By Ogbonna AmadiEntertainment Editor
True story he calls it but we call it intriguing. This is the story of a former plantain seller who held on to his dream to become a star in a profession he believed in.
This is the story of Timaya part of which may soon published in his memoir.
A lot of you don’t know the real me, they just know about my music. And what this music of mine stands for is not really about me. It represents a struggle and quest for change in life.
The way I sound, some people may think I’d want to pick up arms and enter the streets. Trust me if I see a real war, I will run for my life.I am not saying that I’m a nice person and neither am I a bad person.
Let me start by telling you that I have stories to tell. Stories that you never knew about or heard. Stories that will shock every listening ears.
First, I lived with a woman older than me in Port-Harcourt before I became the Timaya that you know today. I’d been singing all these while but I hadn’t made the any hit. I was writing my songs and hustling between studios. The woman accommodated me after I was thrown out by my landlord. And all through my stay, she fed me.
Of course she handed me rules and regulations. I must be in the house by 7pm and she slept with me whenever she wanted, whether I liked it or not.
And the day I say I’m tired, she’d sanction and threaten me for daring to go do with some else. These are some of the challenges I faced that most people know nothing about.
Coming to Lagos
I ran away from my father’s house when I was 14years. I was stubborn and dreamed big. I am the last child in a family of 15 children and my father wanted me to become a banker like he was. But I had other ideas. I couldn’t imagine sitting down at a spot and monitoring other person’s money. I loved entertainment and was not ready to compromise my dream for anything else. Besides I wanted freedom from my domineering older siblings who wanted to turn me into an errand boy.
So everytime there was a show in town, I’d sneak out to watch the show and when I come back the next morning, my mother would want to kill me.
One day, I left the house but they caught and returned me after a year of living wild on the streets. I was tied and beaten up severely. I would act like I’m okay and the next thing, I’d run away again. That was my lifestyle until, my mother called my elder sister to say she was tired of me and urged her to take me to live with her in Lagos.
And that was how I found myself in Lagos and that’s how I attended Ikeja Grammar school. They didn’t know that the school would tun out to change my destiny.
After I left secondary, I went out on the streets to begin hustling again. I gained admission to study in Port-Harcourt but left again to return to the streets.
I left Port again to return to Lagos and joined Eedris Abdulkareem’s band as a back-up singer. I worked for him for about three years. I left him when all that bubble burst with him to begin my hustle again.
Eedris Abdulkareem and I
Eedris is a good person and one of the things I cherish about him is his fearlessness and self confidence. He has charisma and knows how to charm and pamper the audience. I learnt that from him.
But like every good person he has his short comings. I don’t like being in a place where I am tolerated and Eedris does this very well. He never paid me a dime in the three years I worked for him except for an occasion he gave me N1000 after a show in Kuramo beach.
Everybody that worked with Eedris when I was with him had a dream but he never helped make their dream happen.
Today all the boys in my band are car owners and live well on their own. I don’t owe them because I know they have families. As they’ve helped build my career, I also owe them the opportunity to help build theirs too.
Eedris never did all of these for his band boys and that was his problem. He never had time for anyone.
My quarrel with K-Solo
I was to take part in a talent hunt put together by Hilda Dokubo and her husband at the end which I was to be signed onto their label. The talent hunt took us like a year but on the day of the final I lost my voice. I cried and all of that.
On the panel of judges were the likes of Basorge Tariah, Sound Sultan, Face and 2Shot. After the contest Basorge called to ask that I join his label.
I came to Lagos to meet him and he took me to Daniel Wilson’s studio and it was on that day I met K-Solo who was also there with Felix Duke to record a song.
He produced the Timaya beat for Dem Mama song after I sang it to him. At the time I hooked up with K-Solo, he’d just left secondary school.
Still Basorge wont let me be, but my actions told him I was in a hurry and couldn’t wait for a label that was yet to take off. He wished me well. I gathered money from friends in Port-Harcourt and I came back to Lagos. I hooked up with K- Solo in his studio in Mafoluku Oshodi and that’s how our relationship began.
I’d take a bike from my sister’s place in Oshodi to his place every time we had sessions and I paid him for everything. I never owed him.
At this point I’d made contact with some guys based in Russia who wanted to sign me onto their label for five year- two album deal. They were going to put N650,000 into my account, get me a two room self contain apartment and all of that.
It was big deal to me then, but the lawyer who was representing them, called to warn me against signing the contract citing several reasons which I considered as treacherous. And I asked, if he was the devil. You see he didn’t understand where I was coming from and didn’t perhaps know what poverty was like. I couldn’t open my legs where I sat because my trousers were torn and this guy comes talking rubbish.
I stared at him with a murderous look and implored him to please sign the contact quickly. But a called which I later found out he feigned, saved the day and the signing ceremony was put off.
And since the lawyer had traveled, the guys gave me an upfront payment totalling N300, 000 and I returned to Lagos to pay K-Solo to begin work on my album. I paid him upfront every time we had sessions.
When we recorded seven songs, he told me he was tired and made some beats and asked me to go.
With the balance of the money, I cut 5000 promo CDs without mixing the songs. In short my first album, was a raw and uncut demo CD. I didn’t sell them, I was just giving them out to people free. I gave out so many of them to roadside sellers and friends.
Success comes knocking
Gradually the songs started picking up on its own in Port Harcourt and the surrounding states in the East.
One marketer, Danco Music sent his brother who was one of the hawkers I’d given some promo copies to tell me he wanted to sign me on to his label. And when the young man told me, I ignored him thinking he was one those fraudsters who enjoy ripping off artistes.
I didn’t know the young man was really connected. It wasn’t until I got to Lagos that thing started taking shape. I met guys like T-Joe, Obaino and all of these guys were offering me N40-45,000 to buy off the master tape. I refused the offers because, I knew I was worth more than that.
It was at that moment I got a call from the hawker again and reminding me of his brother’s desire to sign me on. I told the young man I was in Alaba market in Lagos. He screamed and told me his brother also has a shop in Alaba.
He gave me a phone number and an address. I went back to the market to seek out the Danco records armed with my master CD.
When I got there, he deliberately put the music on, to watch the reactions of his customers. It was interesting but at the end he had so many people placing orders for the album.
He took me to an eatery and asked me how much I wanted to sell the master CD, I told him N3million. After a hearty laugh he offered me half a million which sounded like Gold in my ears.
After being offered N45,000 by other label owners, I thought I was dreaming but I had do Iyanga small by telling him, I’d take N1.5million.
He told me I have just 24hous to think about his offer and after that I shouldn’t call him again.
My brother I didn’t even go beyond the front door before I changed my mind and accepted his offer. I must mention that some of his colleagues tried to discourage him from parting with the money but he insisted and said he saw something special in me.
With the money, I went into Alaba market and pirated two of the tracks but I denied it when the man called. But I assured him that he had no problem as the rest of the tracks were save with him.
When I got back to Port, I spent N190, 000 to buy a power bike and rent an apartment. The rest of the money I spent on Okirika wears. I needed to upgrade my status.
By this time, the music was burning up the East and in the South South axis of the country. I had no money left and hunger became my companion. I survived on the mangoes I plucked in the compound.
Every where I went it was my song and that was when I made up my made mind not to accept any N10, 000 show. The breakthrough came when I was paid N150, 000 to perform for students of Federal Polytechnics Nekede, Owerri.
From that day I was never broke till date.
My first car
Danco music called me and me a gift of a rover car. He said my album sold well and that he was grateful. I wish I could still do business with the guy but levels don change.
Parting with K-Solo
The reason I’m telling you all these is to let you know that I paid K-Solo for every job he did for me. I had issues with him because he was using some of my slogans on songs he produced for others. I warned him against it. Again I had to let him go because my music was beginning to sound monotonous, same beat. I realised it wasn’t me anymore recording, it was the producer, so I sought to change him. I have since worked with other producers because I didn’t want to sound same.
The next thing I heard was him telling people I stayed in his house and that I am a small boy. A man younger than me calling me a small boy, was the limit.
I used to be a fan of his. It was shocking to hear a role model picking on me. I didn’t bother to reply to his song because I figured he needed the I wan Finish Timaya song to become relevant, after all nobody knew him. He didn’t deserve a mention. If it was P-Square or that he sold like a million copies, trust me , I’d replied him.
Infact the song became the song I used whenever I was getting on stage.
Long Life and Prosperity album
I recorded that album with my boys Dem Mama Soldiers. I didn’t take a dime from the album. T-Joe paid a couple of millions for it and I gave every kobo to them. Today my boys are made. They have bought a duplex in Maryland area of Lagos and they are trying to live their lives. I did that because they helped build my career and I owe them that much.
Empress and I
I don’t know why women love me. The story about my going to Church to fight my ex-girl friend Empress Njama didn’t happen. If it did, this is a modern world, you’d have seen pictures of what happen all over the place.
My bad boy reputation is just a one off thing. Because of my relationship with just one woman people now judge me. When I met Empress, she was just there and not very popular. A lot of people just want to use you as a ladder to get fame. She would call some of her media friends to tell tales about our relationship which didn’t go down well with me. My brother lets discuss more important issues here please.
Right now my career comes first. They call be distracting. If I tell you about this lady now, tomorrow you may see me with another. I wish I cam marry my mother because she’d the only woman that understands me.
Government should do something to help the suffering masses. I am not supporting Jonathan but he must have a good reason for wanting to remove Subsidy. He should have consulted widely before taking his actions. As for me, this is not the right time to have subsidy removed. We still have Boko Haram to chase. There shouldn’t be any form of gathering right now. The timing is all wrong, we don’t the distraction.