By David Adeyemi and Funmilayo Adeyemi
When one comes across any person who wants something bigger than they have, you hear them say ‘I wish I had this’ or that, and also the candles that are always blown out during birthdays are followed by wishes where celebrants pour out their heart desires.
Back home to the Nigerian music industry, when the words ‘I Wish’ pop up, one person comes to mind; a singer par excellence, chin-chin lover, 2013City People Artiste of the year and Headies best reggae/dance hall artiste of the same year – Aituaje Ebele Iruobe popularly known as Waje.
Her rise to fame and stardom is legendary considering her rough background. The I Wish crooner described it as a ‘journey full of learning and discovering quite a number of things in the music Industry’ while a guest to TheBoss Newspapers. Excerpts:
How it all started
Music to her as a child was so daring and mind opening as it paved the way for her scholarship and then she thought to herself, music is one of the things she could do for a living.
“It took a while for people to know who I was before the success started and I’ve also come to understand and grow with the notion that everyday has a new market, a new audience and I’m always willing to open myself to that audience”, she said explaing her rough journey to becoming the present day Waje
Would there have been any other alternative than music
Where there’s a will, there’s a way makes all the difference in Waje’s existence, and glaringly Waje had a will for music and that is why she is the Waje we know today. However, she added that if she were not a singer or a musician, she would have been into interior decorator, or a passionate chin-chin fryer.
Single Mother Status
“Parenting as a single mother has been a blessing because you discover more by yourself when you’re a parent owing to the fact that one is involved in practical learning, and it’s no longer about you, you become selfless and you become someone who develops foresight into things and start thinking about the future with your children, she said.
She added: “Being a single mum has its challenges but I really don’t dwell on that. I just focus on being my daughter’s mum because I have a duty to her and the society towards making her understand that she is the best person that can add to that society. I also have a duty to God. All in all, parenting has been a blessing.”
Roles at The Voice and Relationship with Colleagues
Waje was a judge at the just concluded ‘The Voice’ competition, and performed creditably well even in the midst of so called annoying colleagues as many feel. She narrates:
“I can relate well without all other judges, but I had a great relationship with them. Last season, it was 2baba, Timi and Pato, and for some reason, you will think we used to hang out because we just became instant friends. Of course, I have a relationship with Timi outside The Voice and I like Pato as well and I have a great deal of respect for 2baba. This year, Yemi Alade joined us, and it was just great having another woman on the team, she was fun to chill with and we actually really bonded. She was my ‘boiled corn’ buddy. We go to supermarkets together, check out stuffs and buy ourselves sweet corn, which we boil and eat. I don’t think there’s anyone I’ll describe as annoying because I know we had fun and Timi sometimes can like to be a pain in the ass, Pato is my ‘buski’ and Yemi is my ‘Chikawa’. So you see I’m pretty cool with everybody.”
Saying Waje is a big mama in Nigerian music industry will be another understatement as it is crystal clear for all and sundry to see. This is also exemplified in the clout her relevance has generated since 2007. Consequently, she knows what it means to be the rave of the moment.
Hear her: “Being a part of the voice coupled with my experience in the music industry, I don’t think there’s one rave of the moment, I think there’s a bunch of people that are really doing very well at the moment. And it’s crazy because they’re pushing the boundaries and putting out our music and the African sound to other shores of the world, we have Wizkid, Davido, and one of the things that inspire me about them is that they’re willing to work hard.
“There’s never a time they want to rest because of where they are. They are always striving to move up to the next level and taking up opportunities. We have Tiwa, Yemi Alade and Niniola whose fan I am. Simi is someone who has stolen my heart with her sound and with her lyrics and music. You really can’t say one person is the rave of the moment. These people have been consistent for more than 4 years and I think being the rave of the moment is not a great thing because you have the tendency to fizzle out, but these guys with the kind of music they do now, you can be sure they’ll be here for a while. I don’t think I’ll describe them as raves of the moment, I’ll better describe them as superstars.”
Waje is a lover of success, progress and team work which is why she is happy for the boundaries and achievements of her colleagues in the music industry.
On Wizkid and his most recent ground breaking achievement and historical concert in London, Waje says “I feel really good because there’s growth in numbers but outside the growth in numbers, there are doors that the more people that conquer the world, the more opportunities that other people have. Now that he has done it, it’s not going to be a problem for other artistes because people are willing and hoping to see what musicians can do. Every time these guys push the boundaries, it’s something that we should be grateful for because the next person will bite off that dividend.”
As an artiste, Waje believes that being consistent is a watchword and effortlessly satisfying fans should be the target. As a result, the A-class singer is working hard to dish out another wonderful production to put smiles on the faces of her reaming fans.
“I’m working on my Album. I just put out a new single ‘In the Air’ which acceptance I am grateful for. The video was shot by Matt Max. I also have about 2 singles to release before the actual album comes out.
But the thing about me at the moment is enjoying myself. People think Waje sings half-baked songs but I’m in the space of love at the moment.”
On her biggest stage performance
Waje is not the type to take any stage as the biggest because, according to her, every stage comes with its advantage no matter how one looks at it. She said so with special reference to the first time she performed in Tanzania, before a crowd of over 20,000 people. She confessed that the performance pushed her career further.
“When I was singing Onye, the crowd sang along and it was big for me because their first language isn’t even English; it’s Swahili kind of.
“Also, in Los Angeles where I performed with people like Jordan Sparks with a live band and wearing Ankara attire, the audience was enabled to flow with me. There are even different instances where stages have propelled my career and given me more space and room to enjoy myself as an artiste. So I can’t say it is one event that did it for me, or maybe the event is yet to come.”
Growth of the Nigeria Music Industry
Waje sees a great growth in the activities of every stakeholder in the Nigerian music project, praising the industry as a ‘world sound’.
“We’ve grown a great deal and we’re expanding to the point where our music is regarded as a world sound. When you turn to any music channel, you will discover an element of African sound. Though some people call it Caribbean sound, the root is African. When you hear the konga, jembe, talking drum and even the way they play the guitars now, you will definitely know it is African.”
There’s every tendency for someone who has spent 10 years in the industry to be an epitome of milestones that can never be forgotten, and Waje sure is a typical example. She talks about her most significant achievements.
“My most significant achievement, to be honest, would be the things I do as CSR such as speaking at the World Economic forum. I think those are more significant to me because being a musician is a role and what we do with that role as well as making sure that the society appreciatesand buy your music. What you do is what makes you an icon and I feel like that’s the journey I’m taking. So I would say the CSR work I do is more significant.”
Who is the Queen of Nigerian Music
Even as the battle for supremacy exists among fans over who is the authentic female voice of Nigerian music, Waje feels the feeling is misplaced. In the music entertainment cycle, fans will always compare two or more artistes, sometimes resulting in unhealthy rivalry.
This comparison pitched the Ondo born singer against Tiwa Savage. She says: “The truth is that I respect and love Tiwa and her works, as well as every other female artiste. Now, when the fans do things like that, I understand that they do that because of the love they have for their preferred artiste. I will not want to accept any accolade of one female best voice in Nigeria, because someone who is number one will always come down to number two. I just think that as long as you understand the value you bring and what you’re supposed to do, you would want to outdo yourself, that’s the way.
“I look at the girls and guys around me like how do they do this, how do they come about this, there’s no way I will know it all and at the same time, I just want to always conquer what I do. I don’t want anyone to call me queen of this because one day someone can dethrone me, and then wahala dey (laughs)” she added.
Is Waje a Product of the Old School
The fact that Waje has been around for a long time makes some erroneously refer to her as old generation artist, but she sees the old school thing a more Nigerian than general, adding that as far as one is successful, there’s nothing like old school.
“Beyoncé has been singing for so long even while I was still at the school choir. I don’t see myself as an old generation artiste or another is new generation. I am just an artiste who loves music, that is why I’m always open to evolving” she said.
“Work really hard and understand that humility is what makes other people teach you more than you know. And when you are open to learning and discovering new things and new ways to discovering yourself, success will come your way. The life of a musician is like a circle; in that circle, you discover your sound and how to get attention of the people. You put out singles, and then you become a star, and while working together with other artistes you become a superstar. At that point, anything you put out will be accepted, either good or bad. But after a while, you’ll have to evolve and start thinking about how to go round the circle again; that’s the best way every artiste should think.”