Singing duo, Eghosa Rodney Agbonayinma, aka 'Row' and Osazuwa Michael Agbonayinma, aka 'Zuwa' were recently in Nigeria to be introduced to the Nigerian media and as well as launch their music career in their fatherland with a smashing hit single titled, "The whole Night'.
Row, born in January 11,1998 has celebrated his 20th birthday while Zuwa, born July 30, 1999 will have to wait another six months to celebrate his 19th birthday. They are both children of Honourable E.J. Agbonayinma,a member of the House of Representatives, a music lover, who seems to have passed the genes to his children.
While Row is studying Petroleum Engineering at University of Houston, Texas, Ruwa is getting a degree in Architecture at Houston Community College, also in Texas, USA. The video to their rousing hit single "A Whole Night' is being shot by Clarence Peters and it's set for release any time soon.
In this exclusive interview with Showtime Celebrity, they talk about their music, Nigerian music industry, relationship and more.
Z uwa: It is one of the many things we love, I love art and music; music is something that resonated with me from when I was very little. I guess it was inherited from my dad; he also loves music, so I think that's where it came from. We love music that much and that's why we chose music.
Row: If you asked me a question like 'what would you do your whole life without getting paid?' I'll say music.
How would you describe your sound?
Row: I'll describe it like you said 'a sound'. We cannot really be fit to any genre; we produce any music that sounds good to people and to ourselves especially; it doesn't matter if it's hip-hop, afro beat, rock or country music, if it sounds good, its music.
Zuwa: We incorporate whatever appeals to us. We're not like people who like to stick to one sound their entire career, because if you stick to one sound, you'll not have the ability to enter another sound. It's like saying I'm a rapper and I'm going to rap my entire life'; you're not doing yourself or your talent justice, so we don't want to restrict ourselves.
Aren't you scared of being criticised for not defining your sound?
Row: Of course, we will be criticized, but the fact that I'm a Nigerian doesn't mean I must do Nigerian songs, that's what you call expectations from people and people are meant to have expectations. In my opinion, expect nothing because you'll be hit by whatever comes.
Zuwa: I think criticism comes with a job and it's better to learn how to take it. We won't just do what people say we should do, we will do what we think is the best. We've got to make the right choices and we see this as the right choice.
How ready are you for the Nigerian music market?
Row: I expect nothing and if you expect nothing, you're ready for everything.
Zuwa: I'll just take it as it comes. That has been our mentality for a long time and that's how we live. As crazy as it might want to be, we'll find a way.
How would you compare the Nigerian music industry to that in America?
Zuwa: There is really not much difference in terms of popularity, whatever sound takes on is what people jump on. So, I guess that's how it is but I'll say that the music over there is a ton more diverse, it's a place where people come from a lot of countries and different ethnicities and cultures. They come and make music and it's a lot more diverse. Here in Nigeria, people jump on whatever is popping.
So will you go with the flow, the new wave, the new sound of Nigerian music?
Row: Not really, we may do that but we'll definitely turn the flow in another way. We are the kind of people who make the flow instead of just jumping on whatever is there.
What do you have that makes you so confident?
Zuwa: I'm not going to say something stupid if I can't back it up. They can criticise but they should just be ready.
What new things are you bringing on board the music space?
Zuwa: I'll say the ability to multitask, incorporate different sounds, fuse them together and create something interesting. Not everyone does that, people just go unilateral and just do one thing, so, we'll like to bring different things together and create something amazing.
With the kind of music you do, do you think you can fly in Nigeria?
Row: Some people will play our song and like it and others will not. People like good songs and if it's a good song, it lasts forever, if it's a good song, you will be accepted.
Zuwa seems to always take the lead in most of your songs. Don't you think that should be your position?
Row: Ageism is another thing Nigerians have a problem with. 'Oh I'm the elder I have to do this, you're the younger you have to do that', that's a messed up mentality which has hitherto not produced considerable progress. We made three songs together, so it doesn't matter who comes first.
We've had sibling music groups in Nigeria but they always end up breaking up. What should be expected from ROZE?
Row: Expect nothing! If you expect stuff, you'll create opportunities to be disappointed.
What about breaking up amicably probably to start up something new?
Row: There is no specific answer to that as you do not know what may happen but again you do know that anything can happen.
How would you feel if your brother decides to go solo?
Zuwa: I'd feel that he should spread his wings because I won't see it as going solo, I'd see it as him doing his own thing but honestly, the group is never going to split up completely. We're always going to make music but there's no crime in doing your own thing.
From experience, people normally see one person from a singing duo, especially of siblings, as better. Are you saying you won't feel bad if people say, your younger brother (Zuwa) sings better than you?
Row: I won't, I'd just see that as motivation to become better and balance it up.
What's your target audience?
Zuwa: We are targeting anybody who can understand English; we are not going to narrow our target or fan base. We are going to try to make it appeal to everybody that can listen to it and understands English because that's the language we speak.
How do you intend to capture Lagos when you don't understand Yoruba, which is the indigenous language?
Row: As a kid, I didn't understand Yoruba and when I went to school; all my friends sang songs from languages I didn't understand. I speak English and you sing in Yoruba but then I have to feel cool and flow with it. Some people who speak Yoruba do not also understand English. I can speak a little Pidgin English; I guess that's my second language.
Which Nigerian musicians influenced you while growing up?
Row: We had Naeto C, Wizkid and Davido who were popping up then; they had some level of influence on us but originally it was popular music videos at that time like the Sound of Music that brought me closer to music.
Zuwa: I got some Nigerian influence from MI; he's someone I used to listen to at that time. He's one of the people that made me go into rap. I broadened my hearing to foreign rappers also. Sound of Music also influenced me.
What's your strategy to break into the Nigerian music industry?
Zuwa: First, we're going to start with the video, promote the video and see where it goes. If it's appealing, we go forward and if it's not we'll try again.
Row: We're going to be original and give Nigerians what they want but at the same time we can't pretend to be what we're not in order to appeal to the audience because it will eventually die if we're not consistent.
Would you change your sound or style of music just to satisfy your audience?
Row: Here's the thing, originality is not specific to one genre of music, it's whatever flows. You may be listening to a song and you generate a flow from that song. We'll go with the sound people like, which we might not necessarily enjoy . People may like the song and at that period in time, we may also like it and go with the flow if it feels good.
Is versatility a choice for you or it's natural?
Zuwa: It's part of us, we don't like being restricted. Like I've always said, if you can do something else and you like doing that thing so long as it is legal, why not do it? If you stick to one genre, you're not spreading your wings; you're not fulfilling your potentials and I can't afford not to fulfill my potentials.
Given the opportunity, which Nigerian artiste would you want to work with?
Row: Well, I'd say Wizkid and Davido. Like I said, those are the artistes that influenced me while growing. I would also love to work with Burna Boy, he has that husky voice and he makes good music.
What inspired your new single 'The whole night'?
Zuwa: It was a crazy story. It was a phrase I said to someone and we were just free-styling around it and before you know it we entered this mode that everybody was just singing and I just came out with it. I wrote it down and when I'm by my TV or playing video games, stuff come to me and I put them down and started developing it and we came together to create something. We didn't know it would be good but while testing it, Mekoyo, who was helping us out, heard it and said this is good and we need to push it.
Do you write your songs?
Zuwa: Yes, we do. We do it together. It's just like taking stories. If you don't write your songs and have other people write it for you and you admit that, it's okay. But if you say you write it yourself and have other person doing that for you, that's not cool.
Row: We do our thing ourselves, we do the beat and freestyle and while free-styling there are some things we say and we write it down immediately.
What gives you inspiration?
Before we write we listen to the beat; if the beat is good, we write on it. Most of the good songs we've made started in the shower, I don't know if it's the water or something.
What kind of sound or music do you think Nigerian artistes should be making?
Row: I can't really talk for other artistes but like Wizkid, Davido, and all these other artistes started and went with the wrong wave which has now become the Nigerian wave; but take note, they started their own wave so whatever wave comes up people follow that wave. They make what they want to make and as far as it's good music it will always be appreciated.