By BENJAMIN NJOKU
For the lead singer and founder of the famous Shuga Band, Akin Shuga Tofowomo, “There is always “ability in disability.” The respected entertainer had polio at the age of five. But he refused to be deterred, bravely confronting the challenges and rose to become one of the most sought-after-music stars in this part of the world.
Establishing his Shuga band eighteen years ago after his gallant exit from Pintus, an upscale bar located along the highbrow Allen Avenue, Ikeja back in the days, marked a turning point in his career. Today, Akin’s Shuga band is not only rated as one of Nigeria’s number one functioning bands, but also as a group committed to the highest standard of excellence and professionalism.
The veteran entertainer, whose name and reputation for hard work made him a favorite for music lovers believes that his music is for all ages.
Interestingly, Akin said he does not feel laid-back due to his condition. “I don’t feel discouraged at all. People look at me and say I am arrogant. But I am not,” Shuga band leader said in a chat with Sidebeat shortly after thrilling audience at this year’s prestigious Vanguard Personality of the Year Awards, which held recently at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.
Known for her uptempo secular flair and performing of dynamic sounds creating rich harmonies, the group was the cynosure of attraction at the event. Offering swing-beat as RnB, dance tunes, oldies, country, traditional and soulful arrangement, it left the appreciative audience screaming and yearning for more.
Still talking about his health challenges, the veteran singer said “disability is actually ability for one to work harder. This is because you are at a particular point, and it means you are able. There are things I can do that able-bodied people cannot, just as there are things they can do that I can’t do. I can sing for them to dance. So, my ability is in singing, while their own disability is in singing. You see God is perfect. In every imperfection, there is perfection,”
As a way of giving back to society, Akin, few years ago set up Shuga Limp Foundation to cater for polio victims. According to him, “I have been like this since I was five years. That’s why I set up a foundation called Shuga Limp Foundation which reaches out to victims of polio, and people who cannot afford the walking aids.” For the Shuga band leader, he would have probably suffered the fate of other physically challenged people in the street he had proved unable to afford the needful properly walking aids. “But I am independent, I can go anywhere I want to go, I can drive, exercise and do anything. So, when people are empowered, then they can be independent and fend for themselves,” he said.
Revealing that before he had polio, he used to be a goal keeper during his primary school days, Akin noted that he grew up in an environment where he was not allowed to brood over his health status. A son of a former number two Judge of the Federal High Court, late Justice Tofowomo, Akin has had the opportunity to dine and wine with the high and the mighty in society. Akin had his formative years in the eastern part of the country: Enugu and Calabar. Over the years, the veteran singer has carved out a niche for himself as one of the artistes that have put contemporary Nigerian music on the global map.
Although he was not born into a musical family, Akin believes that music is an integral part of his life. He said, that he started playing music while he was in school school. Recounting his journey into music, Akin said, “It all started at the famous Pintus, an upscalee bar on Allen Avenue owned by the late Uncle Segun Onobulu. He actually spotted a few things I didn’t know about myself.” “About eighteen years ago, I formed the Shuga Band. We started out as a three piece band, playing piano, doing free man band and entertaining the audience.
Akin’s Shuga band is often described as a band for the rich and famous. The group is synonymous with weddings and other social engagements. In fact, no wedding ceremony would be complete without Shuga band. In the past, the high and the mighty in society including past three presidents of Nigeria, business moguls, Governors, fans in Paris, Sri Lanka, Dubai, America and those who can afford the luxury have all been entertained by the group.
He described his group’s kind of music as an infusion of different genres, adding “ We play contemporary music in terms of the entertainment. But when you listen to our Christmas album, it’s an infusion of contemporary vibes mixed with traditional percuss ions. That’s what makes us unique because we bring in, the percussion as well as the songs you know and make it great. It was just an idea.”
Akin also, sees his style of music as a destination. “This was as a result of the fact that I was in Pintus at a time. I saw the way it was done back then, and I was part of it. I understood the system and said, okay , if music can be done properly like this, one can actually establish a band and do the same,” he narrated.
The group has many singles as well as Christmas album in the market. “We also have one other album out there, including a wedding album, which we just releases into the market. We are synonymous with weddings. Our fans call us the best wedding band in town.”
In quest to be a master of his craft, Akin last year went back to school to study music business abroad. According to him, he was inspired to take the bold steps following his desire to play a major role in the development and structuring of the Nigerian entertainment industry. He further explained, “My desire is to play a pivotal role in the development and structuring of the Nigerian entertainment industry. That was why I went to study Music business abroad. I really need to understand how it works beside establishing a band and performing at shows. One really needs to understand the nitty-gritty of the business of music, and not just the show. We were formerly doing the show, but now, it’s business mixed with the show.”