or music discovered you?
I did not sing at age 9 or 12 like many musicians often claim. I started singing two years ago (2015). I stumbled into music and I was encouraged to do it by a young friend of mine who insisted that I could do music. So, I went to the studio for the fun of it, just to explore my creative juices. I enjoyed it so much and went ahead to do the first song, 3rd, 5th, 13th and now we have over 35 songs and are still at it. It has been incredible journey for us over the past 18 months. We have enjoyed creative music. I enjoyed the process of creating music. We are now at a point of pushing the music out, but the whole object was to create the music rather than to push.
Prior to music, what were you doing?
Before venturing into music, I was on the journey of life, just discovering myself as we all do, just trying to decide where my heart will lie and where it will lie best. It has been a journey of life, a journey of love, and has been a normal human process.
In less than two years you have so many songs in your kitty. What has been the motivation and inspiration?
I discovered music when I was born. Music is something that is familiar to all of us, but I joined the music industry professionally 18 months ago and we have worked very hard to find our place within the space. We worked night and day, literally creating the audio, visuals, and lyrics, ensuring that we have a stake in the music industry that is familiar to the Ibeji audience. The entire process had been Nigerian based, from the idea, creation of the music to the production and marketing.
Who are your influencers?
My drivers and influencers are all Nigerians. My inspiration and influence are rooted here in the country. Like I said before, my musical taste is broad, and because it is so broad, I like to give credit to every single participant in a very tough industry. But there is one song that speaks to me much more than any when I speak locally. It is a song by Ebenezer Obe that speaks about a man and a son who climbed the Ketekete.
The power of music to convey message through songs comes to me through that song. It influenced me a lot, how much I can convey my values and so on through music. I draw my inspirations from life experiences, love, the beautiful elements that the good Lord created without us having to construct anything, among others. I am marveled by very simple things; rain, good people, love experiences, I love being in love, and these are things that influence my writings and music.
What informed your branding and attire?
Essentially because we sit in a world music space, we borrow from local music, international music like jazz and all other influences. We like to think that the image or brand we have created is one that sits neatly along those lines. For instance, the hair is African; the look is cool with the eyeglass and so on. But it is all about creating a brand that has international appeal and attention and that is what we hope to achieve with this.
Your style of music is not the street kind of music that average young Nigerians associate with. Who are your target aud ence? We target lovers of music. It is matured music no doubt about it. It is also alternative music but Nigerians are incredibly astute bunch. Just like music listeners everywhere in the world, they know what they like, they may not like the whole album, but they know the songs they love in it. It is for those who experiment with music, and those who will give new art a chance are the people we are focusing on.
What drives me is my creativity and not the commercial value of my work. I hope that those who like our music will join in the journey. It is a journey of creative discovery and not of a commercial discovery. So, when you come along with us, it is not about money, it is about the whole experience. Most importantly, we want hear your feedback.
Do you think the choice of language will limit your audience?
If you go to France they will say most of the songs are in English and so on. Music is universal; it cuts across language, race or religion. Music has the power to break language barriers; I go to weddings in the north and foreign countries and I can say when music is a love song or dance song because music has that capacity to pierce through barriers that life itself creates. But I hope no one will consider the barrier my skin colour, gender or religion presents. I hope that what we do is feel the music and let it roll. The music speaks directly to anyone; the use of Yoruba in it is not intended to block people out. It is just a means or tool to convey the message.
What in your opinion are the challenges of emerging artistes like you?
In my perspective, we are a very conservative society and we are still grappling with the notion that people can do certain things. Some people want to listen to music, but they don’t want their kids to do music. Young people have a problem raising capital for music, as banks do not support people in this industry because it is seen as a highly risky business. Gaining attention, especially media attention is very difficult here. Only a few media outfits support the industry. These are the principal challenges so far for me.
Any plan for official release?
The music has been released digitally. It is very accessible on any of the digital platforms — Sound Cloud, Dezeer, Spotify, iTunes, MTNPlus, Amazon, Apple Music among others. But we are not limiting the release to digital platform only, however the Nigerian market has developed digital capability as demands for digital music is on the rise. So, digital is our primary means of driving it.
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