Iyanya Onoyom Mbuk is one of the musical acts that shone like a million stars in the year 2012. With his two singles, 'Kukere' and 'Wind your waist' which have almost become an anthem everywhere parties are held, the singer has made a name for himself. Recently, the Calabar born young musician emerged LEADERSHIP Entertainer of the year, an award he relishes. In this chat with SAMUEL ABULUDE, he opened up on his rise to fame and what next to expect from him
His songs are on the lips of fun-loving youths all over the country and beyond. The music star who won the maiden MTN Project Fame, West Africa reality show in 2008, can be said to have arrived. With the Pop song of the year award at the Headies 2012 and now beating other young music acts like Wizkid and Davido, the runner-up to the Entertainer of the year by LEADERSHIP newspapers, Iyanya is elated about this development and he says, "I feel glad and honoured.
First of all, I give thanks to God and also kudos to my fans for their support. I also want to thank your company, LEADERSHIP for recognizing my efforts and giving me the ENTERTAINER of the Year award. I appreciate and look forward to receiving the award."
Iyanya also became the first African artist to reach 3 million caller tunes downloads and this is no mean feat for a young artist.
Speaking on his high moment in 2012 with a smile, he said, "I won't say in the beginning everything was okay. Gradually, my songs, Kukere and wind your waist began to be played more on the airwaves and everywhere. Afterwards, Iyanya started to headline big shows all over the world, not only in Nigeria and Africa.
I really feel blessed about this. I know it is God engineering this for me. I won the Pop song of the year at the Headies 2012. This was indeed a high moment for me and now your management making me the Entertainer of the year, it is really an honour."
On what is next for the handsome dude, he says, "Iyanya is working on an album and it is dropping on February 10. Then, there is an album launch holding out on the 1st of March. Also, it will interest you to know that I just dropped a video, Flavour. I'm still working like I always say, you are never there, until you are there. Even when you get there, you still have to work hard to maintain the success. My video, Flavour was shot in the United Kingdom. Moe Musa, a Nigerian based in UK produced it and the video is doing very good.
So the millions are coming? "By God's grace, Iyanya is smiling to the banks", he replied. "Talking about the success of my two singles, I did not see all that coming. My mind was just to do something and put it out there. Like I said, I see God engineering all this for my success. I don't feel like I have done something big. I just felt like the heavens smiling on me and God saying you have tried. It is your time. Make some money, live a good life, build a brand for yourself and make the best out of life', he said.
Come to think of it, your first single, Love Truly didn't hit like this? I asked. "Yeah", he replied. And it was like a good song. Iyanya responded, "It was not like a good song, it was a good song, a Rhythm & Blues and one of my best songs and over the years, it has stayed."
But the so-called bad songs are the ones making a hit? I queried. "That's what I'm saying. Nigerians just want to dance, very few Nigerians have the time to listen to good music. They know it is good music. It's like music fans are saying. We are Nigerians and we are supposed to dance to your music. We are not R. Kelly. So with my album coming out, I am striking a balance with IVD, Iyanya Vs Desire. Iyanya meets Desire. Iyanya is the Kukere guy who is Desire, the R&B singer, they used to know", Iyanya said.
Speaking further on what inspired the Kukere single, he said, "I went to Calabar and there is a popular dance called Ogba. I realize that most of the biggest songs that have ever been released are songs that have their dances. Think about it. All the biggest hits in the world have their dances like Soldier Boy. They have one dance like that Swo. Daddy Showkey and a whole lot of artistes have theirs, like Azonto.
Once there is a dance to it, it carries people along. So I just said, let me put this song with the Ogba, Calabar dance. Let me show the world how my people dance and everybody bought into the song. Then I decided to try a different side to it with another beat to produce Wind your waist just like Kukere. It was the same idea and thank God, it worked.
On his influence as a musician, Iyanya who noted that he has always wanted to be a singer because he fell in love with music since when he was young. "I was influenced by the music of R. Kelly, Tyrese Darnell Gibson, Mario, mostly R&B singers. Those were my guys, the artistes I listen to and want to emulate. In Nigeria, Tuface, Darey Art Alade, Banky W are noted for R&B.
TuFace has opened doors to all of us. His feat made me realize that we are Nigerians and we can reach out to the world. I tell you one thing. I like D'Banj, I love his music a lot. I think D'Banj is the best entertainer that has ever come out of Nigeria in recent times. He is like my role model. D'Banj is someone I will like to be like and be better than. Everytime, I see D'Banj on stage, off the stage. He is real. You go to his house and hang out with him, he entertains you. He is not doing it pretentiously, it is just his life."
How challenging was it between Project Fame and now? He had this to say, "When I won Project fame, I was expecting people to allow me do R&B. I thought that when I come out of the show, I would do my R&B but I didn't know Nigerians didn't have the time. Nobody is doing love songs anymore".
But TuFace is doing it, I interrupted. "That is why it is TuFace. You can't compare Tuface with Iyanya", he replied. "He is my forefather in the industry. Tuface is a king. If I attain that level of TuFace, I can sing R&B and anything I want. Apart from the fact that TuFace is talented, people listen to anything he sings. We are still coming up and we still have a number of songs before we reach that stage and we are given the respect that will show that we have arrived."
"I was not disappointed about my first single, 'Love Truly' not being accepted but I felt bad that those who love R&B cannot feel my song. I love R&B. if you check my phone, it's all R&B and you won't see any Nigerian song. I listen to the genre of music anywhere I'm going. It's bad that those who love R&B in Nigeria are not getting to hear it. "
Iyanya opened up on his upbringing saying that he grew up in Calabar, schooling in the beautiful city. Sadly, he lost his family to an unfortunate circumstance which he would not like to talk about. "I loved my dad but I lost him through a sad experience. I don't like talking about it because it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Losing one's whole family is always an unpleasant thing. I am just left with two sisters now", he said.