interviewBy Opeoluwani Ogunjimi
Iyanya broke into the music scene in 2008 through Project Fame. However, his big break came in late 2012 with Kukere. He speaks on issues among which are his journey into music, his big break, relationship with women, arrest of his manager and others. Excerpt:
You said there are two sides of you, Iyanya and Desire. Can you explain more?
My name is Iyanya and it means Desire. It's as simple as that. When I started music, I decided to use Desire instead of Iyanya.
Because I was so into R & B that I needed an English name to fit into my performances. So that was how it started for a couple of years in Calabar. When I got to Project Fame 4, they rejected that name, Desire and asked for a Nigerian name. So, that was how I used Iyanya. That was how I won Project Fame for that season singing R & B.
After winning Project Fame, I did R & B for some years but it didn't work. So I decided to put aside the R & B Desire, and tried on the Kukere side of Iyanya. After Kukere, I discovered that people accepted me as Iyanya. So, my new album which will drop soonest is a mixture of Iyanya and couple of love songs.
So how can you describe the transition from Desire and Iyanya?
Desire was just an R & B guy with a great voice who took time to write music and talk about his feelings but just a few people appreciate Desire. Desire never made so much money. Desire always begged for shows, hustles for everything but Iyanya is global. Iyanya is accepted by all.
So what is about you that people don't know?
People don't know that I'm very slow to anger. I look like a pompous guy right? People don't know that I play a lot and I don't pretend. But I can't just see a stranger and run to him. You have to come to me first because you can't judge a book by its cover.
Why don't they come to me first to say hi and see if I won't respond. But people don't know that, they just say I'm a snob. For example, some people may just come into this room and stare at me for like an hour without saying a word. Most times I'm the one that even says "hello, I see you are looking at me" and some of them would exclaim at the fact that I was the first to say 'hi' to them.
But that's the way Nigerian fans are. They aren't like those you meet abroad who would flock around you
But they are some who when they come to you, they come with swag and say "hey, how are you", just because they want you to feel like nothing. I'm a human being too. I have my pride too. So if you want to talk to me, you talk with respect. Treat me the way you want me to treat you and I'll treat you with respect too.
You started from Calabar before moving to Lagos. What's it like in Calabar?
Calabar is a small beautiful place. But musically, we are just trying to come up- it's not like Lagos. It's more of a civil servant place where everybody works and they are okay. It's just a few of us who've decided to take it to the next level. So, it wasn't easy for me. We have people that started with me back then. They all released albums in Calabar but I refused to be a local champion. That was so because I knew my talent wasn't for Calabar only. I knew the world has to know me and I always pray to God for me to get a face and platform.
I know what it feels right now for all those artistes that have talents and good songs, they pay D.Js to play their songs but it's not even working. But in Nigeria, all you need first is a name and a face, and Project Fame gave me that. Now, everybody just knew there's one Iyanya guy somewhere but what does he have to offer? It's different from when people just knew me with my talent because I didn't have a name and face.
So how many years did you stay in Calabar before coming down to Lagos?
I was born there. And how old do you think I am?
Maybe around 30 years old.
I'm not that old. Let's say I've been in Lagos for four years and I'm 26 years old.
Lagos isn't an easy place for up-comers, especially for people like you who don't know anyone here and just came in to hustle
People thought that I became a big boy after Project Fame- it's a lie. Project fame actually started my hustle. It made me realize I have to work hard because when I left the Academy, it wasn't with the like of T.Y, Mix. It was me and my mentors and people I'd always respected. So I'd to work hard, and see how long it took me to get here. Project Fame was 2008, this is 2013.
After Project Fame, fans expected a lot from you. Why the delay?
I was caught up in the fact that I won a reality show and people expected me to sing love songs, which I did but it didn't take me anywhere.
So how did you feel all of those times?
I felt depressed. All those shows I now get, I used to beg them for shows back then. Today, I'm headlining the shows of same people I used to beg for shows from. So, it's those shows that God did for me and I'd to work very hard to get here.
Kukere brought you out. How come?
I didn't know Kukere would be this big.
Because it was the first song that began my transition. After R & B was the first pop. So you see, after Kukere, I moved to Your Waist then, to Flavour.
Is it true that it took you like three months to get Kukere done?
Yes, because I didn't believe in it. My manager had to trick me that we had a show where they wanted to pay us N500 000. so when I got there, he told me to complete Kukere before we go for the show. After I completed the song, he told me there was no show. I was pissed.
Was it because you saw yourself coming from the R & B world?
I was threatened because I had five thousand followers who were Desire's fans. They loved R & B and they kept telling me to steak to it. But I stuck to R & B and still couldn't but myself good shoes. I begged organizers to start their shows even though I brought my own group and paid them, and they won't even let me because they felt I'd bore the crowd.
Now that you are a star, what is it you could do that you can no longer do?
I've gone through a lot of things. Back then in my estate, I used to stroll out,to buy corn and peer because I didn't have a driver, I drove myself. Today, all those have changed. It's not as if I don't eat corn but I now send someone to buy for me.
What did it take you to promote Kukere?
I thank God for some Djs who believed in me. And also some radio presenters- they made it happen.
There was this rumour that you sold your car to shoot the video
Yes that's true.
So how many cars have you bought as replacement?
I have three cars now within a space of one year.
Did you really date Yvonne Nelson?
Yvonne is a darling. She's a sweet person as well as Tonto. They are my buddies.
What about Yvonne's tweets on Twitter?
Did you see the tweet addressed to me.
But it's not a must to have your name there
But that's the only way to prove she was talking about me.
What's your relationship with The Tunes?
We are like brothers. We have a connecting synergy which makes us come out with great sounds. He's the guy that God sent with the real sound for me.
Some pictures went viral on network that you are also dating a certain girl whom you took those pictures with
The lady in those pictures is the only female under my label. Very soon, they are going to say I'm dating Tina Tuner.
Was your Manager truly arrested?
I wouldn't call that an arrest because we didn't spend up to an hour at the police station. What happened was that Opah Williams called my manager to book me for Night Of A Thousand Laughs show in Benin. We charged him N1.7 million naira but he paid N1.5. He was yet to pay the balance when he called to say the money he paid was for two shows, another at Port-Harcourt instead of just one show. But we wanted to just do the shows like that out of respect for him, only to be stuck in the traffic on our way there.
We were in the traffic when we got a call that the show had ended when our agreement was that we would round up the show. So before we knew it, Opah showed up with police men who didn't come straight from their station but were attached to some other important personality which is illegal.
They took us to the station at Mile 3 Police Division,in the Garden city, and asked if we had the refund. It was immediately that my manager issued a cheque to them, we went to the bank and we cashed it for them. We weren't detained for anything because we gave them their money. In fact, we even apologized to Opah when we saw we couldn't make the show.
Since you are now one of the hottest guys around, how do you cope with ladies?
I try to keep it on the low, maintain a good relationship with them.
You do have a girl friend, don't you?
No, I don't.
Because I don't have time. Women like attention and they don't like men without money. I'm young and this is the time I have to build tomorrow. I've tried few relationships but realized that my job comes in between us. So once I'm not there to attend to her, she can get aggressive and I'm a creative person- I don't need aggression so that I can focus. I respect every lady that feels something for me but my job comes first.