By Florence Amagiya
Soja Smooth who goes by the stage name Barrister Smooth may not be the most popular Musician in Nigeria, but he is a force to reckon with in the Niger Delta region. According to reports, there is hardly any party, wedding or burial ceremony hosted that he is not paid good money to play.
His expertise in the Izon music has taken him both far and near; to the extent that he has shared same stage in events with renowned stars like Alibaba, I go dye, Gordon, Bovi just to mention a few. He did not visit the four walls of a University yet he is living his dream and has graduates as his staff. In this edition, l present to you Barrister Smooth, one of the famous Izon Musicians of this generation.
Soja Smooth is a native of Burutu Local Government Area of Delta state, but he was born in Orule in Warri North Local Government Area of the same state to a military father and a petty trading mother in 1969; as a little baby he was taken to Ekpen in Lagos state by his parents due to his father’s posting as a soldier. In 1978, young Smooth was brought him back to then Bendel state, now Delta state when his father eventually retired as a soldier; he was only 8 years old.
The young man spent his growing days in the area known as Warri Corner or Adu Island, he attended Mowoe Primary School when they finally moved into Warri main town, but Smooth couldn’t further his education because there was no money at the time. As a young man whose parents couldn’t afford to send him to Secondary school, Smooth never wore any Secondary school uniform, but he remembered doing so many odd jobs to make ends meet while helping his parents and young siblings attained a form of comfort.
He hawked all kind of food items to help in sustaining his young siblings. As a young boy, he travelled severally to Lagos state to help his uncle to sell his wares in Oshodi market. And while at it, Smooth didn’t hesitate to pick up a book here and there just to teach himself how to read and write. This paid off because today Barrister Smooth writes all his mails and reads his contracts before he endorses his signature.
How music found him
Soja Smooth had always loved singing even as a child. He sang to himself while growing up to the extent that people thought something must be wrong with him, but he didn’t mind because it was his favourite past- time and his only way of consoling himself as he was not in School. Although he didn’t ever believe he could eventually become a Musician, but he went on doing what he enjoying doing amidst other stuff and other stress life served him.
As a young boy, he listened to every kind of song both local and international songs, but he decided to sing in his dialect because he was severally called an ibo boy by friends and people who knew him in Lagos because to them, the Ijaw tribe was not known. And although he sings in the Ijaw dialect, he is of the opinion that he got his inspiration from late Oliver d Kuku, a renowned indigenous Musician from the eastern part of Nigeria.
Challenges and credibility
Smooth started this journey in the 80’s as it was indeed a very stuff one, but he got his break in 1990.
Today, although there are more than a thousand Ijaw Arts scattered all over the place, yet he has remained top of his game. He was given the title ‘Barrister’ by the popular Yoruba Musician known simply as ‘Barrister’. Smooth has arguably graced outstanding ceremonies in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country alongside the people that matters.
Speaking to some Ijaws living outside these states, it was discovered that the Ijaw people travel from all works of life, even those in the Diaspora just to attend the ceremony he is invited to perform. And as usual, Barrister Smooth goes home smiling with the millions he is paid doing what he enjoys doing. He charges #1.5m for ceremonies in Warri and its environs, but he collects #2.5m and above outside Niger Delta.
Barrister Smooth may not have attended any Secondary School, yet he has over 40 staff who are graduates working for him. He has been able to set up two companies, a record label company and another entertainment company for video coverage and all that. Smooth is a strong believer of education, this he has expressively shown in the number of youths he has assisted to School. He believes he would have achieved more if someone had sent him to school.
He has displayed this firm conviction by assisting young boys and girls in his community to achieve their dreams by paying their school fees. And in line with giving back to the society, he is establishing by God special grace, a trust fund and scholarship scheme to help the children in his community and perhaps neighbouring communities to School.
With the blessings of God in his life, he is a husband, a father to four beautiful children and a proud owner of two choice properties in Warri main town and three more in his home town. Although it wasn’t like this in the beginning, but with his musical talent, the grace of God in his life, hard work and persistence in his part, the sky is only the starting point.