Godbless Ubiebifayen: Building a Successful Band is a Life Sentence

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SUPER SATURDAY  

He is one of Nigeria’s accomplished live band musicians. Growing up with a rather tough father, childhood was rough, tough and penal for him. Today, he’s grown into a man who appreciates the strict training and his first love: music. As a young man, he could chase any woman in her tracks. Now, he’s become a more devoted husband to his wife and father to his three children. In this interview with Adedayo Adejobi, the dynamic Godbless Ubiebifayen talks about why he might someday be a pastor, why going to university was a big deal and how his wife makes the difference

I’m Grateful My Wife is in My Life, If Not, I May Have been Worse than This
I Grew Up in Warri as a Chronic Casanova until I Met my Wife…
I Refused to Go to the Varsity Because of Music…And Dad Didn’t Like It

Take us back in time into your childhood.

My parents gave birth to my younger brother and I. I am like Michael Jackson who really never enjoyed childhood. My parents were very strict. The only time we had the privilege to play was when we were in school and my father knew when we would close. We walked from Kavajina Primary School, Warri, to the house, and my parents knew the walking distance. So if we came home minutes later than expected time of arrival from school, to the Warri main market where he worked as a trader, it meant trouble. I am like Michael Jackson who really never enjoyed childhood. My parents were very strict. The only time we had the privilege to play was when we were in school and my father knew when we would close. We walked from Kavajina Primary School, Warri, to the house, and my parents knew the walking distance. So if we came home minutes later than expected time of arrival from school, to the Warri main market where he worked as a trader, it meant trouble. He bought two stools so when we returned from school, we joined him at the market where he traded and did our assignments.

My father never joked with education. He was a disciplinarian. My mother is the opposite of my dad. Even when she whipped us, we won’t feel the pain because she was very calm. We called my dad the general and so sometimes my mother reported us to my dad. Now, my children call me general too because when the ‘general’ is around they behave. We grew up under a disciplined umbrella.

What kind of a child were you?

I was the very calm one while my younger brother was the stubborn type. My mum told me I loved Bournvita a lot.

What’s your relationship with your mother and your brother?

While growing up, my father liked my brother more because he believed he was cleverer. I wasn’t jealous as I took my younger brother like my pet. I love my mum because she is very nice. She never complained.

Growing up, I never liked my dad not knowing that I’ll grow up to realise all he was doing was to put us on the right track.

Now that my children do some things, I look at them and laugh. But if it was my dad in my shoes now, he would have whipped them mercilessly.

I really went through torture. My dad thought that’s the only way to discipline a child. I have learnt better and corrected the likelihood of same mistake with my children.

You must have been a hard young man for your dad to have been tough on you?

I was a naïve child doing things out of ignorance, but my father never understood that. I don’t flog my children all the time. I must have warned my children severally before flogging them. It’s better dialoguing with your child then lashing them all the time. My father never understood that because of the ancient style of training a child.

What’s your relationship with your children?

My girls are closer to me whilst the guys are closer to their mom. But I tend to balance everything.

You have been married for how long and how will you describe your marital life?

I grew up in Warri as a chronic Casanova until I met my wife. I’ve never spent two months with a girlfriend. I and a friend, now a Pastor, attended Urhobo College in Warri. We were music ambassadors in school always representing the school at music competitions. I sang and my friends rapped. I sang on purpose knowing full well that I’m blessed with the voice by God. I was like the 2face and Michael Jackson of those days. We came first each I went for competitions and the girls were always outside waiting for me. I grew up having the girls at my beck and call. When Iwent left Warri, my dad wanted me togo to the University of Ife to study Music, but I got wind of VictorUwaifo’s School of Music. My dad liked him and welcomed the idea. The advantage of school of music is that after completing Grade 8, I could go to University of Ife to start from 200 Level. After Grade 8 and waiting to go to Ife, I chose to come to Lagos for a demo at Ark Records in Ikeja. In that studio, I was told they needed a singer who would be doing backups for people coming around for demo. I was and the studio owner fell in love with my voice and I was immediately employed. There I met Yinka Davie and Manny Eke. I had problems with my dad after I finished from the music school and told him I wasn’t interested in going to the university. He disagreed with me. I left Warri to Lagos not knowing anybody. I stayed with

Jerry Fatuase whose father had a house in Anthony Village but his father didn’t want him to study music. I was kept away from his father despite the fact that I slept in their house, in the afternoons though.

My experience brings me to love the song ‘Ojuelegba’ by Wizkid. I once slept under Ikeja Bridge and Ojuelegba Bridge for two weeks. It was a big deal for me so I didn’t go to Ife. All I wanted was music. Going to the University of Ife would waste my time. Asides backing up, I learnt sound engineering, playing the bass guitar and music production.

From the studio I joined Onyeka Onwenu. There I met Zubi Enebili; he was back-up artist for Onyeka then. When he left, I was opportune to work with Onyeka for a year and half. I joined a friend call Jerry who turned pastor. I wonder why all of them turned pastor maybe someday I’ll become a pastor too. I later joined Sharp Band and stayed for five years as lead vocalist. I then left to start my own band called Eboni Band in 1998.

Share your experience in the last 20 years?

These twenty years have been a pot-pourri of the good, the bad and ugly. It’s been an interesting learning curve. I think the classic story is that, no matter what age you are, no matter how prepared you are, to have great success at anything is as hard to survive, probably harder, than failing at something. There had to be a lot of work to maintain the course, to maintain a fan base, to maintain a business. A successful band is a life sentence. One of the things that have kept us grounded is that we surround ourselves with people who are as passionate about music as we are instead of money and fame.

How did you meet your wife?

When I started the Eboni Band, I needed a female backup singer as opposed to our all-boys affair in Sharp Band. My wife came in and a particular day at a gig I was tired, so I told her to sing. When she sang it was awesome. Although had not started dating her. Her litmus test was Maria Makeba’s song amongst other South African songs and she delivered it well, despite living in the noisy Ajegunle. I was endeared to her for that singular act. Being a Casanova, I developed genuine interest in and asked her out.

Meanwhile her father is a pastor. As a teenager, before she could join my band, I had to go and see her father. He wanted me to sign a contract to assure him I’ll take good care of her because of the night shows she’ll be exposed to performing at. Somehow we started dating.

Knowing full well that I play for an elitist crowd and they could make advances at her, I then made up my mind, went to her dad and we got married. We both have three kids. My wife is more than helper.

How will you describe her in five words?

She is loving, beautiful, funny and stubborn. I am a Leo and she is Virgo. We share the same month of August.

Who is the more stubborn?

My wife is very stubborn. She doesn’t consider me at all. What she wants is what she wants.

Who offends more?

We both offend ourselves and I apologise more. If my wife apologises, I will go on my kneels to thank God. She doesn’t feel she is wrong. If not music, she would have been a lawyer. She knows how to argue and apologise with an excuse. She is loving, soft, with a good heart and doesn’t want trouble but the contrasting balance is the stubbornness (laughs).

Will you say you are fulfilling in marriage?

In 12 of marriage, I am fulfilled. When I entered the marriage institution, the first five years, it’s was like regret. I have gone to the court twice to seek divorce. But I thank my wife for holding on. She is beautifully built. That’s why I said she’s more than a helper.

What changed your mind?

My knowledge of God and discovery that women are beautiful creatures changed everything.

In the last one year what have you done to solidify the marriage?

I am not romantic. She complains, but has taken me for whom I am. Maybe why I am not romantic is because I was once a Casanova. Growing and environment up affect people like me having being tortured for years. Where will the romance come from? My marriage is built on understanding, respect and fear of God.

There are rumours that you and your wife are no longer together due to your alleged sexual proclivities outside marriage, a reason why she’s not seen in public gigs with your band. Is that true?

That’s not true. She’s still very much with me. She now performs as an artist. She also recorded a song recorded with Flavour titled Ikut.

Whenever I have a gig and she’s free, she comes around. When you see your children, what do they remind you of?

I love my wife and that is what they remind me of. Every time I see my children, I love my wife the more. Not all trees bear good fruits. My children are problem-free.

Your job endears women to you, how do you cope?

As a chronic Casanova, my wife and I courted for five years before we got married and she saw hell. I did everything in her presence. I was non-challant. I wasn’t thinking we would get married, so when girls waited for me after gigs, I went with them. Sometimes, I cuddled them in her presence. Even when we got married, these things lingered a bit. I met God and I am thankful. I’m grateful my wife in my life, if not, it would have been worse. Her presence in the band has crippled the Casanova in me. I now respect her presence a lot. I’ve become a better person.

If you are not doing music, what else will you doing?

If I wasn’t doing music, I’ll be a trader, because my father traded in materials. That could pass as my second option.

What dictates your sense of fashion?

I wear anything that I like. I don’t go with names. If the quality is good, I buy them. I like casual a lot. I wear suits when I have corporate functions.

What’s the next level for Eboni Band?

I am planning to own a restaurant in Lekki, so my fans will experience and access me easily. I am also planning to release some songs.

When you look at the quality of music by other musicians, what’s you take?

I am not happy. Although it is trending but I don’t like it. If you listen to at South African music, the beat and every other thing is there. Nigerians does not have an identity. If you ask a DJ to play you 20 Nigerian songs, they all sound the same. They are making money but no identity. 2face and Asa stand out though.

QUOTE: I am like Michael Jackson who really never enjoyed childhood. My parents were very strict. The only time we had the privilege to play was when we were in school and my father knew when we would close. We walked from Kavajina Primary School, Warri, to the house, and my parents knew the walking distance. So if we came home minutes later than expected time of arrival from school, to the Warri main market where he worked as a trader, it meant trouble. I am like Michael Jackson who really never enjoyed childhood