Sounding out Stan Iyke

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Yinka Olatunbosun

This reporter’s gaze settled on the grey hat of the singer-songwriter, Stanley Ikechukwu, otherwise known as Stan Iyke as he stood quietly along the corridors of the Goethe-Institut, Lagos where the announcement of the just concluded Lagos_Live festival was made. He’s one artist who had recently become more visible than before since he did a collaboration with Tiwa Savage in the hit song, “My Darling’’.

Stan Iyke walked down the hall and history to reveal some aspects of his life that had been instrumental to his music career. His first song-writing experience was at the age of seven and ever since, it has been a friend that sticks through the time.

“Music has always haunted me so I focused on it. For ten years now, I have actively performed as a musician. My grandfather was a fantastic songwriter. He was part of the palace chiefs in his days. He would be singing his songs while tapping the palm tree. For those times that I stayed with him in the village on his request I observed that,’’ he recalled.

This young artist from Imo state thinks music is very powerful, sometimes moving him to cry. But he has chosen to make people smile with his compositions which, for the most part, belong to the afro-soul genre. For him, doing music for commercial profit alone just won’t work. And to put it like Koker, “Kolewerk’’.
“I tried to sing and sound like others but it wasn’t easy for me. I had to focus on what I liked which is afro soul. I do have dance tracks. I call it afro tropical music,’’ he revealed.

Stan Iyke would have been doing ward rounds and sitting at his desk listening to patients as a medical doctor if he had completed his study of medicine at the University of Lagos. But the urge to pursue music ran deep in his veins like an intravenous medication. He wasn’t going to let his parents, friends or the society at large determine his identity. He left the school of medicine.

“You know there is a society called College drop outs. Bill Gates is our president. I will surely go back to school. I only dropped out to pursue my music career. I am the first son so it was quite tough starting off. We have had some friends and family members who dabbled into music and were not successful. I think that was where my parents were looking at. They were afraid that the same fate would befall me. I had to let them realise that we have different lots in life. But they are my biggest supporters now. Sometimes, my dad follows me to the studio. I have never been afraid of whether I would be successful in music or not,’’ he said.
The first time he stepped into a studio, he was nervous and of course, very excited. Good enough, he had experienced hands on deck to work him through.

“After a while, I had to convert the nervous energy into rocket fuel. In the studio, you have to get it right. That is why some artists do several takes before settling for one during recording. If you have watched Michael Jackson during a studio session, then you’d see that he would do several takes. You just have to give your best shot,’’ he advised.
Still, there are many artists in Nigeria who have lost their popularity with fans because of their poor performances on stage. But outside the Nigerian shores, there are big artists whose performances are not exceptional but have remained very successful in music. For instance, Jay-Z and Rihanna are remarkable artists but they can’t compete with Eminem and Pink, respectively on stage. Stan Iyke blames the emphasis on stage performances on the way the Nigerian music industry is structured.

“Judging by the way the industry is now where cd sales are very poor, most artists get their income from live performances. So, it is important to get the act right. If you are not good on stage, you won’t get called to shows. I had always believed that my stage performances must be fire although it was a learning process for me. I had to read books on stage performances and I went on the internet to download some books on it. I watch live performances of great artists. I never had a performance coach. But when I perform, I always go with very smart friends of mine who are very observant. I ask them to give me feedback after my performances,’’ he revealed.
Collaborations are also commonplace in the music scene. Recently, the news about Wizkid’s collaboration with French Montana and Chris Brown made the rounds. He had previously worked with Drake and Sarkodie in the remixes of his award-winning song, “Ojuelegba’’. For Stan Iyke, there are certain factors to consider before embarking on a collaborative song.

“I believe in professionalism and artistry. I also believe in originality and uniqueness. But then, there has to be a blend between originality and commerciality. If you are too original, it might be only you and your family that will enjoy your music. If you are too original and not commercial, you won’t stand the test of time. I look out for that. For now, she is the only one I have worked with. I often concentrate on my solo effort. Tiwa is exceptional. She wrote her verse in just 15 minutes. When she came to the studio, I thought I needed to assist her with the writing but she wrote her song and it was superb. I really loved working with her. I am an old school kind of guy. The ol’ school is the best school. I listen to a lot of Bob Marley and Fela as well as Mighty Sparrow. I love Wyclef Jean,’’ he said.

The singer learned to play the guitar from his uncle who introduced him to the chords. Later, he started meeting friends who could play. However, he soon discovered that some would stop teaching him as soon as they realized that he is good at song-writing. He decided not to tell the new guitar tutors anything about his career plans.
He also admires Slash, the lead guitarist for the rock group, Guns N’Roses who had featured on some of Michael Jackson’s live and recorded performances. He called him “a principality’’..
Stan Iyke performed alongside the rapper, PelumiBaba and Sunday Isreal Akpan, a choreographer in one of the evening shows during the Lagos_Live festival at Freedom Park.